Summer time is here, which likely means a family vacation is on the calendar. Here are some suggestions for helping make traveling with children a success. For suggestions for flying with infants, refer to our earlier blog here.
Preparing for Your Trip
- Before your first trip, create a master list of things to pack for your child(ren). Make notes and adjustments as you pack, while you travel, and once you’re home of items to remember for next time. You can slip the packing list into a plastic page protector, cross items off with a dry-erase marker, and then erase with water after the trip. It can also be helpful to have seasonal lists (Winter and Spring/Summer). Keep this list on your computer where you can frequently edit and reprint it.
- In the week(s) leading up to your trip and during your trip, do whatever you can to help boost your child’s immune system to prevent them getting sick before or during travel. Chiropractic adjustments, probiotics, elderberry syrup, and of course, a healthy diet and plenty of sleep are all ways to boost your child’s immune system.
If traveling by car, you will inevitably hear the notorious “Are we there yet?!” called out from the back seat – and this may first occur before you’ve gotten on the interstate! But rest assured, children can be happy road trippers!
- Create a basket/bag of small amusements to help keep your child entertained. This could include fun, healthy snacks (ideally something that feels novel to your child), activity work books, hand fidgets, putty (if you dare), portable games, coloring materials, or a new CD. You can either present the basket at the start of the trip or stagger it, presenting one new item every ½ hour or hour, depending on the length of your trip.
- Engage your child(ren) in games and discussions along the route. Have a contest to see who can guess what time you’ll arrive or pass through a certain destination, play the oldie-but-goodie alphabet game with passing road signs, look for the funniest town names, etc. You can find all kinds of car game ideas through a simple Google search, so do some research before you leave.
- Allow your child to participate in some of the trip planning. Older children can look at the map (even the old-school, paper version!) and calculate the distance to your next destination or help decide where a good spot to stop for lunch could be. Younger children can participate in a discussion of activities they would like to do at the final destination.
Getting Good Sleep on Vacation
Whether the goal of your family vacation is relaxation or adventure, it’s important to help facilitate your child getting good rest. As a parent, you know that a well-rested child = happy parents and family. Everyone will enjoy the vacation more if you try to honor your child’s sleep routines, even if it means taking a break from the action to allow your child to rest.
- While you don’t have to be a total stickler on nap and bedtimes, coming back to your hotel/rental for their afternoon nap or making early dinner reservations so you can honor your child’s bedtime is wise. An added perk is that earlier dinner reservations means less waiting, less crowds, and maybe even some great deals on a Happy Hour menu!
- Speaking of familiar routines, be sure to pack any sleep-related comfort items for your child – anything to help them adjust to sleeping in a new location. Their favorite blanket, lovey, night light, sound machine, etc. can all help your child feel comfortable and sleep better.
- If you are staying in a home rental (i.e. VRBO), there’s a good chance your child’s bedroom won’t be as dark as it is at home, especially if you use black out curtains at home. If you are traveling further north, you’ll especially notice a difference in how late and how early it’s light out! To combat this, pack a black garbage bag and some duct tape or push pins, which you can put up in the window to help block out extra light.
- If your child doesn’t take naps anymore or fights them when traveling, schedule in some quiet time in the afternoon. Vacations are often busy and bring lots of excitement which, while very fun, can also be exhausting for everyone. Bring along some books, coloring pages, music, or other quiet activities and have your child spend a designated amount of time (even just 20-30 minutes) in their room or a quiet area. This will ensure that they – and you! – are recharged for whatever activities await the rest of the day.
We hope these ideas will help make your family’s travels a success. Remember to stop in for a chiropractic adjustment before your travels to boost your family’s immune system. Happy trails!
If you want tips on flying, remember to check out our other blog:
Guest Blog Written By:
Happy Family Mother and OT Senia Lee