How to reduce stress while traveling with kids? This month a great group of travel bloggers are all tackling this same question! After the tips, you’ll find links to their posts at the bottom. Check them out and choose the tips that work for you and your family!
I regularly get told that I’m brave for traveling with my children. What exactly is it that everyone is so afraid of? Tantrums, meltdowns, sickness, injury, missing flights, inconveniencing others, etc.? OK, I guess there’s plenty to stress about, but why bother? Sometimes you just have to take the leap: do everything you can to minimize the stress points in advance and then go for it! Come what may!
Personally, I believe stress while traveling is 25% about preparation and 75% about expectations and mindset. If you are naturally easy going you’re going to have less difficulty rolling with the punches, but even the easiest going chap in the world will have a hard time after a red-eye. So for those moments, preparation is key.
Travel Stress Reduction Tip #1: Have a plan
There are different philosophies on whether it’s better to travel with a plan or make decisions on the fly based on what feels right each day. I fall into the camp that believes you should always have a plan that includes some wiggle room in case you stumble upon something amazing or just don’t feel well one day.
Even if you like to figure it out as you go, here are the things you must have planned:
Flights to your destination as well as any passport or visa requirements.
Arrangements for your pets, garden, car, house, etc. while you’re away.
- Whatever you’re prone to worry about, get a plan in place that lets you forget it!
A plan for how you’re going to get local currency upon arrival.
- Either bring some with you or know where you can grab some first thing. Few things are as stressful as being hit by outrageous ATM fees before you even leave the airport.
Your first night’s accommodations.
- Personally, I book all my accommodations in advance, but if you like to live on the edge, at least pre-book night 1. You’ll be tired after your flight and it would be a really stressful time to find out that Elvis is in town and everything is booked.
Travel Stress Reduction Tip #2: Pack Intelligently
Too much stuff to carry easily equals stress, not enough stuff to get by equals stress. Packing the perfectly balanced suitcase means never having to think about it once you’re on the go. Here are my dos and don’ts of packing intelligently.
- Do pack changes of clothes for the kids and keep them with you in your carrying bag. You never know when someone is going to get motion sickness on the plane or in the taxi.
- Do pack snacks. Hangry children = stressed parents.
- Do bring a familiar blankie or stuffed animal for bedtime. Just make sure familiar item is accounted for any time you are moving on.
- Do bring comfortable walking shoes for the whole family. Blisters make me cranky, blisters make everyone cranky.
- Do dress appropriately for the weather. Being too hot or too cold leads to whining and whining leads to stress.
- Do go hands-free whenever possible. For me, this means a backpack or a messenger bag. This way my hands are always free to grab the child who’s running towards the road or about to jump into the lake.
- Do bring a baby/toddler carrier. Especially if the kids are jet lagged or are walking more than usual. Nothing is more stressful to me than trying to balance both kids on my hips, while carrying a bag, and my son is trying to fall asleep. Ugh. Never leave home without a carrier is my motto.
- Do not bring a ton of toys. These are too much to carry and they’re bound to get lost or broken at the wrong moment. Instead seek out rocks, sticks, subway maps, etc. to entertain the kids throughout the day.
- Do not bring a change of clothes for each activity. Get comfortable with a little bit of traveler grunge! Ideally, choose clothes that can pull double duty or be washed easily in a sink.
Travel Stress Reduction Tip #3: Embrace Down Time!
It’s easy to want to do all the things while traveling, but sometimes you just need to slow down. For my family, this means being intentional about seeking out playgrounds, swimming pools, or fountains where the kids can play and the adults can breathe. Seeking out air conditioning in hot locations can also be a huge help! (Shopping mall, movie theater, ice skating rink, etc.)
When we went to Bangkok last year, a nice pool was on our must-have list. For our upcoming trip to London, we chose our hotel location based on proximity to great playgrounds. A couple years ago in Hawaii, we propped our feet up and watched 2 hours of TV every afternoon while HJ napped!
Do what feels right and gives your family time to rest. Don’t stress too much about the things you are missing during these times because it’s better to be present and appreciative but miss some things, then stressed and distracted but make it to everything.
More Travel Stress Reduction Tips
Check out what these other family travel bloggers have to say!
- Travel with Jess
- Lot’s of Planet have a North
- Going Where the Wind Blows
- Adventures in Family Travel
- Meldrums on the Move
- Border Free Adventures
- The Traveling Page Family
- World Schooler Exchange
If you’re interested in more posts I’ve written on preparing your family for travel, check out:
- My Favorite Travel Tool for Flying with Children: TSA PreCheck
- How to Prepare your Kids for a Red-Eye Flight
- Flying Tips: Baby and Toddler