Survival Guide for Traveling with Little Kids....
Life Can be Grand!
by Mitch Kaplan
Why travel with kids? Because: children gain a greater understanding of
the world from seeing new places, meeting new people and experiencing
new ideas; siblings form a special bond from traveling together, a bond
less likely to be formed at home, where they have separate classrooms,
separate friends, separate rooms. So, never hesitate to pack 'em up and
hit the road!
Involve Them in Planning
Decide where the vacation will take place. Then bring your kids into the
planning process. Arm them with material about your destination -
brochures, books, maps and websites - so they'll feel like they have
enough information to be taken seriously. Look for pop culture
landmarks--movie locations, fashion palaces or music venues or sports
events. Answer their questions. They want to express their opinions;
they appreciate being treated as a serious contributor. The getaway is
much more enjoyable when everyone wants to be there.
This is Supposed to be Fun, Remember?
It's up to you to make sure to build in some fun for each family member.
And, as a family, everyone needs to remember to indulge their traveling
companions from time to time. Recognize that your responses to
challenges on the road - delayed flights, long lines, unsatisfactory
accommodations - will influence the way your children will deal with
frustrations. Be patient, be calm, and teach your children these
important lifelong skills. Vacations are times for adventure,
relaxation, shared experiences, time alone--whatever your family decides.
Less is More than Enough
Leave plenty of down time in the schedule. Simple breakfasts on the
beach or early evening walks to nowhere often create memorable moments.
And, kids treasure moments, not places or days. Give the kids plenty of
room to run and play; a morning collecting seashells or an afternoon at
the hotel pool can be more satisfying than standing in line at a crowded
A good rule of thumb may sound stringent: no more than two activities in
a day. If you spend the morning at a museum, and plan to go to dinner in
Times Square, go back to the hotel in the afternoon to rest and swim. If
you're driving from Washington, DC, to Hershey, PA, plan to visit the
theme park the next day. Then you can stop on the way at the Gettysburg
Battlefield or the funny little town that time forgot. Remember that
travel itself is an activity.
Also, plan activities provide breaks from each other. The quarters get a
little close after a week together in a hotel room, particularly if
children are of significantly different ages. Schedule an afternoon
where mom and dad split duties, giving each other a break; take
advantage of child and teen programs offered in many resorts; make sure
you get at least one evening alone with your spouse. Everyone benefits
from a little elbow room.
Little ones love little pleasures: splashing in the hotel pool, playing
hide-and-seek in the lobby, stacking up rocks on the beach. Don't
Seek Creative Transportation
For young children, getting there is often more fun than being there.
When Dan was two years old, he thought a train ride on the commuter line
into New York City was a vacation in itself. Seek out ferries, trolleys,
shuttles, trains, surreys, and double-decker buses, and you'll be
rewarded with a cheap thrill that's as fun for little ones as a
Limit the Shopping
Our rule at attractions is a firm one: No shopping, not even looking,
until we are leaving the place. Young children can get consumed by and
panicky about choosing a souvenir, and they'll enjoy the museum or theme
park more if they can focus on the activities, not the trinkets.
Give Them a Spending Budget
Kids will want every souvenir and trinket they see. Then, they'll often
regret having bought that "thing"when they see something even more
desirable. Give them a budget, either daily or weekly, and be strict
about enforcing its limits. We've had great success with budgeting a
total amount to spend for the week (say $50) and reminding them how much
that equals each day.
Give Them a Voice
Even four-year-olds will benefit from feeling like they have some
control over his vacation. When possible, let them make simple choices
for the family, like "Should we walk to the beach or ride the trolley?"
Prepare for Down Time
Bring books or quiet hobbies to amuse yourself during nap times or play
times. Remember, their ability to tackle the big world is much more
limited than yours.
Adapt to Their Pace
It's stressful enough to get a kindergartner out the door to school each
morning, so don't keep take that kind of stress on vacation. They need a
break from being rushed, too. If they're happy playing in their pajamas
for an extra half hour, the museum can wait. If you need to be somewhere
at a scheduled time - like a performance - leave extra time to get
ready. Conversely, accept that the times you like to be more leisurely -
think dinnertime! - leave kids impatient.
More survival tips for traveling with
SCHOOL AGED CHILDREN.
More survival tips for traveling with
...... Mitch Kaplan is the author of "The Unofficial Guide to the Mid-Atlantic with Kids," a
contributor to "The Unofficial Guide to New England & New York with
Kids," and the author of "The Cheapskate's Guide to Myrtle Beach" and
"The Golf Book of Lists".