With the school year coming to a close, it’s a great time for families to travel. And with some preparation, travel with children will be filled with happy memories. While you want to pack in as much into your vacation as possible, when travelling with little ones slowing the pace down is more likely to result in a stress-free your vacation.
1. Prepare your travel documents
Remember, babies need a passport to travel out of Canada. Ensure you have adequate time to organize passports and visas to enter other countries – Flight Centre travel agents can advise you on any visas you may need. If you are travelling overseas on your own with kids or teens, you need a signed consent letter from the other parent or guardian confirming consent to travel. Government of Canada has a sample letter available here.
When travelling with babies, request a bulkhead seat or baby bassinette in advance and confirm upon check in. If you flight serves meals, you can also order toddler or children’s meals for younger fliers at the time of booking.
When visiting far-flung countries, check to see what sort of medication or vaccines might be required to protect you and your children (such as hepatitis A or B, or Malaria tablets). The Government of Canada has information on recommended vaccinations on their website. Many towns and cities also have travel clinics to advise you. If your children have a serious allergy or medical condition, consider purchasing an identity bracelet with details of your child’s condition.
2. Decide whether to fly or road trip
If your children haven’t flown before (or are too young to remember), explain ahead of time what to expect regarding airport security and immigration and the importance of staying with you at all times. For little “runners” you might want to invest in a hand-held child walker or keep them in a stroller while you clear customs. Visit SeatGuru prior to check in to see the layout of your flight.
When flying with babies and toddlers, pack more diapers than you think you’ll need, so you don’t get caught out if your flight is delayed or tiny tummies react badly to air travel. Wipes and large zip lock bags are indispensable. It’s also a good idea to pack some pain relief (like children’s Tylenol) on flights.
Whether you are flying or driving overnight, pack PJs – which are not only more comfortable, but encourage children to at least try and get some shut eye. While some airlines have cut complimentary snacks all together, most of us know kids get hungry on their own schedule. It’s a good idea to carry some child-friendly snacks for flights (such as Cheerios for younger children, cheese sticks, or granola bars).
Pack small, inexpensive new toys or crafts for road trips or plane travel. Colouring books, magnetic picture boards, stickers, and travel-size version of board games take little space and will keep kids entertained. Although many airlines cater their entertainment to children on long haul flights, it’s a good idea to load up portable devices with some of your kid’s favourite films and games. Bring a pair of comfortable headphones so kids can entertain themselves – and not the entire cabin.
If you’re going to be travelling through busy airports or on transit, stash a business card with your cell phone number in your child’s pocket. On car journeys, keep an eye on your children (without constantly turning around) with an additional review mirror. Review mirrors – like the Diono “See Me Mirror” are relatively easy to in car accessory shops or online.
3. Make memories
Ramp up your kids’ excitement before you depart. Research on the internet, explore maps, read up on the geography of where you are visiting, watch a film set in the location, or read a book. Involve children in planning your holiday and ask them for input on what they’d like to do. During your vacation, take a turn at experiencing one of the activities your child suggests.
If your children are old enough to hold a pencil, they’re old enough to keep a diary – of sorts. Journals (can be as simple as a blank notebook) can fill in time while waiting for meals or travelling between places. Encourage younger kids to draw pictures, while older kids can keep a record of their travels, as well as stick in foreign labels, tickets or post cards.
Children love taking pictures. If your children don’t have their own digital devises to capture memories, purchase an inexpensive disposable camera. Encourage kids to express their creativity and photograph their favourite memories. If you will be by the beach or snorkelling, under water disposable cameras are a terrific way to document your adventures.
Encourage children to purchase postcards from different places you visit and write a sentence or two about their experience. Post cards back home to relive memories post-vacation. Small locally made toys and instruments keep children entertained during your vacation and are great keep sakes of your travels.