Travel Tips For Young Children
Traveling long distances with little ones can be challenging, especially if you are ill-prepared. Regardless of whether you are traveling by train, plane, or car, requiring little ones to stay cool, calm, and collected for the entire length of travel can be a tall order. However, you can make travel more fun and significantly less stressful all around by adopting a few of the strategies below.
Get Ready for the Trip
Prepare your child for the trip by talking about it in the days leading up to departure. Let your child know what to expect and get them excited about the adventure. Setting the expectations ahead of time will help to acclimate them to the idea of travel and get more of their buy-in the day of.
Discuss the expectations using simple language. Make sure to match the language abilities of your child to help them better understand what to expect. If needed, you can also use pictures to show them. For example, if you want to prepare your child to sit in an airplane seat with their seatbelt buckled, you can look up a picture of what that looks like.
Leave early in the morning versus late at night. Leaving when your child is waking up and getting ready to tackle the day versus when they are winding down will maximize your chances of success and reduce the likelihood of meltdowns.
Give yourself plenty of time – Little ones move slowly. The last thing you need to feel is rushed. Trying to move your little one fast when they are not ready to go fast will likely end in a meltdown.
Keep Your Child Busy and Engaged
Turn travel into a scavenger hunt! Tell them about all the cool things they will get to see along the way. You can tell them to be on the lookout for certain landmarks/things on the trip. You can even make a visual checklist and laminate it. Give them a crayon and they will stay busy trying to find the items on their list.
Bring surprises! Buy a few small little toys, fidgets, crafts, and puzzles. Check out The Dollar Store, 5 Below, or Michaels for fun little toys/crafts you can get that won’t weigh you down. Set a schedule and let your child know that every x amount of time they get to open a new surprise. If your child has a hard time understanding the concept of time, you can set a time for them if you need to.
Bring a tablet or electronic device as a backup. Add new games and download a few of their favorite shows. Travel is not the time to worry about too much screen time. Keeping your child busy will ensure the journey is as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Give your child a job. Assign them a small task to do while traveling to help keep them engaged. Does your child have their own small rolling suitcase? Have them walk with you rolling their own little suitcase.
Pack light. You do not need to bring everything your child owns to keep them happy, occupied, and engaged. Bring only a few sentimental things for your little one such as their favorite blankie or story. Pack a small foldable stroller and a small portable pack-and-play that will allow you to move around as easily as possible.
Give older siblings the job of keeping younger ones amused for short periods of time during the trip to help break up the time.
Prepare For a Setback
Little ones will get tired and overwhelmed. There is a chance that even if you do all these things, you make encounter a tantrum or meltdown. Be ready for it! This is where the strategy of giving yourself plenty of time comes in handy. Pull your little one to the side away from a crowd if possible and remain calm. Make observational statements about their feelings. Empathize with them to let them know it can be hard when X happens. Label their stressor in that statement (waiting, hearing no, etc.) Calmly let them know you are there to help when they are ready and that you can work together to solve the problem. Give hugs, kisses, and or honor their requested space. When you notice things are settling down, you can re-engage. Give your child lots of praise for regulating their emotions. You will want to reinforce all the things you want to see your child do and say in the future by celebrating them when they occur.
However, you travel regardless of how long it takes, or the mode of transportation be prepared, be patient, and reduce your stressors to the greatest degree possible. This will allow you to keep your child engaged and be responsive to their needs maximizing the trip’s chances of success! Happy travels!
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