De-Stress Family Fun

It's one of the worst nightmares for parents – your child, your sweet angel, turns into "that child" screaming, whining and complaining on the airplane, in the hotel lobby or anywhere else on your family vacation. These getaways are essential to build deep relationships, so don't let this scenario frighten you so much that you avoid the thought of a family vacation altogether!

Family in airport

Take a few pointers from some seasoned and creative parents to make traveling with children easier.

1Plan ahead

There are times when a parent's idea of a vacation drastically differs from that of a child's. Find some middle ground and choose a destination that is both kid-friendly and offers grown-ups some activities reserved just for them. Choose transportation and lodging where other patrons and employees won't bat an eye if your child has a meltdown.

2Talk about it

Kids are usually not very good with surprises. Tell stories, show pictures and have lots of conversations with the kids before the trip. Be sure to be clear about the expectations for the trip, as well as any points of interest along the way. Since a child's memory span is more short-term, be prepared to remind them of these expectations as you go through your itinerary.

3Strategic timing

Whenever possible, try not to disrupt the sleep schedule too much. Plan flights and road trips around their nap schedule, and adjust for any time zone changes. Don't skip meals – nothing can make a child more irritable than not getting their food on time. Pack a snack for those unexpected delays and always know what the food availability is at your destination.

4Boredom busters

If a plane or long car ride gets boring for adults, imagine what it must be like for a child. Pack different activities or be prepared with road trip games to make the time pass a little more smoothly. Books, small toys, drawing and activity pads and cards make for great distractions. Plan ahead and download an app or two with child activities onto your smartphone to introduce at just the right time.

5Pack smart

A favorite stuffed animal, blanket or pillow serves many purposes when traveling with children. It comforts them with the scents of home, and also serves as a good way to help the kids get more comfortable when trying to rest or sleep. Don't leave home without required medications, and pack extra diapers and formula. Bring along bottled water that you can give your children to drink, as well as to wash their hands with if there are no facilities available.

6Praise

Since it's challenging to discipline a child on vacation as you normally would at home, try the opposite by praising them whenever they are doing something right.

Make memories on your next family vacation and never feel guilty if things don't always go smoothly – remember nobody's perfect.

Tips from the TSA for traveling with children

When traveling by plane, the TSA reminds you that provisions are made for infant formula and breastmilk if it's declared. There is also a separate lane at security checkpoints reserved for those people and families that need more time. Check out more on the TSA website at TSA.gov.

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