IT’s recently taken a liking to Parent Hacks—the "collaborative weblog of practical parenting tips"—so we asked founder and editor Asha Dornfest to send IT her favorite family travel tactics. She writes:
We at Parent Hacks believe that travel is one of the greatest gifts a child can receive. Even if they are ‘too young to appreciate it,’ every kid beyond infancy will take away something from the experience—not necessarily full-formed memories, but a general awareness that the world is a vast and wondrous place. We also recognize the challenges inherent in traveling with little ones, so we’ve collected a number of real-world tips to smooth the road (or flight) ahead.
Simplify packing If you’re taking a road trip, consider packing the bulkier items (snow gear, toys, beach towels) in plastic laundry baskets rather than suitcases. Use carabiners to attach loose items to your backpack or diaper bag. Bring only enough diapers and wipes to get you through the first few days, and plan to restock.
But don’t underpack That said, bring along the stuff that will help your kids settle into unfamiliar surroundings: a favorite stuffed animal, a frequently requested bedtime story, or a night-light. A small emergency kit with pediatric medicines and first aid supplies will help you rest easy, too.
Arrange passports well ahead of time If you’re even dreaming of international travel, take care of everyone’s passports now. Did you know you can convert one of your own digital photos into a passport photo?
Keep the kids entertained in transit
Keeping kids happy, comfortable and well fed while in transit requires some planning: You want them to be relatively quiet and content, but you don’t want them to spend the entire trip glued to the portable DVD player. Some ideas: Pack activity bags full of small, inexpensive toys and art supplies, to be opened in transit; draw faces on airplane sick bags and stage an in-flight puppet show; bring along a few books on tape and some kid-safe headphones. If you’re handy with the digital audio equipment, you can even create a special ‘vacation soundtrack.’ In lieu of trying to make them keep a travel journal, have the kids write postcards to themselves.
Baby-proof the hotel room Put masking tape over stray electrical outlets, wrap a disposable diaper around the tub faucet to protect little noggins, and rearrange the furniture to block off hazardous areas. And bring your baby monitor along—it’ll buy you some alone time in the hallway.
Have your kids wear ID at all times You can buy Velcro bracelets or in-the-shoe stickers, or you can do what one Parent Hacks reader suggests: Write your cell phone number on your kid’s belly with permanent marker.
Take advantage of museum memberships Many museums have reciprocal membership agreements, so if you’re a local museum member, see if it can get you a discount, or even free admission, to museums in the town you’re visiting. Not a member? Try your auto club card, student or teacher ID, or public television or radio membership card.
Give yourself a break
Temporarily loosen the restrictions on DVD-watching, Gameboy-playing, and junk-food eating if it will help you get through a particularly rough day (and there will be rough days), or if you simply need a moment of rest. The memories of your travel experience are too precious to be tainted with arguments over candy bars or an extra showing of Toy Story 2.