How to Travel Stress-Free with Small Children
November 20, 2022
Author: Marissa Kozma
Traveling with your tot in tow is no easy feat, which is why many parents book a trip to Disney World instead of a train tour across Europe, find a babysitter, or simply wait until the kids are older. But don’t delay that dream vacation just yet. Allowing your child to explore a foreign country at a young age will teach them about a new culture and help them better adapt to new surroundings, food, activities, and people. If this is your first time traveling with your child, there might be a few bumps in the road (as expected), but here are some tips for making sure the journey is as smooth as possible.
Choose Your Destination Wisely
While safety should always be a top concern when deciding on a vacation destination, traveling with small children leaves even less room for error. Check OZZI’s destination ratings and advisories to understand any threats to your safety or security. Using OZZI’s local guides, choose a country that is used to welcoming American tourists, offers a variety of family-friendly activities, and is easily navigable.
If you want to check out a major city, walkable metropolises like Amsterdam, Brussels, or Florence are great options to avoid long waits at bus, train, or subway stations. Small towns or municipalities are even better — such as Hallstatt, Austria, or County Kerry in Ireland — with low crime rates, friendly locals, and a more relaxed pace.
Teach Your Child About Where They’re Headed
After you book your trip, make sure your child is aware of where they’re headed! If they have never left the United States, teach them about why it’s fun to travel to a new country, what will be different in that country, what activities you have planned, and more.
Take out books from your local library about your destination and read them at night before bed and/or watch travel documentaries or movies filmed in your destination. Teach your child about the local weather, currency, food, language, customs, and famous landmarks, and make sure they are prepared for a time change and/or a long flight by slowly altering bedtimes before your departure. Lastly, make sure you introduce foods commonly served in your destination by visiting a restaurant or making the dishes at home so your child can get a taste of how mealtime will be different abroad.
Make Sure Activities, Restaurants, and Hotels Are Family-Friendly
Being spontaneous on vacation can be fun, but with kids, you always need back-up! Do YOUR research before departure and bookmark numerous family-friendly restaurants near your hotel and popular landmarks you plan to visit in case of emergency.
Be flexible with your itinerary and try not to book too many museum visits, fancy dinner reservations, walking tours, and other slow-paced activities all at once, but DO get your child accustomed to how adults travel by introducing them to historical and cultural landmarks and attractions rather than just zoos, amusement parks, and aquariums. Outdoor activities such as swimming, biking, hiking, ice-skating, horseback riding, or skiing are great pastimes for the whole family and will wear out your little one!
Bring a First-Aid Kit and Other Essentials
Accidents always happen — especially with small children — so your travel bag should have everything just in case. Spare napkins, sanitary wipes, filtering water bottles, and bandages, and are only a few of the items that should be checked off the list. Bring basic medications, bug spray, and sunscreen from home — especially if you’re unfamiliar with the local language or brand names.
Small toys or an iPad to watch TV shows or movies on are a great distraction on planes, but make sure you have comfortable headphones for your child so they don’t annoy fellow passengers. And don’t forget the snacks! Your child will probably be hungry if there’s a time change and will want their favorite foods that you might not be able to locate easily in a grocery store.
Cover Stranger Danger and Make a Separation Plan
If you plan on visiting a big city with your child, this is a must. Educate them about what to do in the event of separation. Choose a location that’s easy to remember (like a statue or a large sign) and let them know to head there if they can’t find you and stay put. Teach them how to identify a safe adult, such as a police officer, another person in uniform, or a woman with children of her own, and let them know they are lost. If your child is old enough, have them memorize your cell number.
Use Tracking Devices
Give your child an ID bracelet or make them carry a tracking device in the event of an emergency. Apple AirTags and Tile Trackers are often used to track our phones and keys, but storing one in your child’s pocket, luggage, or backpack is a great idea in case they get lost. ID bracelets are available to purchase from ROAD iD and other companies and you can list your child’s known allergies, blood type, emergency contacts, and more.
Don’t Leave Your Child Unattended — Even for a Second
Sometimes we’re busy looking at tickets, train times, or our phones, but it only takes seconds for a child to become distracted by someone or something. Accidents can happen, so never let go of your child’s hand and make sure they accompany you at all times.