Traveling with children. Now, there's a phrase that will strike fear into the new parent. And if they are a single parent traveling alone, it gets even scarier. And gosh forbid they have more than one kid in tow. What to do? Where to start? To begin with, you can learn from the mistakes of first-time travelers with kids.
There just are classic mistakes most novice parents make. Planning, not overplanning, is key, both for the journey and the destination. Here are 10 big mistakes parents make when they travel with their kids for the first time. Read on and learn.
10 Choosing The Wrong Accommodation
Do you go to a hotel or a villa or cabin rental? On the one hand, hotels have perks like room service, swimming pools and maybe even sitter services. On the other hand, there is limited scope for the kids to get out and play.
A rental offers you a temporary home, a place you can call your own. It may even have its own pool and yard. Parents with kids can more easily establish a routine in a rental. Think ahead about what is best for your family.
9 Ignoring The Need For Entertainment
Maybe your kids aren't ready to fly a plane the way this 6-year-old genius actually did but parents should definitely think in-flight entertainment. The key here is to focus on what your child or children find entertaining at home and duplicate that the best you can for the flight.
Maybe it's a favorite storybook or movie. Maybe it's a game. Don't forget the headphones and extra batteries. A dead battery at 30,000 feet is something to be avoided. And have extra DVDs and games on hand, just in case. The same applies to road trips.
8 Not Having The Necessaries To Hand
Your diaper or toddler bag is a gold mine and a lifesaver. Again, the key here is to think about what you would need on a normal day with your child. Diapers, baby wipes, toys, formula, extra pacifiers just in case. Check. Change of clothes in case of an accident of some kind. Check.
When in doubt, take more, rather than less. Airlines may or may not be able to provide things like diapers or wipes. And they certainly won't have formula and toys to hand. Think ahead.
7 Taking Too Much Cumbersome Gear (Or Taking Too Little)
This is a picture of a potential disaster. On one level, this mother is literally overwhelmed with gear. Admittedly, traveling with four small kids (shudder) is a challenge, but the trick is to think about getting the best of all possible worlds.
Instead of the regular everyday stroller, use a light travel one. For small kids think a stroller/car seat combination. The woman's baby sling is a great idea, but the kids behind should be tethered to mom and not left to their own devices. She is both overprepared and underprepared.
6 Ignoring Support Systems
Okay, you are not likely to see a pilot feeding a baby during a flight. But the point is that there are resources parents traveling with children for the first time might ignore. What resources do the airports you are using offer?
Many airports will offer assistance for a parent traveling with a child. This might be a golf cart to the gate or a special family seating area, complete with toys and equipment to play on. Do your homework and make arrangements for things like meet and assist at airports.
5 Not Practicing The Routine
A calm baby is a happy baby. And a calm child makes for a happy parent. So, if your child has not done airports or flying before, think of it from their perspective. You get to this noisy, crowded building with airplanes roaring down the runway and people rushing to and fro. They could easily freak out.
What to do? Consider a test run. Maybe a trip to the airport once or twice. Perhaps you might even think of a short test flight just to see how your child copes.
4 Not Minimizing Standing In Lines
You get to the airport and get in a line to check-in. You then line up for security. Finally, you get in a line to board the plane. To begin with, you can check-in online and print out your boarding passes. That makes it simpler already.
Check the time for outgoing flights and do your security run when no flights are imminent. Finally, when you board the plane take advantage of the fact that most airlines will allow parents traveling with children to board first.
3 Rush, Rush And More Rush
The biggest mistake parents make when traveling with kids for the first time is not allowing enough time. Better to get to the airport early and run the risk of a bored child sitting around waiting than a panicked one rushing for a plane.
That's when you pull out the games and toys or maybe look out a family waiting area close to your gate. During the wait, let your child pick out a favorite eating spot or take them to the observation deck.
2 Choosing The Cheapest Options
You may think that the cut-rate flight that takes off at 6 a.m. sounds like just the ticket. Or you may believe that the cheap fare offered by a tiny airline will save bucks for when you arrive at your destination.
Think again. Night-time flights tend to be more expensive, but taking one actually means that kids might just sleep, leaving mom or dad or both a chance for me time. And paying more for a ticket with a mainstream airline means there are more leg-room and child-friendly amenities.
1 Doing The Helicopter Parent Thing
Let's say you are planning a vacation to a nice sunny spot in Florida. You've rented a villa with a pool near the amusement park your kids are dying to visit. You get there and the first thing you do is look for cultural or educational activities to involve the child in.
There are the art museum, a local history exhibit, and an interactive environment display. Stop it. Let the kids be kids and play in the pool and ride the roller coaster. Throw in worthy activities on rainy days.