After a long winter, the arrival of spring sparks the travel bug in all of us. It's that time of year when people start thinking about where they will be going on their next family vacation. Whether you are traveling with your kids for the first time or you are a seasoned pro, there is always a hint of doubt and anxiety that comes over you when thinking about traveling with your little ones.
Let's face it, kids are unpredictable, and for most of us, it's the feeling of the "unknown" that brings on the hesitation parents feel when planning. From what to pack to what to expect, an endless list runs through your mind. Here are a few travel tips to help make your family vacation smooth sailing.
The dreaded plane ride
A long or short plane ride with your little ones, especially for the first time, can be the scariest part of any trip, for some. Those dreaded looks you get from passengers as you walk down the aisle to find your seat, all of them saying to themselves "please don't sit next to me with that baby" are common problems faced by parents. Don't lie, we have all been there. But a few tricks can make that dreaded flight more pleasant, for you and for your children. First, don't be the first passengers to board. Waiting in your seat with a restless child for everyone else to find there seats will just make things harder, not to mention you will run out of snacks and will probably have to make trips to the restroom before everyone else is ready. Instead, have your partner board earlier with the bags and stroller while you let them run around a little and board towards the end. Next, prepare a "surprise bag" of new simple activities, books, crayons and healthy snacks to surprise them with when they start to become restless. It will keep them busy for a while. If your traveling with a baby, pack way more diapers, bottles, wipes and clothes than you think you will need in your carry on, plus a change of clothes for yourself and them, in case of any accidents.
Book in advance
If your traveling and not sure of the places you want to go, you should at least pre-book your hotel for the first two nights of your trip when traveling with children. There's nothing worse than arriving at your destination after a long flight or drive and looking around for a hotel with a bunch of crying kids. This will allow you all to settle in and make your plans accordingly, seeing things clearer.
Give them a journal
Present them with their own journals and encourage them to keep track of their trip. If you are planning a road trip, have them write down things they see along the way or draw pictures of places you have been. This will keep them busy, and they will experience things more and not miss out on all the sites, as opposed to staring at the iPad.
Take your time
When you travel with your kids, don't expect to stick to a strict time table. Things will always come up. There will be a million restroom and ice cream stops and there won't be anything you can do about it. So, if you want to see five art galleries on your trip, plan for one and hope for more. Be sure to check scheduled events at the places you want to visit. For example, in Turkey, many museums and art galleries host an array of activities geared towards children, from painting, to photography. Its also important to bring a durable stroller and a proper baby carrier. Little kids will not be able to walk all day and streets in foreign locations are often different than back home. Cobble stone streets can be a problem for lightweight strollers, so bring one with larger wheels.
Use public transportation
Let's face it, kids love buses, trains and boats, which makes using public transport and activity, and in Istanbul, there is no shortage of any. Sometimes busses can be easier in traffic, and if you are traveling with kids, a kind Turkish man will almost always get up to let you have their seat. Don't be surprised if a Turkish woman starts kissing and pinching your child's cheeks, it's the norm here, and they may even offer to hold a kid for you. A ferry tour will almost always impress your little ones. Once they see the waves and the seagulls flying overhead, you can be sure they will have a great time, and probably won't want to get off.
Don't forget the wipes
!It is a well-known fact that baby wipes are needed at almost all times of the day. Whether it's to clean dirty hands or wipe up messes and spills, they will save your life. So just when you think you have packed enough, pack more! Throw in some hand sanitizer and tissues as well, as not all restrooms, especially in Europe, provide toilet paper or paper towels
Pack the medicine
It's always a good idea to pack the medicines your child may need. Although there are generally many pharmacies available, giving your child something your comfortable with is always a better idea. Allergy, cold, cough, pain killers etc. may be needed, and there is nothing worse than dealing with a language gap when trying to guess what medicine to buy in a foreign country.
Although it may seem small, probably the simplest piece of advice is to bring a nightlight. Staying in a strange hotel room where the lighting is different then home can be scary for kids at night, especially if they wake up in an unfamiliar surrounding, and it will make finding the restroom a lot easier in the dark.
Finally, when traveling with your kids, you must not forget to bring your sense of humor and plan for things not to run smoothly. This will go a long way in making your trip a happy and memorable one. And remember, its usually the "unexpected hiccups" along the way that make the trip even more memorable, giving you something to share with your family for years to come. It's like learning to ride a bike, the more you do it, the better you get.