It’s nearly that time of the year again: Holiday Season! Thousands of families pack up and depart for the sunny South Coast beaches. For many, it is a time of excitement, relaxation, travelling… wait. Travelling, the part of a holiday that fills most parents with a mixture of dread and anxiety. But fret not! Whether you are travelling with kids – teenagers or toddlers, these 10 tips can transform a potentially dreadful journey into a delightful experience for the whole family.
In preparation for travelling with kids:
Plan, plan, plan!
As cold and harsh as it may seem, the spontaneity of ‘figuring out’ your travel route as you go does NOT sit well with tired toddlers or bored teens. Whether you’re camping or staying in hotels, it is never a good start to a holiday to arrive at your destination and find out that all your options are booked out. Plan and book your accommodation as early as possible and keep in mind the magnitude of holiday-goers joining each other at the South Coast. Beds will be booked out.
If you are travelling with kids on a public holiday (remember 16 December is Reconciliation Day) or over the new year, make a call to the restaurants where you plan to stop in advance to confirm whether they are open on that day. Also, plan some extra time into your journey. Younger children love to explore and have not learned to watch the clock or respect a time schedule. You might as well save yourself the exasperation by working around that and allow yourself some breathing space on the schedule.
Stock the first-aid kit…and pack it
Remember to check and stock up on the vital items: plasters, antihistamines, sting treatment, painkilling syrup and antiseptic wipes. Also include a thermometer, especially when travelling with younger children. The change of environment sometimes results in kids falling ill – be prepared. Step up your parent-game and pack a beach bag first aid kit. This can contain items like extra sunscreen (use the spray kind to get it done fast for overly excited kids), lip balm with SPF, extra drinking water and baby powder to dust sand off skin. Click here for a beach bag first aid inventory.
Pack sensibly and functionally
Aside from the obvious packing for the weather, have a rough idea of what to expect from your holiday schedule. Are you planning to go to the mall, the theatre, an ice skating rink? Do a lot of walking? Remember that even though older children might be ready to take on more responsibility in preparing for a holiday, don’t allow them the sole responsibility of packing their own bags. Guide them with the necessary input, and save yourself a trip to the shops.
Make a list of family games for the road
You never know when you’ll hit a stop and go on the road, or when a flight is unexpectedly delayed. Combat the disappointment and frustration by involving the whole family in a game of “I spy with my little eye”, the Alphabet game, or any other games you happen to have up your sleeve (like it took no research at all, right?). Make sure your tablet is charged and stock up on fun, age-appropriate games for the whole family. Sesame Street Family Play is an app that suggests easy activities that your kids can do together at home or in places like the grocery store, such as spotting boxes of a specific colour. There are fantastic educational apps for older children too. Click here for a list of the best apps for the whole family, as suggested by parents.
On the road:
Sleep on the road
The children, of course. Leaving in the wee hours of the morning not only gets you a head start on other travellers, it also means shorter queues at toll gates and extra daylight hours to spend at the beach. And most important: your kids will get to sleep through a good portion of the journey, making the time spent travelling feel shorter for them (and for you).
Avoid the sweets!
As tempting as it might be to buy yourself 5 minutes of quiet with those sugary treats, remember that to your precious child’s little body there is no other rush quite like a sugar rush. And you’re travelling, which means that you are likely in a confined space. Do the math, be smart, and rather pack savoury snacks like cheese cubes, crackers or vegetable sticks. And choose water, cold drinks are packed with the sugary stuff.
Keep the activities coming when travelling with kids
It might be best to keep the activity box with you and supervise the hourly rotation of activities or toys. Handheld puzzles and word searches can do wonders to help pass time spent stuck in a seat. Oh, and never underestimate the power of a good collection of stickers.
Don’t forget the wipes
Even if the entire family is long out of nappies, wipes are still useful for wiping hands after a finger food meal (see Tip no. 6), and antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer can provide peace of mind during those inevitable stops along the road where the hygiene policies seem questionable.
Involve your children
You might be surprised at the wonders a toddler can capture with a camera (a toddler-friendly one, of course) from their vantage points. This also encourages young kids to take a deeper interest in their surroundings. Older children can be encouraged to keep a travel journal with lists and drawings of things they’ve seen and new things they’ve tried – they might even be inspired to try different foods. Plus, they’ll have a precious memory bundle to look back on as they grow older.
Remember what’s important
You’re going on holiday with your family, and everyone wants to have a nice time. Have your plan, but allow for input and suggestions from the rest of the family, it will make everyone feel more included. You might just be pleasantly surprised with the ideas they come up with.
Finally, keep in mind that hardly anything ever goes according to plan. So plan your journey the best you can, but don’t be too surprised if your journey made other (perhaps even better) plans for you.