Tips for a safe and stress-free vacation
Traveling with young kids abroad can be exhausting but well worth it if you plan accordingly. Mike Bohnert, President of Toracle Travel, located in Chandler, and father of three boys ages 1, 6 and 9, provides tips on how to successfully travel internationally with kids.
Remember – If the kids have fun then mom and dad have fun.
When you are in the early stages of planning, don’t forget to think about destinations where the kids can also have fun. Young kids do not want to spend hours in a stuffy museum. Plan a vacation that includes equal time at the park or other kid-friendly spots along with a few points of interests that appeal to mom and dad.
Prepare for long flights.
My wife and I don’t let our kids play a ton of video games or watch a lot of TV, but with long flights we make an exception. For older kids, load your iPad with new apps. Consider buying a used portable gaming system and let the kids pick out their own games. Our key strategy: have a lot of new distractions for your kids since they have a tiny attention span. You’ll need to keep them engaged from takeoff to landing. Don’t forget to bring some healthy snacks so you don’t have to wait for in-flight meals to be delivered.
Pack your patience.
With very young children, especially under age 3, expect tantrums and fits. When was the last time you spent 11 hours with your child and there wasn’t a meltdown? It’s going to happen, especially on a long flight in a very confined space. Don’t let it ruin your vacation. These short time periods are usually followed by a few hours of sleepy time, also known as relaxation time for mom and dad.
Introduce the countries you’re visiting weeks ahead of time.
Get your kids excited about your trip. This is an awesome learning and once-in-a-lifetime experience. Are you going to France? Teach them about the Eiffel Tower. Traveling to Spain? Show them a kid-friendly video of the Running of the Bulls ceremony on YouTube so they can appreciate seeing it in person.
Reward them with a toy.
Mom and dad will be spending hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars on souvenirs and nice dinners, so why not reward good behavior with a toy that costs a few dollars? This is a great trick to remind your kids that good behavior pays off, even on the other side of the world.
Downtime is key.
Keep your kids well-fed and well-rested and hopefully everything else will fall into place. Pick and choose late nights carefully. Build your agenda around your children. Don’t be too ambitious or overschedule your days. Leave lots of downtime and always have snacks on hand for times when the next meal is nowhere in sight.
Be open to schedule change.
Traveling with kids will open new worlds and new possibilities that you could have never imagined, so when opportunity knocks — a local invites you for dinner, a fisherman offers to show you his boat — go with it. These are often the most rewarding moments of any journey.
Bringing the mother-in-law may not seem ideal, but trust me, IT’S WORTH IT. The extra expense of the flight and potentially extra connecting hotel room may seem daunting, but think about it: this is your once-in-a-lifetime experience. Set the expectations up front with Grandma. This will give you the well needed downtime that you deserve while she watches the kids, especially during naptime or for an after dinner drink. In Europe and some Asian countries, people don’t even sit for dinner until 9 p.m.
For more travel tips, contact Mike Bohnert at Mike@Toracle.com or visit Toracle.com.