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Traveling with youngsters has its challenges, but these tips help make for smoother skies.
There’s no question that traveling with kids has its difficulties, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare either. With a little careful planning and some creativity, embarking on a family vacation can be much more than a bearable experience.
1. MAKE PLANNING A FAMILY AFFAIR. Let your kids help plan the trip, from sharing their wish lists for resort amenities to choosing special activities or excursions. They’ll be more helpful, patient and positive with the packing and travel processes if they have some buy-in.
2. RESEARCH ACCOMMODATIONS THAT SUPPORT FAMILIES. You’ll be astonished at the number of hotels and resorts that have designed memorable vacation experiences for kids. If you have littles, you might consider Azul Hotels by Karisma, which provides strollers, bottle warmers, baby food, baby monitors and toys, or Generations Riviera Maya’s large family suites with swim-up balconies. Finest Playa Mujeres goes beyond the typical Kids Club with its Baby Club concept, featuring family bathrooms, kitchenette, shaded outdoor play space and baby splash area. The Beloved Hotel Playa Mujeres has fun activities like water balloon games, cookie-baking lessons and making traditional piñatas.
Bonus Insider Tip: Azul Hotels by Karisma now offers a Nickelodeon Vacation Experience in Riviera Maya, complete with Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
3. DON’T FORGET THE TWEENS AND TEENS. These youngsters traditionally have gotten lost in the gap between kid- and adult-friendly vacations. No longer. For example, Ocean Blue & Sand in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, boasts a bowling alley and climbing wall on the beach. And Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort in Cancún, Mexico, has The Playroom Kids Club, Wired Teens Lounge, FlowRider wave simulator and the Ultimate Dolphin Swim Experience.
4. CONSIDER PURCHASING A SEAT FOR YOUR TODDLER. If you have a child under age 2, you’re allowed to put her on your lap. That’s certainly doable on a short flight and will save you money; however, if it’s a longer trip, consider purchasing an extra seat. The child will have more room to sleep or play, and you won’t have a fretful, wiggling human on top of you for hours.
Bonus Insider Tip: If you do decide to put your child on your lap, bring a copy of her birth certificate. The agent may question you if she is on the tall side for her age, or if she is very close to that second birthday. You’ll be glad you have the document on hand.
5. WALK THROUGH THE TRAVEL DAY AHEAD OF TIME. This is especially important for the littles. Explain parking, shuttle buses, airport trains, the ticket counter and, perhaps most importantly, security. You’ll avoid watching your child dissolve into tears if he understands in advance that all of his special belongings must be in a bin for a photograph, and then he will get them back.
6. FIND FLIGHTS THAT COINCIDE WITH NAPTIME. Your child’s body will hit a natural downturn at that time of day, so plan to follow her naptime routine in the air. Encourage her to sleep by packing a favorite stuffed animal, blanket, and story to read.
7. SUPERVISE CARRY-ON PACKING. As children get older, they want to pack their own carry-on bags. Encourage them, and let them choose a favorite backpack or kid-friendly wheeled case like Trunki, but be sure you keep an eye on what’s going into the carry-on and how heavy it is. At home, it will seem reasonable to your child to pack his entire collection of Matchbox cars, Legos or rocks. Walking through the airport terminal, it will become much less reasonable.
8. LAYER TRAVEL CLOTHING. Airplane cabins are unpredictable in terms of temperature. Sitting at the gate or on the tarmac, it can get warm and stuffy, particularly if you’re sitting in the sun. And at altitude, it can get chilly. Make sure everyone has a warm sweater or jacket that can be put away or used as a pillow if he or she needs to cool off.
9. PACK YOUR CARRY-ON WITH MESSES IN MIND. No matter how old the kids are, bring along wet wipes, paper towels or rags, zip-lock bags, and hand sanitizer. If your child is potty-training or might be accident-prone if she can’t get to the potty immediately, put her in pull-ups, and bring extras. If your child is still in diapers, plan to use one diaper per hour. Just in case.
Bonus Insider Tip: Verify the location of these items before you check your luggage. You don’t want to be sitting on the plane, in the midst of an epic diaper blowout or in a sea of goo from a snack, when you realize your emergency supplies are unreachable.
10. ENSURE ADULT CARRY-ONS ARE ONE-STOP SHOPS. You’ll also want to pack snacks and a few surprise activities such as new coloring books, stickers, travel games, books or tablet-ready movie or TV show. Don’t forget pressurization issues during takeoff and landing; pack gum, lollipops or hard candy for older kids, and be prepared to breastfeed or bottle-feed infants.
Bonus Insider Tip: Pack well-rounded, nutritious snacks such as hard-boiled eggs, cheese sticks, mixed nuts, crackers and veggies. For something sweet, all-natural fruit snacks or roll-ups and granola bars are good choices. Skip the candy bars, cookies and other high-sugar treats… the rush and inevitable crash will quickly ruin everyone’s day.
11. BE STRATEGIC WITH TIMING. Get to the airport early. Not only will you avoid the stress that comes with rushing, your family can savor a sit-down meal at an airport restaurant, browse the shops, and enjoy all the colorful sights and bustling activity. Be active prior to getting on the plane — walk around, take the stairs, find a designated play area, and perhaps even come up with a scavenger hunt. Finally, before you board, make that last-minute bathroom stop.
You’re on your way, and priceless memories with your children are just around the corner. (And once you’re on the plane, you can still order that glass of wine.)
*Featured image courtesy of The Beloved Hotel Playa Mujeres.