Traveling with kids can be…Sticky. And we’re not just talking about melted ice cream and the need for wet wipes. We’re talking about melt DOWNS. To make travelling with your little ones a bit easier, Team Thumsters sat down with moms and parenting experts to collate our Top 5 Family Travel Tips.
Travelling with kids can be…Sticky. And we’re not just talking about melted ice cream and the need for wet wipes. We’re talking about melt DOWNS (the kids, the parents…the strangers shooting you dirty looks while your 5-year-old is screaming on the airport floor…) Thanks to early starts, longer days, changes to routine and standing in those long long ride queues, what’s meant to be so much ‘fun’, can end up being anything but.
Many families save long and hard to go on a destination holiday and can quickly be disappointed when things don’t go according to plan (which with kids can be often!) The Thumsters team is full of parents and guest experts who collectively have many parenting years under their belts and many trips taken with our littlies. Here are our Top 5 Family Travel Tips from Mom’s for peaceful, stress-free family fun!
The thing with family trips and travel in general is that even after taking jet lag into account, everything is topsy-turvy and routines go completely out the window. Hats off to parents who can manage to get back to the hotel room to keep their kids nap time in check and who can keep meal times on schedule but more often than not… well it’s just ‘not’. Our experience is that even older kids & teenagers can struggle when routine is thrown and days are long, diet is different and expectations of a ‘trip of a lifetime’ are high.
The trick here is to manage expectations. It can be tempting especially when you are somewhere new and/or far from home to want to try and fit in as much as possible to take advantage of every opportunity. But at what cost? If everyone is tired/stressed/cranky, does it really matter that you managed to fit all 4 Disney World parks into one day? Do your research, especially with older kids (5 and over generally works well) on where you are going and what there is to do and see. Get everyone to note down (help the younger kids) one or two things during the trip they REALLY want to see or do, then plan your days around these things.
Likewise with meals, if your child is fiercely in the ‘chicken nuggets and chips’ camp when it comes to eating out, maybe don’t book into a fancy sit down restaurant that won’t serve the simpler style meals, or an expensive buffet where they will literally only eat... chicken nuggets and chips.
So you’ve decided to take a family vacation, before you get your heart set on a particular destination can we recommend picking it based on what’s age appropriate for the little ones in your travel group? For example, if you have tiny tots, 5 and under, you may REALLY want to visit the Grand Canyon but if that means a 17 hour roadie…perhaps saving for an extra 3 months and factoring in the cost of a short flight and hire car might be a better idea.
Likewise, a long haul flight with small children if you know you or they don’t do well on interrupted/minimal sleep, might be best saved until they are a little older and able to enjoy (or at least understand) the process of flying, which can be confusing and even sometimes a little traumatic for pre-schoolers.
Theme Park trips are a lot of fun for the whole family but can be long days for small people. If you can, try and factor in a few naps or at least resort or pool breaks to rest up and have a break from the crowds and weather (Disney World or Universal in Florida for example can be OVERWHELMINGLY hot in the summer).
Cruises can be a great option for families due to the excellent kids’ clubs on board but you need to consider if your child will actually be happy to be away from you for any period of time, otherwise if you are hoping to have some free child minding and adults only time on the boat, you might be sorely disappointed. Again, managing expectations and considering all outcomes is important when trip planning, especially when it comes to both mode of transport and picking a destination.
You know what they say, failing to plan is planning to fail. Luggage allowance notwithstanding, we are big believers that you can never be too prepared. Having to hunt down and then pay an exorbitant resort shop price for kids paracetamol can really throw things when you’re trying to do your holiday on a family friendly budget. On theme park trips it’s especially important to pre-plan a few things… You don’t want to cut into your day (those Disney World tickets aren’t cheap) doing a dash to the local mall for rain poncho’s, spare phone chargers or blister band aids. Here is a by no means exhaustive list of what extras you might like to pack, feel free to add more in the comments if we’ve missed anything!
- Medicines - prescription
- Medicines - non prescription
- Wet wipes/nappies/plastic sheet if toilet training at night
- Bottles/reusable feeding utensils
- Sanitary pads
- Covid tests/blood oxygenator
- Rain ponchos
- Band aids/blister aids
- Antibacterial pump soap
- Digestion pills (starters/stoppers!)
- Snap lock bags (for leftovers)
- Well-worn in shoes!
A note on a couple of these items: Antibacterial soap, this can be really handy to have in your hotel room in this pandemic age, however the soaps hotels provide aren’t usually antibacterial. Make sure to pack this in a snap lock plastic bag, locked, in your checked luggage as it will most likely be over 100 ml.
