A few years ago I was honored to be interviewed by Jackie Goldschneider for The Bergen Record newspaper about traveling with kids, trips and tricks to make the experience of hitting the road with the little one less stressful.
The below is the article she wrote and I am excited to share it here on my blog.
When it comes to traveling with my kids, I often joke that it’s not a vacation, it’s a relocation. The same sibling fighting, picky eating and midday meltdowns follow us wherever we go. But despite that, I’ve always like taking my kids on trips to experience other cultures and environments. I often wish, however, that I knew how to make it less stressful. So what do experts suggest parents do to make traveling with kids a bit easier?
Anna Fishman, owner of Waldwick’s Olegana Travel Boutique, a travel agency that specializes in planning family travel, believes that despite the challenges, traveling with children is important.
“A baby might not remember it, but it’s very beneficial for a child of any age to be exposed to different cultures and different people and to see that there’s a world outside of their backyard and not everybody is the same, “ she said.
While airplanes with unvaccinated infants might be risky due to germs, she feels that from about 6 months on it should be fine for them to fly. Flying with babies and toddlers presents its own set of challenges. From Utter boredom to tiny bathrooms, parents face various trials just getting to their destination. However, Fishman offers parents tips to make flying with kids easier.
“If you’re flying with a young child and every half hour or hour you can pull something new out from your bag that will distract them and help pass the time, “ she said, adding the treat doesn’t have to be extravagant, just something small that they haven’t’ seen before, like coloring books and puzzle books.
She also suggests letting your child pack their own mini suitcase with toys from home. And while she acknowledged that some parents don’t like too much screen time, she said loading an iPad with cartoons or shows is another easy way to keep kids occupied.
Additionally, if your child is potty trained, she suggests bringing a foldable toilet seat so they can use the airplane bathroom comfortably. “That will also be very convenient when you’re at a hotel or restaurant,” she said. Most of the same tips apply to road trips she said, adding that she loves using little products to help with common problems.
“For example, I came across a portable ‘pee bottle’ for kids, which is a little bottle with a long nose and if we’re on the road there’s no rest stop, we can pull over, unstrap (my son) and he can use it. It saved us twice on our last road trip,” she said.
Fishman recommends bringing everything you may need to make yourself comfortable on vacation, even if that means packing an extra suitcase, so you’re not searching for specific products in foreign locales.
‘I don’t want to be in the middle of Rome searching for a specific butt cream, so I bring everything I may need,” she said. “Even if I don’t use it, I have it on hand and that reduces anxiety.” Certain hotels also allow for Amazon deliveries so you can ship supplies directly to your destination. She also suggests packing travel-sized versions of what your child needs at home, such as a portable night light or inflatable bed rails, so they’re as comfortable as possible.
As for the actual vacation, Fishman said that when traveling with kids, don’t over plan and don’t expect to get everything done. Instead, she suggests planning your day around one anchor activity.
“If you’re going to the beach, know what time you want to have lunch or take a nap, or if you’re going to Europe set a time that you’re going to the museum, and then work around that activity.”
She also said it’s important to be flexible when traveling with children. “Unexpected things happen, so have an open mind and don’t be a stickler for rules like we always nap at 2:00,’ she said. “Bend the rules when you’re traveling because it’s difficult for kids to adjust to new environments.” Plan age-appropriate activities so your kids are not overly bored or carrying on while you’re sightseeing, Fishman said.
“When you’re traveling with younger kids, make sure you have lots of active things planned for them,’ she said. “So if you want to go to the Vatican, which might be really boring for a toddler, have them run around in the morning so they get tired and then put them in a stroller at the Vatican so you can enjoy the art.”
For older kids, Fishman suggests making cultural experiences interactive for them, such as by planning scavenger hunts through cities of museums.
‘Then the teenagers are playing a game but they’re also learning about art and history. They don’t realize it’s a teaching moment,” she said. “Don’t just walk through a museum saying ‘look at this,’ ‘look at that.’ Find a way to make it fun for them.”
Finally, to manage the time change of a trip to Europe, Fishman suggests flying in the morning rather than overnight, which lets you arrive at the city’s evening time, so you can have dinner, go to bed, and wake up the next day in that city’s morning. If the destination doesn’t offer morning flights, Fishman recommends napping rather than trying to get kids to tough it out.
“If you fly overnight and land in the morning and you try to tough it out, the kids will be cranky and no one will enjoy anything,” she said. “Take a nap, wake up in the afternoon, go out for a few hours and then go to bed at their nighttime so you wake up the next day on their schedule.”
Growing up, my mom called our family The Griswolds when we traveled, referring to the dysfunctional family of National Lampoon fame, and their crazy family vacations. But regardless of how hectic our vacations often got, I still look back on them with incredible memories. If only my parents had Fishman’s tips back then!
Published in Into The Mommy Brain on 10/22/19
Published in The Bergen record on 8/17/19
Published in The Asbury Park Press on 8/25/19