Traveling with Kids: A Survival Guide
Maybe I’m the only one who likes to immerse herself in the dark corners of the internet filled with sadness and despair, but if you ever look there, you will find a lot of people talking about regrets and failures. One thing that continues to surprise me among all the laments about love missed and lost is the regret people voice about never travelling. It doesn’t seem comparable, yet here we are.
So why don’t they just travel? Well, if you’ve ever traveled so far as a grocery store with a kid, you know why. But you can’t let your life just ebb away as you wait for your kids to grow up. So how do you make travel with children even remotely bearable?
Photo credit: John Krytus
The key is extensive planning.
If at all possible, use public transportation. This requires serious forethought and planning. But it enormously reduces the stress on you, and allows you to see to your children without watching the road or worrying about directions.
For most kids, trains and airplanes are a fascinating novelty that will add to the travel experience for them. Take advantage of that. Passenger rail may not be the best developed transportation system in the USA, but there is still quite an extensive infrastructure, especially in the East.
In any other part of the developed world you will be able to get pretty much anywhere by rail, and it will probably be cheaper.
While you will probably have to settle for some cramped hotel rooms during while you are traveling to and from your destination, do yourself a favor and don’t restrict yourself to a hotel room with your kids.
This is where having a timeshare pays off, especially if you can get the kind with points, where you can change destinations from year to year. That way you get a fully furnished apartment and multiple rooms, so you and your spouse can have your privacy while keeping your kids out of trouble. You can avoid getting ripped off by buying it second hand.
Talk to your children about your expectations for their behavior before your head out on your trip. Set up a system of reward and punishment for the trip. The key here is not to have some all or nothing reward that you can only threaten to take away as they misbehave, or risk losing your leverage. Rather, pick something you can give or take away incrementally.
Make an effort to communicate with strangers who might be affected by your children’s noise or behavior. Maybe even include a preemptive peace offering. This way people will be more comfortable approaching you with a complaint, and do so before they get seriously upset with your family, rather than calling a hotel manager and making your life really stressful.
You can manage the amount of stress by scheduling about twice as much time as you expect to need for everything. You’re on vacation, so take it slow. That is the best way to keep your nerves intact. Keep your schedule light. If you spend your entire time rushing your children around you won’t have any time to enjoy things for yourself.