On the subject of snap lock bags, we find these super useful for things like left over food items you might buy but the kids can’t finish and you don’t want to throw out! Put it in a snap lock then store without mess in your backpack for later in the day. They can also be used to store extra soiled clothes you may not want to pack back in your luggage, and if kept on hand for road trips, also make handy sick bags to grab if anyone feels car sick. There’s nothing worse than grabbing that empty paper Maccas bag and watching it spring holes as it loses all integrity…
Lastly, and this was a tip every one in the office agreed on, especially on trips with a lot of walking (theme parks, Hawaii, hiking etc): vacations are NOT the time or place to buy/try out a cute new pair of shoes, for you OR your kids. Nothing ruins a trip with a lot of walking/sight-seeing like painful blisters. It sux big time, especially for little people feet. ALWAYS pack a pair of well worn, comfy shoes. No fashion forward family photo is worth the pain (of the blisters OR the miserable child). Trust us!
It’s the age-old question, to get or to not get travel insurance? It’s a big expense, and how many times have we gone on holiday and NOT needed it? We’ll be fine…
Until, you’re not. If you or your child get sick or injured, the last thing you want to worry about is how to get treatment or worse, whether or not you can afford it. Just because medical care is free in your home country (we’re looking at you Australia and New Zealand…) does NOT mean it will be free in the country you are travelling in. In fact, it’s safer to assume it’s not.
The same stands to reason if someone in your travel party gets sick or injured in the immediate lead up to the trip. It can be stressful deciding if you push ahead with the trip possibly compromised or whether with insurance, you can cancel and rebook for the near future when everyone is in optimal health to travel and enjoy their vacation.
It’s not only health that can compromise a vacation, leading up to or during. Situations at home, work or financially can at any moment affect whether or not you are able to travel and if this is a trip you have been saving for a year or two to experience, having to cancel and potentially not get refunded for flights/hotels/theme park tickets can be devastating. If you’ve saved hard to have that family trip of a lifetime... why not add a month or two more of saving to your budget and purchase the insurance.
The ideal would be, for every trip we took we could pack our kid’s favourite babysitter in our suitcase, or maybe… a two for one deal where we could take the Grandies along for that extra set of hands! Sadly, most airlines/hotels/theme parks don’t do a ‘free Grandparent’ deal (wouldn’t that be cool though), but we’re here to give you the NEXT BEST THING when it comes to holiday help. Thumsters Parenting App is the ideal parenting tool for family holidays, helping kids to be intentional about making those great behaviour choices by using scientifically proven positive reinforcement to help them be accountable for their behavior decisions. This is how we use it when we are away!
- Make sure you have the PRO subscription enabled on both parents phones (don’t forget the subscription enables family sharing, so Grandparents or other caregivers can also be on the same account for continuity of care!)
- We like to have the WHOLE family on THUMSTERS for trips, parents and kids! There’s nothing like leading by example and Mum and Dad can give each other thumbs when appropriate. ;)
- Pick one short term goal that can generally be achieved in a day. A good example could be a mocktail by the pool, an ice cream after dinner, or staying up half an hour later at bedtime. Having these short term, easily attainable goals keeps kids motivated.
- Pick one longer term goal that might take a few days - a week to reach (the older the child/teen, the longer it might take to achieve). This could be something like a souvenir from the theme park or resort you are staying at. This longer goal teaches kids important skills like patience, accountability, and cause and effect, along with developing those great behaviour habits by repetition, like kindness, sharing, patience, communication and connection. Remember extrinsically motivated goals become intrinsically motivated habits.
- Make sure you are consistent in recognising your child’s thumbs up moments. Positive reinforcement from Mum or Dad is a GREAT motivator for kids. Take the opportunity to talk about WHY they got a thumbs up... ‘Thank you for hopping out of the pool the first time Mommy asked! I know you wanted to play a little bit longer so let’s come for another splash together after lunch’.
Likewise, a thumbs down is a respectful and calm way of recognising a child’s negative behaviour (as opposed to yelling, smacking or time outs which can often escalate negative behaviour ESPECIALLY when someone is tired), while still teaching them about natural consequences and giving the opportunity to calmly talk about how you can approach it differently together next time. ‘I didn’t like having to ask 5 times for you to get out of the pool after I’d explained we need to get changed for lunch. I know you were having fun playing, let’s plan to come back in together this afternoon when we get back from the restaurant’.
We know that family vacations can sometimes be stressful, tiring and disappointing but we hope that our Top 5 Family Travel Tips will help you to avoid this from happening. With great planning, managing expectations, picking age appropriate travel options, having insurance for when things go awry, and adding in that extra bit of help, they really can be that fun-filled trip of a lifetime we all dream it will be.