A family vacation takes everyone out of their usual routine and into the world of adventure. It can create some of life’s most cherished memories if enough thought goes into the preparation. In the months and weeks before the trip, parents’ emotions can run the gamut: busily excited—> stressed out—> panicky. For formerly-carefree new parents, particularly if airports are involved, the once-straightforward tasks of booking, packing and boarding suddenly require the precision of a military mobilization.
We’ve polled our Textile Travel clients who are avid travelers as well as parents, and have done some digging of our own into the world of travel gear for babies and kids. OMG, the crazy advice and useless products available are comparable to the silliness sold to innocent homebound Mommies and Daddies – arrgh!
However, some of the books, accessories and travel toys we reviewed make sense; here’s a roundup of 5 essential Success Strategies for prepping the kiddies for a travel adventure:
1. AnticipationIt’s estimated that 50% of the satisfaction families derive from travel comes from anticipating the upcoming trip and building a ‘must see/must do’ list. Kids will pick up on the excitement in the air when Mom and Dad gather the guidebooks, phone their travel agent and start trolling websites for background info.
Depending on your child’s age and travel experience, it’s a good idea to involve them as much as possible in travel planning. The Disney World Hannukah trip you spring on them as a surprise can prove overwhelming if kids don’t have enough time to assimilate the fact that they’re going. They might have a happier trip if they can mull over their options before you head to your destination.
Get the excitement started early by establishing a ‘travel central’ spot in your home. It can be a box or large suitcase for family members to add prospective travel gear: favorite toys, lucky hats, brochures – whatever. Gift your child with a cute document holder like the Baby Elmo passport pouch. Your little guy can use it collect theme park cards, coupons and other documentary stuff, or you can actually store his passport and other essential records in it. Of course these are also available with Mouse branding.
2. FamiliarizationFor kids who haven’t flown before, there are many excellent books about airports and flying that can allay their inevitable anxiety.
Some parents have found it helpful to visit the airport a few weeks before travel to let their child experience the bustle of the terminal and watch some planes taking off and landing. This can work if you live close to the airport and can spare the time. If not, bear in mind that the airport scene, the plane’s strange interior, and the sensations of flying are new to your child, and can be both exhilarating and scary. Lots of reassurance will be needed on arrival and throughout the flight experience. Emphasis on the novelty and fun of flying will help calm both the kids and yourselves.
Once the realization hits that on travel, your baby’s needs will be pretty much the same as they are at home, you’ll start casting about for ways to cope. The cloth diapers and bibs, custom-designed food bowl and monogrammed potty will probably make way for disposables, just for sanity’s sake. You’ll search out lightweight blankets, kid travel pillows and a car seat that converts to a stroller and can whistle a lullaby (haven’t found that yet).
Welcome to the world of doll luggage and portable potty chairs. We’ve created a collection of maybe-baby items for our parent travelers; you are welcome to browse through it.
Items such as this “On-the-Go” bottle warmer can be handy: it uses a heat cell to warm a bottle or some baby food, without batteries or plugs. One downside: the gadget needs to be boiled in water to re-activate; good for the start of a trip or if you’ve booked an apartment or villa rental.
Families planning a trip generally spend considerable hours researching their destination(s), planning an itinerary and booking event tickets and restaurant reservations, preferably with the help of a knowledgeable travel agent. (Unbeknownst to many, using the services of an experienced travel agent usually results in a more serene travel experience for a lower total cost).
One important point an agent will bring up is contingency planning, especially if you’re traveling with kids. Both first aid skills and insurance for possible emergencies are essential components of smart travel planning. What could happen? Ask the folks on the overturned cruise ship or those caught in the Iceland volcano drama….not to deter you from traveling, but the real world requires real strategies and forethought.
Toys means make sure they’re packed for EACH & EVERY family member: from Mom’s needlework bag (hoping the country you’re traveling to is cool about knitting needles), to Dad’s GPS, the teens’ iPads and iPods, the little kids’ Travel PlayDough, to the baby’s headphones.
Food means pack the squeezable peanut butter – it’s just logic. She’s not going to eat fois gras or periwinkles if she won’t do it at home. As much as you’d like adventurous eating to be part of the foreign-travel experience, unrealistic expectations will make everyone miserable. Think of adventurous eating as testing out 10 different types of Japanese candy.
Breastfeeding Mom + Pashmina or handmade shawl = the ultimate portable travel food source. But for everyone else, it’s a good idea to pack familiar snacks in the lunchbox-sized packets, to bring a taste of home on the road.
Enjoy your kids while they’re young, bring the baby on the Provence wine trip – you won’t regret it. Just prepare intelligently, savor each day and fill many memory cards with photos the grandparents will cherish.
What’s your favorite travel strategy that’s been a success for your family? Comments are welcome—