Supernanny’s summer holiday primer
If you look forward to the annual summer holidays with a sense of dread rather than excitement you’re not alone! Traveling with kids can be a nightmare – but don’t get put off because seeing new places and experiencing new things is great for kids. And with a little forethought – and Supernanny’s tips – you can ensure that you all have a great time…
1 Prepare your child
Your child may be excited about your summer hols but he’ll also likely worry about it too. Young children like their routine – it gives them a sense of security. The knowledge they’re going to be sleeping in a strange bed in a strange place, without their familiars at arms’ reach can be unsettling. You can help ease any anxiety by reassuring him that you’ll still be doing the same routine things – for example, his bedtime bath and story – while you’re out and about.
2. Get him involved in planning
Let him know how you’ll be getting to your destination – car, plane or train – and show him where it is on a map. If your travel destination has a website you can show your older child what the rooms look like and what activities he’ll be able to do there. Get him involved in the run up by giving him a bag he can pack with a few precious things he might want to take along with him so he’ll have some of the comforts of home while he’s away. If you think he might find it difficult to settle at night it’s a good idea to bring his pillow from home, along with his nightlight if he uses one. See our article on planning a holiday with the kids.
3 Chill out
When you’re on holiday it’s tempting to try to pack as much into every day as possible, especially if you’re staying in a resort where there are plenty of kids’ activities. Keep in mind that trips can be very tiring for young children precisely because they often do more and get up earlier. Plan in some quiet time so he can relax and take in all he’s doing and seeing.
4 Keep it kid-friendly
Yes, you may want to check out the museum and art gallery but your child will likely get pretty bored. You have two choices: either accept that you’ll have to lay off the culture until your child is in his teens, hit hose places first thing and race around them in 20 minutes, or arrange a sitter if your hotel or resort offers this service so you can get some time to yourselves to do ‘boring’ things!
5 Fly right
Sometimes flying is the only option – but with young children in tow you face the very real prospect of a tantrum at 30,000 feet. Before you book, think about your child. If he’s older and is likely to settle down and while away the hours with the in-flight movie, a direct flight might be best. With younger kids, who can’t sit still for as long, a stop along the way is useful to let them stretch their legs. As a rule, avoid peak travel hours – flights are less crowded earlier in the week and later in the day – although keep in mind that later flights are more likely to be delayed. Remember to arrange a kids’ meal when you’re booking, as you need to order these in advance.
Pack some new games and activities for your child in your carry-on bag – sticker and coloring books, crossword and puzzle books, a balloon, small, cheap giftwrapped toys he can have at a rate of one an hour!
6 Avoid airport rage
Get to the airport in plenty of time to check in (if you’re lucky enough you’ll be able to request bulkhead seats, which have more legroom and are closer to the bathrooms) and go through security. Warn your child about what is likely to happen at the security checkpoint – how his carry on bag will be searched, he’ll have to take off his shoes, and step through the security scanner. Make sure older kids know they must not make any ‘jokes’ about having a bomb in their luggage – this could result in you missing your flight. Some larger airports have play areas for kids, so head their before your flight to ensure your child burns off as much energy as possible. If your older teen wants to look around the airport shops by himself make sure he knows where –and what time – he needs to meet you.
When the plane is taking off and landing, give your toddler or preschooler a sippy cup or juicebox, and your older child a piece of gum to chew, as this will help equalize the pressure in their ears. If you’re traveling with a baby, nurse or give her a bottlefeed, as the sucking motion will help relieve any pressure in her ears.
7 Hit the road
You may all be sitting down but road trips can still be exhausting. If you can, plan to drive when your child would usually take a nap; an alternative many parents swear by is loading their kids into the car in their pjs and driving overnight while the kids sleep. If it has to be daytime, make sure each of your children has their own ‘carry-on bag’ of things to entertain them in the car (now might be the time to splash out on that portable DVD player if your kids are similar in age and enjoy the same movies; or search online to rent one).
8 Car smarts
Plan to drive in three-hour stretches max – your kids will need to be able to get out and stretch their legs from time to time and younger children especially won’t be able to sit for long periods of time while you drive. If possible, find places of interest, small towns, parks or playgrounds where you can pull off so you’re not parking by the side of a busy road. It’s also a good idea to pack your own handy bag with sunscreen, insect repellent, bathing suits, towels and a change of clothes in case you pass a handy beach or swimming hole – it’ll save you having to root through suitcases to find what you need.
9 Keeping them happy
If your child gets car sick your GP might be able to recommend some medication but keep in mind that it may make him feel drowsy or more energetic than usual. If he feels sick, encourage him to look out the window at a point in the distance instead of reading or playing games if he feels unwell. Play ‘I spy’ or spot license plates or red cars. Take a CD along to pass some musical time. And make sure he drinks plenty of water to avoid getting dehydrated, which could make him feel worse.