Living on a different continent than the rest of your family comes with a sizable amount of traveling. I have logged more international flights in my life than I care to count. I also learned a great many things. For example I can pack my suitcase for a two week trip through Europe from zero to ready in half an hour flat.
Since the kids were born, I have also amassed experience in traveling with them. I will share a few tips with you.
The biggest fear parents have when traveling, or in large crowds is to lose the kid and not find it again. Apart from repeating the mantra of: “Stay together” and paying attention like a hawk, there is not much you can do. So prepare your kids for the eventuality of getting lost.
Make sure they have your cell phone number. For younger kids it is best if you write it on their arm. That way they don’t have to remember and they can’t lose it.
For older kids, let them repeat it back to you at random intervals during the day until they roll their eyes at you.
Tell your kids to approach either official people (police, mall cops, airport personnel, waiters) or mothers with smaller kids to ask for help. Officials have to respond. Mothers have an honor code. That mom will do everything she can to reunite your kid with you, because she knows what it feels like to even think about losing her own kids.
What to do while in transit?
One of the best ways to kill boredom is to give your kids a job. Let them be responsible for their piece of luggage. Let them be the charge master of all the electronics. Let them be the one to watch for connecting flights, arrivals, departures, subway stops and finding the way. Let them have a map too.
That way your kids will not only feel validated, they will also be much more aware of their surroundings. They will have paid attention to it.
Also, let them take their own pictures. You might even get a good picture of yourself out of the vacation that way.
Sight seeing can be stressful and boring at the same time. The best thing you can do is combine something you like with something the kids like. For example you do a guided museum tour with them and they can go on an adventure playground with you. Do yours first though, or you’ll never get to it.
If you happen on gift shops, employ the ‘You buy it, you carry it’ rule. That keeps you from having to lug around items that are bigger than yourself. Also, remind your kids that everything they get needs to fit into their luggage on the way back.
When visiting friends and relatives, make sure you don’t leave your kids alone with them just after you arrived. You may have known these people all your life. They are still complete strangers to your kids. This can be rather scary.
Find fun activity books and materials connected with the places you go. For example, every book store has a local section with kid books. Having a coloring book or a journal and a little guide book can help kids work through all the exciting new experiences they made.
Don’t do too much. You all need a breather. As a rule, whenever kids older than three fall asleep during every car ride, they are exhausted.
Don’t forget to have fun.
These are some of my tips. Feel free to add yours.