Tips for Travelling With your Children, Without you Going Insane

By: Rachel Harding

Just because your family is young there is no reason to stop travelling. If you're family is anything like mine then we haven't let it effect us, we have just planned better. I first took my daughter to Spain, on a plane, when she was 11 weeks old and then we hired a car and drove from one end of the country to the other. Since then my family has changed, I have acquired 2 step children as well as my daughter, we have continued to travel every yr. Last year was Tunisia this year we are taking them camping (and they are all seven).

Families today can still enjoy travelling by car, train or plane to go on the family holidays or for a weekend to their favourite destinations.

I believe that travel is an essential part of any child's education, but often, parents with small children are tempted to put it off until the kids are older. Children can learn so much whilst travelling. It is one thing for them to study geography but quite something else for them to see the actual place they are studying. They learn different cultures and customs along with picking up foreign phrases. My children can say basic phrases is about 5 languages now. They make new friends, if they are old enough, from all over the world and can form pen pals which increases their social skills.

If you can manage to keep your kids occupied you wont have to hear, "Are we there yet" every 10 minutes. This just takes a little planning ahead.

For example every time we go away I make a pack up for each child. It doesn't matter whether we are flying or driving I still make a pack, they get excited as they know there will be a pack waiting just before we travel. Things that they haven't seen before, so as to keep their attention. I pick up items for a couple of months before, it doesn't have to cost a lot just something they haven't done to death already.

I usually pack a rucksack each for them, they can then take responsibility for their bags. In it I would put a drink and snacks, a small box , I usually use a Tupperware, stocked with markers, stickers, paper, a puzzle book, colouring book, and a story book. Each of our children have an mp3 players(only cheap one's I picked up in the sales for around ?20 each) I then load them with talking stories they haven't heard before. This one keeps mine amused for hours, and they also have things to do when they get to the destination.

If we are travelling by car we spend a lot of time playing verbal games and most times I find they are happy for the "on board entertainment" that talking and playing games with us provides.

An example of a simple game we play is we work through the alphabet, someone picks a letter then we go round and everyone says a word beginning with that letter. It gets there minds thinking and they find it a lot of fun trying to out do each other with the words and also seeing what funny and sometimes rude (to push their luck with me) they can come up with. I can also see how they have developed. When we first started to play this game they used to come out with words like car, toy, game, tree etc now I get things like atmosphere. The person who can't think of a word for that letter comes up with a new letter and we start again. There is no point in making them out of the game if they can't think of a word as they get bored then.

Whether you are travelling by car, plane or train it is important that you prepare them in advance. Get them excited. Show them pictures, brochures or search the internet for the place. If we are staying in a hotel. I generally search on the internet for the pool, kids club, bedrooms. I also try to show them the surrounding area so that when we get there things seem familiar.

If they haven't flown before and are quite young then role play going to the airport and flying. (My daughters school even did a trip to the airport, they got to make there own passport etc). Make rows of chairs as a plane cutting up paper for play tickets, and taking turns being the passenger and air hostess.

Use this as an opportunity to warn your children about what to expect, warn them that the plane may rock and they will need to wear a seatbelt when told.

Which ever method of travel you are using pack a small pillow and a light blanket for each of the kids, as well as their favourite stuffed toy, doll or teddy to snuggle up with at night or during naptime.

If the kids are going to have to sit still for quite a while let them run around for a while and travel at the last minute. Also if you are flying let the kids enjoy the experience of take-off and landing. I tell them its like going on a fair ground ride.

If at all possible try to separate the kids with an adult as when they get tired they can get fractious and bickering can start.

There are lots of tips experienced parents can share with you about travelling with children and a lot of it depends on the age of the children. My dad would say the best tip of all is to leave the kids at home or tie them up and gag them but think of all the bonding you would miss out on as a family. It's a break from the normal. A family tip could wind up being an adventure in education.

After all it tends to be us parents that either make or break a trip. We ignite the excitement (and in the bargain make travel pleasant for the children and ourselves) before we start on our journeys and keep it alive long after the journey has ended. with photographs, stories, souvenirs and our children's favourite is fridge magnets. We have one from every holiday we have been on. It serves as a reminder for the child and they love picking out one each.

Most of us parents are smart enough to know that, because children can get bored easily, we need to take along things for the kids to do and I hope you have found some of my tips useful.

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