Summer break is just around the corner and that means it’s time for a family vacation! Whether you are hitting the road or the skies, traveling with kids can be stressful. You have to plan, pack, and then “enjoy” the trip together. After visiting more than 20 different countries with my kids, ages 2, 5 and 7 years old, here are a few tricks that I’ve learned along the way to make vacationing with kids more manageable.
1. Research your airport. Many airports have indoor playgrounds for youngsters to burn off some energy before the flight. These come in handy if you’ve arrived early for your flight, or if it gets delayed or you have a long layover mid-journey. Sea-Tac Airport’s Kids Playroom is located just between the Central Terminal and the start of Terminal A, across from the Seattle Taproom Restaurant.
2. Prepare your kids to go somewhere new with some advance practice excursions to local art museums or an ethnic restaurant similar to your vacation destination. Also have them check out a few books from the library so they can read and see pictures about their upcoming vacation and then compare the real thing when they get there.
3. To keep from over-packing toys which can potentially get lost, try this method: let kids choose three books each. Next, have them pick ten entertainment items, then make them narrow it down again to three things. You will secretly pack two or three of the discarded ones in your luggage to break out as a surprise when they get restless in the car or on the plane. Don’t forget tablets and iPods too. Remember to pre-load games, shows and movies that don’t require WiFi. Also, limit all screen time at least a week before the trip to make these devices more coveted for that long car ride or flight.
4. To make airport security a little faster, pack all electronics and liquids in the same carry-on for quick removal. If you have a stroller, let the kids walk and use a carrier for a baby so you can load all of the carry-ons in the stroller. You’ll then have everything in one place to load onto the security belt, not to mention, more free hands!
5. Once on your trip, try to lay out each day with this formula: eat, play, see, repeat. Give kids a good breakfast, then let them play at a playground near one of the attractions before heading into your first sight. Afterwards, we eat lunch. On the way to the next sight I look for other playgrounds in route or fun walking paths. By time we get to the next thing to “see,” the youngest is usually ready to sleep in her stroller, giving me a little more peace to enjoy a museum or landmark. Then it’s dinner time!
6. Create a character with your kids and have them act out the behavior of the setting you are in on your vacation. For example, if you are in a fancy art museum, have them pretend that they are the prince or princess of the castle, explaining to all their guests what the paintings all mean. Getting them engaged will not only teach them more about where they are, but they will be better behaved too!
Heather Jenks, M.Ed. is a mother of three young children residing in Woodinville after spending three years living abroad with her husband and children in Germany. She continues to travel internationally with her kids and uses her experiences and education to share travel tips and cultural exploration ideas with parents through her new blog, www.mommyandmeoverseas.com.