Cheat Sheet! How To Travel with Children: 5 Easy Steps
Let’s not candy coat it, travelling with other people can be… what’s the politically correct term, um, yeah… challenging – exclamation point! Other people have different waking times, different passions, different dietary needs and, oh yeah, different personalities. (Oh, and if you’re sharing a room, and they snore… let’s not even go there.) After much trial and error, we’ve deduced that in order to have a great trip – and still come out friends in the end – you need to adhere to a few simple rules. The kicker: when those other people are your own children, the rulebook gets a little thicker.
It can be done; it can be fun; and you’ll likely do it again. Here’s how:
1. THE TO-DO LIST
You must start with THE TO-DO LIST. This list requires focus. It requires immediacy: start this list the minute you know you are going to go away. Grab a large piece of paper and a thick marker. Write down categories like: Passport/Document/Currency; Luggage; Toiletries; First Aid; Arts & Crafts/Toys; MUST HAVES (i.e.: special blanket, special pillow, special toy); Buy/Get/Shop.
There is no Universal list that will work for every family. Each family is unique. Each trip is different. You can Google ‘packing list’ until you’re blue in the face, but trust us, you’ll probably never truly appreciate other people’s organizational ways.
2. TACKLING THE TO-DO LIST & GETTING PREPARED
Each category has its own natural state of existing. For example: your passports may be up to date, so you may just simply need to photocopy documents (those passports, travel tickets & itinerary) and go to bank for currency. Cash is still king/queen. Power lines go down. Exchange kiosks may not be open. Be prepared for anything. The same goes for toiletries and first aid items. Never assume you can just get ‘diapers and your child’s favourite snack’ at the airport, or a local corner store. For one, if you can, it’s probably not the brand you love, things are quadruple the normal cost, and depending on the time of day you need said item, the shop may be closed.
3. REALITY CHECK
Are you going by air, by car, train? Each mode of transportation will help you determine the type of luggage to take and how much. It will also help you determine whether you need to take car seats and what type of stroller to take. Even if your children are able to walk, don’t assume they want to gloat about walking the entire island of Manhattan. Be sensitive to their needs; when in doubt, take a stroller.
The World Wide Web is fabulous (and incredibly overwhelming) with its ability to provide us with information. Doing research for your trip can either be a source of joy or become a frustrating chore. One of the best ways to get information about places is to start with word-of-mouth. Often, it helps you narrow down your options. Then, you can check out the web options. One of our favourites: tripadvisor.ca. We can’t say enough great things abut the up-to-date travel forums, the reviews and the honest opinions which are, in our experience, bang-on!
Every parent whom we’ve ever chatted with doesn’t just want to survive the trip: they want to thrive. We all want things to go well, don’t we?! How you do this is by making time for phone calls to the B&B, villa, or hotel. You ask for specific rooms, ask them to email you photos of the bathroom or the balcony or whichever room(s) you are concerned about. You ask if they supply baby gates – and if they do, you figure out a way to ensure those baby gates are there when you arrive. Again, you do this by gentle massage: get the manager’s name, the owner’s name, call back weekly, and without making yourself a pest, make your family’s needs heard and appreciated. There are many hotel chains that pride themselves on providing families with the nurturing they need.
Just remember, every family is its own little universe. Only the parent(s) planning the trip know exactly what its people need. If you are venturing out for the first time, consider working with a travel agent who specializes in family travel. Or if you’re a seasoned world-traveller, take what you’ve learnt and enjoy sharing it with your kids. The good – no, GREAT – thing is: there comes a point in every trip where all the worries melt away. You look around and everyone is having a good time… even you, the planner. All your hard preparation work WILL pay off.