Travelling with your toddler this summer? Banish visions of whiny cries and fidgets, and the altogether dreaded mid-air meltdown, with these expert tips and tricks.
Whether your vacation involves road trips or air travel, make it truly about the journey. With the right planning you can be ready for smooth rides and a stress-free vacation, with some fun learning along the way. Start introducing some of the verbal games two to three weeks before your trip, so your kids are familiar with them in advance and will enjoy playing them throughout the trip.
1 Slow it down
Travelling with kids always takes longer than travelling alone. While we’re in a hurry to get somewhere, kids like to take their time exploring. Use this to your advantage, pointing out new objects and play guessing games. Don’t forget to build in extra time to check in and get settled – arrive early and anticipate that you’ll be late getting there, preventing the stress and anxiety caused by delays.
2 Surprise Surprise!
Wrap up some toys in colourful paper – just like a present. Something that they have never seen before will hold their attention far more than something that has been played with dozens of times already. Give your kid a ‘gift’ every so often throughout the day, tied in to various milestones through the journey. This will excite them and encourage good behaviour.
3 Bag it
If your kids are old enough, let them bring their own carry on and build the excitement of travel by letting them choose a new case/bag. While travelling, they can pull the case as a distraction to keep them moving, they can sit on it as a ride-on, and it can contain enough toys to keep them occupied for any delay.
4 Sticky business
For those moments when they’ve turned down the plane lights, and your child is still buzzing from the meal they just served, break out stickers. These are great for keeping roving hands busy for stretches of time. Use an empty water bottle/container to decorate, or even carry along pictures printed out on cards.
5 Simon says
A great play-along game with wonderful developmental benefits, tell kids to perform actions that ‘Simon’ requests them to do, but if ‘Tiger’ asks, he’s trying to trick them. ‘Simon says jump’. ‘Tiger says wave’. If they make a mistake, ask them to roar like a tiger and continue the game. For older children, add complexity by adding two-step instructions.
Five things you shouldn’t leave home without
1. Favourite toys and blankets. Make sure you do a spot check every time you change locations to make sure Teddy isn’t left behind.
2. Picture books for younger kids to look at and ‘read’ on the road, and pack a few titles that your older children can read to the little ones while you’re driving.
3. Colouring books and crayons can be lifesavers on board flights and at meal times.
4. Activities such as Etch-a-sketch, or even bubbles to blow at times are simple things to pack, and will add variety to your trip.
5. If all else fails, load up the handy smartphone or tablet with some age-appropriate apps and games, and ignore the ‘judgy’ looks. Sometimes tech can be a lifesaver and kids love it, so embrace it. Be careful though, screen time is a no-no for children younger than two years of age.