Buttoned Up Expert: Ten Tips for Dads Traveling with Kids

Ten Tips for Dads Traveling with Kids

By Paul Banas of www.GreatDad.com

Tip #1: Remember who your fellow travelers are.

Just as you wouldn’t take your sports-ambivalent wife to a week of baseball training camp, try to figure out destinations the whole family can enjoy.

That doesn’t mean it has to be Disneyland or the least common denominator. Think, instead, of places that will have real highlights for all members of the family. New York City, for example, can satisfy many different types of people with museums, sports legends, nightlife, theatre, and even great parks.

If you pick a single-interest destination, like DisneyWorld, make sure the entire family can enjoy the focused activity. If not, plan before the trip on how to build in some other variety and set up expectations accordingly. If the kids think you’re spending seven straight days at DisneyWorld and you take half of that to visit other attractions without setting it up first, you may have a mutiny.

Tip #2: Ask your kids to help plan.

We like the Kids City Walks cards series because you can spread them out and deal them like cards. Easier for everyone to see than passing out a book, the cards give everyone a chance to pick an itinerary and there will still likely be things of interest for the whole group.

Have everyone look through the guide books or websites and choose at least one thing they really want to do, so no one feels like they are being dragged along an entire holiday.

Tip #3: Try to stay near the center of your destination and activities.

Nothing aggravates family dynamics and the fatigue factor like long car trips or transit. Even if it means cutting back elsewhere, a great location can really ease a lot of tension when a trip back to the hotel is easy.

Tip #4: Consider an apartment rental or hotel apartment.

Nowadays, there are many more options than having the whole family stay in a single room. That’s not a vacation for you or your teen. Short stay apartment rentals give you more space for your dollar and feature a kitchen for more casual meals (pizza!) and cheaper breakfasts.

Tip #5: Set up a vacation budget.

Even for kids starting around age six, it’s better to give out a fixed amount for souvenirs and extras before the trip starts.

If you say that the money is theirs to spend as they see fit and they keep whatever they don’t spend, you’ll create a strong lesson in budgeting, but you’ll also be amazed at how many things now seem unnecessary for them.

Tip #6: Inventory all medical needs.

Nothing is worse than traveling with kids and realizing you forgot the correct medicines. This is one area where even the most relaxed parent should get into control-freak list-making.

Start with colds and cough, and work from there, covering bug bites, cuts, suntan lotion, Tylenol, thermometer, and homeopathic remedies for carsickness. You know your kids – prepare for the worst that could happen short of calling a doctor.

Tip #7: Pack light.

With airlines finding new ways to charge for previously free services, a large added expense may be checked bags, which, at $15 each one way, can add up very fast for a small family. Packing simply will also save a lot on back-breaking lifting, which usually is dad’s job.

Tip #8: Pack for the plane or car.

Fix lots of healthy, and some not-so-healthy snacks, especially for long plane rides where kids need variations on pretzels and soda.

It’s not spoiling the kids to find some involving toys for them to discover once they get on the plane or a few hours into a car ride. Only buy things that will involve them and keep them busy.

Now is not the time to buy them something they’ve been craving just because they will like it. You want to focus on games, puzzles, and action figures that will keep them interested beyond the wow-what-is-this phase.

Avoid toys with small parts that, if lost, will render the toy useless. You do not want to hunt on airplane floors on your hands and knees

Tip #9: Have the kids carry their own stuff.

We got a pint-sized rollaway for our daughter at age four that was a perfect size for her to carry her toys, favorite pillow, and even a full day supply of her brother’s diapers.

Fanny packs are another good idea for small kids, to carry the few small items they want to play with in the plane or train.

Tip #10: Don’t overdo and keep your spouse’s expectations under control.

Especially if you don’t travel a lot, it’s easy to over-schedule and pack it all in. Plan for a regular day and cut it in half to cover tired, dawdling kids, longer meals, slower transit, and a nice long break at the end of the day before you head off to wrestle with them over mealtime.

To learn more about Paul Banas, visit www.GreatDad.com.