Hi Frugalistas! It is possible to take children traveling and live to tell the tale. Traveling with children, as a family, can be a genuine pleasure. Like many things, it requires planning, and just a little bit of flexibility!
- 1 Get them involved in the planning of your trip early
- 2 Put your children into training for their trip
- 3 It’s a long time on a plane for children
- 4 Book a bassinet for a very young child
- 5 Take some food on the plane that you know your kids will eat
- 6 Assume your children will get jet lag regardless of how well they sleep on the plane
- 7 Tackle your sightseeing in small chunks
- 8 Find a park with play equipment and encourage play with other kids
- 9 Encourage your children to do a journal of their trip
- 10 In addition to the handheld games etc think about a camera for your child
Get them involved in the planning of your trip early
Get them reading brochures, websites etc to identify the activities they may be interested in doing. Buying or borrowing books or DVDs set in the place or places you are visiting can help set the mood and whet your children’s appetite. They will love “finding” the places featured in their favorite films and stories.
Put your children into training for their trip
Practice eating in restaurants (waiting, good manners), going on long trips, being quiet when it is time to, eating different food, walking long distances, going on public transport if they aren’t used to it. Make sure your children have excellent manners – this is so important in restaurants in Europe and on long plane trips – no kicking the seat in front, no running in the aisles etc
It’s a long time on a plane for children
Book a bassinet for a very young child
It is a long way on your lap. Don’t assume you will be allocated a bulkhead seat with a bassinet if you are traveling with a baby. Check if the bulkhead seats are available to be purchased for a surcharge, and if so, buy one so you don’t risk getting “bounced” by adult travellers who paid for the extra leg room.
Take some food on the plane that you know your kids will eat
While most airlines will offer a child’s meal (remember to book this in advance) they don’t usually offer a choice of children’s meals. If your kids are fussy or are likely to get hungry at odd times, do pack a few things for them to nibble on. We find simple sandwiches and other snacks work well.
Assume your children will get jet lag regardless of how well they sleep on the plane
We have found that it really doesn’t matter how well our daughter sleeps on the plane, and what time our flight arrives into Europe. You just need to go with this for the first couple of days and plan for it. Get an early start out for the day, eat dinner (very) early, or bring a picnic back to your hotel. We find eating our main meal at lunchtime and then just having a light snack for dinner and heading back to the hotel, together with a bit of patience, works best for our family in those first few days.
Tackle your sightseeing in small chunks
Don’t try and do the whole Louvre for example – it’s a hard ask to expect most adults to do the same, let alone a child. Do your research and identify the key pieces or areas of interest and focus on those then leave. Do your museums, galleries etc early in the day when everyone is fresh and the queues are shorter then leave the afternoons for a rest and some other activities like playing in the park, going on a boat trip, carriage ride, or some other more “child friendly” activity.
Find a park with play equipment and encourage play with other kids
Even in another country on a big trip your children need to be allowed to be kids, and that means letting them play. We take the time to find a park and let our daughter play everywhere we can and it is a great sanity saver for all of us. On a freezing cold, snowy day in Germany we took our daughter to a park to play on the equipment. She ended up playing with some bilingual children she met and they shared a toboggan together until they froze. It was the first time she had ever tobogganed and it is one of her most precious memories of that trip.
Encourage your children to do a journal of their trip
It is good for filling in time on longer train or car trips and is easily portable. Smaller children can draw rather than write, and will enjoy cutting and sticking their treasures into their journals. A stick of glue and small scissors, some pencils and a cheap exercise book are all that are needed to give your children a great time filler and a momento of their trip that everyone will treasure for years to come.
In addition to the handheld games etc think about a camera for your child
The holiday from your child’s eye view can be an exciting momento for your whole family.
Prepare well, take your children traveling and love the memories you will create.