Whatever your mode of travel, there will be special challenges if you take the kids along. The key to sanity is some careful planning - and a calm, unruffled approach.
* Where Should we Stay? *
If you are planning at stay at a bed and breakfast, do some research. Many bed and breakfasts are not suitable for children. However, you may be able to find a 'farmstay' - a bed and breakfast on a farm that allows your kids to interact with the animals. This can be an unequalled family experience - especially for city dwellers.
Staying in a hotel? Do they provide extra cots and/or cribs for children? Do they have a restaurant with a kids' menu? Is there a playroom or playground on the premises? Are there children's activities nearby?
* What Should I Pack? *
Use common sense. Every family is different. Check the following list and pack what is appropriate for your household:
- Small first aid kit
- Liquid anti-nausea medication
- Liquid Tylenol
- Individual-sized tissues
- Moistened hand-wipes in individual packs
- Paper towels
- Photos of the kids and important details regarding medications
- Telephone numbers of doctors (at home and at your destination)
- Copies of passports, birth certificates, custody documentation
- Decks of cards, favorite toys, children's books
- Coloring books, crayons, mechanical pencils, paper
- Crossword puzzle books, erasable pens, highlighters
- Windbreakers, slickers, umbrellas
- Sunglasses, hats, sunscreen
- Plastic bags from grocery store checkout (for storage and cleanup)
* Diaper Disposal *
There are scented disposal bags available - or you might want to pack some small zip-lock bags. Plastic grocery bags or newspaper bags can also be used. The solid matter should be disposed of down the toilet. Next, roll the diaper up with the soiled area facing inwards so that you have a compact bundle with the plastic on the outside. Place the diaper in the zip-lock bag, seal most of the way, then press out as much air as possible while you complete the seal. Discard in a bathroom garbage container or outside garbage bin.
If you are outdoors and there are no outhouse or bathroom facilities nearby, you should carry the entire diaper contents with you, disposing of appropriately when you find a garbage bin or bathroom. DO NOT leave diapers or diaper contents behind. Besides polluting the environment, some animals are attracted to human waste. Protect the environment even more by making sure that you purchase biodegradable diapers (or switch to cloth).
If you must carry soiled diapers along with you for any length of time, you might want to consider packing a few deodorant disks or a baking-soda based scented deodorizer.
* Snacks *
If your children are finicky eaters, chances are you will encounter problems with airline and restaurant meals. Pack a few nutritious snacks. Snacks may include fresh fruit, granola bars, individual-size cereal boxes, cheese and crackers, raisins, unsalted peanuts - or snack-size containers of applesauce, puddings, and fruit cocktail.
* Boredom *
Boredom is always going to be a problem. Even a half-hour trip seems like a long time to a young child. The easiest and most accessible boredom solution is YOU. Use the time to interact with your kids. Ask them questions. Get them to tell you stories if they are old enough. You can keep young children entertained by telling them stories - complete with sound effects of animal noises, whistles, and whatever else you can invent.
Play guessing games like 'I Spy' with older kids, or get them involved in some children's cards games. Although games like 'Go Fish' can be played with a regular deck of cards, there are many games with special, brightly-colored decks made just for children. Do an internet search for 'card games for kids' and you'll find plenty of resources.
* Inactivity *
Sitting still for long periods of time is not a natural activity for children. If you're on a plane, train, or bus, get up and take a walk down the aisle once every hour. When travelling by car, find an appropriate pullout and play frisbee or go for a short walk.
* Relax - Lighten Up - Unwind *
Treat every family trip as an opportunity to connect with your children.