Ahhh, Spring. One of my favorite seasons. Now, you may be saying, Erik, what are you talking about, it’s still the dead of winter! Well, to you I say, “correct.” HOWEVER! One of my favorite things about spring being just around the corner is the return of Major League Baseball! Which brings us to the real reason I'm mentioning spring… MLB SPRING TRAINING!! Pitchers and Catchers have all reported, and teams are in full swing (pun intended), gearing up for the first season of the new decade. What better way for a baseball fan to enjoy his or her spring than to travel to spring training to soak up a little sun and enjoy America’s Pastime.
Are we there yet?
Those four words make any parents’ shoulders rise and their molars grind. Whether they're still in the car seat phase or not quite a teenager, taking your youngsters on trips can be tricky. I have two girls, five and eight, and I've been traveling with them since before they could walk. Over the years, I've found that the key is to keep them entertained. Follow these steps, and with a little luck, the vacation will go smoothly…for EVERYONE.
Let Everyone Have a Say
At all cost, get in the planning process early. Not only is it important to pick a destination the drivers will enjoy, allow the little ones to have a say too. Narrow the search down to three options, preferably the favorites and then make the final decision. This way everyone is happy.
Birds of a Feather
The next step is to stress the importance of sticking together. Now, I'm not suggesting having family shirts made. You know, the ones that are color-coded and have the last name at the top like a football jersey (unless your family is major sports fans). Instead, I like to take the ‘wolf pack' approach, clarifying that mom and dad are the leaders, but no cub goes unnoticed.
Food, no matter what age your kids are, is essential for any trip. Smart meal options can lead to saved time and money. Stopping at a grocery store when you first arrive at a destination is a good rule of thumb. Purchase what I like to call "cry snacks," (don't we all get upset when we're hungry?) like granola, gold fish, cereal or even yogurt.
Book a Hotel with Breakfast Included
The Grand Floridian is a great example of a family-friendly hotel, which worked well for my family on our last Walt Disney World vacation. However, if it's a smaller trip, I'd suggest looking for a Holiday Inn option, where breakfast is included. Essentially, it was killing two birds with one stone since I was able to earn more IHG points, while also having the expense of breakfast covered before even departing for the day.
Tips to Keep Kids Engaged
Keeping kids engaged while sightseeing has a lot to do with getting them involved early in the planning. Highlight a few points of interest either before departure. This way, you can make a checklist of items that you know they will see on the trip. If your children are anything like mine, they usually love seeing new things that I get excited about, therefore include spots that appeal to you too.
One thing that helps keep my kids more occupied are the small notebooks I bring along. Decoration is encouraged and so is a list of attractions they liked to see at each place. This way, they can actively cross out the things we've seen. The notebooks can also be used to write down things they would like to buy. Instead of just "buying the souvenirs to keep them quiet," I say that there will be many items they'll want to buy, but set some limits. I give them a daily budget. For the things outside of their price range, I suggest they just write them down. This way it's easy to keep the items in mind for the next holiday or birthday (which I promise is right around the corner).
Traveling with Teenagers
The only thing different about traveling with teenagers is the additional ‘slack’ parents are willing to give. Even though my girls aren't at that stage yet, my friends who do have teens say they want more free time to explore on their own. Society considers them young adults, so parents should keep the "embarrassing" moments to a minimum. If you can gain approval points from the older ones, you can bank on more precious Kodak moments in the years to come.
Bottom line: plan, plan, plan! I can't say it enough and with the holidays fast approaching, a "Clark Griswald" persona is always appreciated, just make sure to not go overboard.
The outcome of air travel has a lot to do with the attitudes of the parents. Visiting an airport and flying can be fun…if you make it so. Flight delays can happen but if the parents remain in a good mood, chances are the kids will too. Keep it positive and follow these tips to reduce the stress of flying with kids!
Don’t Over Schedule
Getting from point A to point B can be long, so I try not to schedule any important events during a travel day.
Book transportation as early as possible
This includes the flight and car service (both ways). Making reservations in advance, not only allows you to budget the expenses beforehand but also eliminates walking time. Seeing a driver dressed in suit and tie, holding a sign with your name on it would make anyone feel special, including your kids. Maybe the driver will even let one of them wear his shiny black hat. If this happens, parents are awarded bonus points.
Plan for Security
If you haven't done TSA pre-check before, traveling with children is the time to do it. Lines are shorter through airport security, eliminating the hassle of standing for long periods of time, which is helpful when the kids are getting too big for that handy-dandy stroller. Slip-on shoes for everyone are also a good idea, especially if you're asked to remove them.
I allow my kids to pack a small carry on (yes, mine have the Frozen backpacks), for a change of clothes, their swimsuits, coloring books, iPad, a deck of cards…etc. If it fits, pack it. If I'm on my game, I sometimes prepare a route map for them and even an itinerary, so they can follow the course. Don't forget anti-bacterial wipes for the tray tables and chewing gum to help with the altitude changes (ear popping) often experienced during take-off.
Seat Kids Near the Windows
Not only do little ones like to look out the window, but you also keep them away from the food and beverage cart, where hot coffee and water could easily spill.
Budget or Bring Snacks
A budget for snacks or light meal on the plane is my usual protocol. Kids love to order from the menu, especially if it's out of their routine, so give them some freedom to the items you know they'll like and most importantly eat. Other parents I know pack easy, low-sugar finger food such as string cheese, Cheerios, pretzels, carrot sticks, and granola. You don’t want to bring anything too messy, but boys are these options helpful when your kids are hungry.
Do you have other tips for air travel with kids? Let me know in the comments below!
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. As the host of the Emmy award- winning, nationally syndicated television television for PBS and the Create channel, "Beyond Your Backyard," I travel (on average) 25 weeks per year. I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet cool people, experience new places, eat delicious food and work with the best production crew in the world. Hopefully, through this blog, you will join me on my travels and be reminded just how exciting it is to be alive!