When it comes to traveling with kids every parent has a different opinion. Some will tell you not to travel at all, some will tell you to wait, others will tell you to pack the child’s entire toy box along.
When people ask me for tips on going to New York or Europe with kids I honestly don’t know how to answer. I do ask on travel forums for advice on things to do with kids and kid-friendly restaurants, but that’s because I know each culture views kids differently. However, my difficulty in answering such questions comes from the fact that every kid is different; some kids need to be running around 100% of the time, other kids will endure hours in a museum without throwing a tantrum.
Here are my tips for traveling with kids, all based on the experience we have traveling with our daughter:
1. Make your kid part of the planning process: Your whole travel experience will be more enjoyable if you make your kid(s) part of it.
When we went to Europe to celebrate our little one’s 5th birthday she was part of the planning process. We showed her the places we were going on a map, talked about some key landmarks and even got her a camera, which she took some cool pictures with.
The key benefit of this is having your kid(s) engaged and looking forward to the big adventure and the new discoveries!
2. Follow the “1 toy only” rule: A lot of parents disagree on how to handle this; some will tell you to bring as many toys as you can to keep your kids entertained, others will tell you not to bring any toys at all. I would just say to picture yourself in a foreign country with heavy luggage and kid(s) in tow… Plus all the toys!
What we usually do is allow for a maximum of one toy plus a coloring/activity book. Our selling point is that we will need the space her current toys would take in her luggage to bring souvenirs or maybe a special toy from her favorite place. It works every time and keeps her engaged in trying to find a cool souvenir… Or in her case a rock for her rock collection!
3. Be flexible and give your kid a break: There are two extremes of parents, one that wants the kid(s) to keep up with their non-stop schedule and one that will not change the home schedule while on vacation.
We learned that as much as we like to plan, we might drop half the plans to stay longer in a place our little one is enjoying or just skip a place she is not having fun at all. Other thing that could make a difference for your kid(s): give them a break on bed time/wake up time and food. Let them go to bed later or sleep in every other day and let them have their fair share of gelatos and treats.
Vacation, even when it is on a place you feel inclined to be out and about exploring, is a time to relax, unwind and be a little more flexible with rules. Your kids will appreciate it!
4. Control your kid: Who never experienced the little kid on the seat behind you kicking your seat, and the kid’s parent doing absolutely nothing to make him/her stop? Well, that happened to me not a long time ago. Parents should be able to control their kids while on a plane/bus/train; it must not be cool to be perceived as a parent who can’t control their kid or realize people see your kid as one who doesn’t have manners.
While you are trying to have a great time traveling, be considerate to others and try to make your little precious understand that behaving while on any kind of public transportation can be a ticket to the first ice cream of the trip! 😉
Even with all advice in the world, keep in mind that the success of traveling with kids is adapting your travel to their pace and energy… and that way create wonderful memories.