By Guest Blogger Brooke Orr
I fell in love with travel when I was a little girl, long before I ever ventured out of the Carolinas. I taught myself languages and daydreamed of the beauty and adventure my young heart was convinced waited in the world. My first adventure outside of the U.S.A was college, and by the time I was 26 years old I had spent stints in Austin, New York City, San Diego and England. Now, as a single mom of a two year old I am thankful for the opportunity to show my daughter the wonders of the world. This sounds magical, and it is, but it can also be overwhelming/stressful/scary/expensive … you get the point.
What would be exhilarating in my single 20’s would be exhausting in my mom 30’s, and likely not appropriate or entertaining for children. If you traveled solo in your 20’s you understand how that age group operates in other destinations. The beauty of traveling with children is that you can see the world from their eyes, and learn how families operate in other cultures: what are important rites of passage, what do they do for entertainment, education, etc.
Our most recent adventure was a five hour flight from North Carolina to San Francisco, and a road trip from there to Los Angeles. There were plenty of bloopers on this trip, but more things went well than not.
Tips to make your family vacation a positive lifelong memory for your family:
1. Playing well with others is as important at 2 as it is at 32. One of the biggest sources of contempt in the world is that we struggle to understand and appreciate our differences. We are all human, created and living in various regions of the world, so being educated on other cultures is priceless for human development and success. To teach children these important lessons, research what local families do in the destinations to which you are traveling. Tourists may flock to certain stops-but what do the locals value most as a place to spend their family time?
a. Pop into a play group
b. Arrange a playdate with a host family.
2. Don’t let distance deter you. Many parents say they are waiting to travel until their kids are older because they are afraid of their behavior on the plane. Life is short, so don’t wait to live adventurous with your family. There are many things you can do to keep tantrums at bay:
a. Go to the dollar store and get new toys. Get out a new toy and do an activity every 30-60 minutes.
b. Download your child’s favorite cartoons to your iPad, but keep it a secret. Once the novelty of new toys wear away, pull out the iPad to keep your child occupied- hopefully until you land!
3. Avoid hunger induced meltdowns by prioritizing food and snacks.
a. Bring plenty of fruits, crackers, sunbutter, etc on the plane and keep them in your diaper bag/purse when you are out exploring.
b. Reach out to chamber of commerce websites and ask for recommendations for kid friendly restaurants. Sit outside when you can because the outdoors will be more relaxing for all. Look at the menu before you go so that you can order sooner rather than later. Kids can typically only be expected to sit still at meals for 10-15 minutes/year of age.
4. Stay well. No one wants to be sick on vacation, but sick kids can be especially difficult.
a. Start a probiotic before you go and continue daily on your trip.
b. Stay hydrated. Pack sippy cups and continue offering fluids every hour.
c. Prioritize sleep.If you are going to a different time zone it is best to get on that schedule as quickly as possible. This may mean skipping a nap so that your child is tired at bed time, or taking a “rest” at a different time.
d. Move. This usually isn’t difficult on vacation, but encourage your kids to get their sillies out. Download their favorite dance songs to do throughout the day, include park time in your itinerary, and walk/bike when you can.
Most importantly, be flexible. Kids sense stress. It lowers our immune system’s power and makes traveling less enjoyable. It is great to have a plan but know that it doesn’t always work out that way, so give yourself permission to enjoy what the moment organically brings, without judgment.