Since I’ve traveled everywhere with my kids from Amsterdam to Zanzibar (see how that A-to-Z thing is going on here too?) I thought I’d share my family travel tips from A-to-Z.
A is for animals. Kids love animals. Try to include a trip to the zoo at your destination.
B is for books. Coloring books, reading books, notebooks, audiobooks. What’s a vacation without a good book?
C is for carry-on. In this instance, you can take it with you, and you should, because there’s nothing like a lost bag to ruin a trip.
D is for drive. Make the drive part of the vacation, stopping at fun and interesting attractions along the way.
E is for entertainment. iPod, iPhone, iPad, Ninetendo, whatever your poison, make sure you have it, as well as any recharging apparatus necessary.
F is for free. Kids stay free at many hotels and are offered discounted or free meals for kids at many restaurants.
G is for Groupon. Go to the site and click on “visit more cities” to find the daily deals in the city you’re traveling to. Groupon also has deals in several foreign countries.
H is for ‘hello’. The ability to say that and other basic pleasantries like “thank you”, “please” and “good-bye” in the language of the place you visit is just good manners.
I is for information. Make sure child has a card with your information in case you’re separated. At hotel give child the cover of a matchbook (not the matches) with hotel’s information in case you are separated.
J is for journal. There’s an app (or several) for that. Get one and alternate who makes entries. Kids say the darndest things and travel from their perspective is often what makes a trip most memorable.
K is for kid’s clubs and programs. It is in these programs that my kids have learned to write their names in Arabic, differentiate the tracks and poop of various animals and made friends that they still talk about and email.
L is for lighten up. Literally and figuratively. Packing light makes the journey easier, as does a good laugh.
M is for map. Give kids a map and let them navigate. Maps provided by hotels are a good option because they often have pictures of monuments, museums and landmarks.
N is for no, as in no rules on vacations. Cupcakes for breakfast, Coca-Cola for lunch and dinner, late nights. Anything goes.
O is for overseas. Give your children the world by exposing them to international destinations and different cultures.
P is for public bathrooms. Eww. Be prepared. Have travel toilet paper and seat covers and anti-bacterial wipes at the ready.
Q is for the quiet game. As long as they fall for it, do it.
R is for rest. Be sure that they and you are well rested before a trip. If you are tired and stressed you’ll fail to see the humor that is inherent in travel. The better rested you are, the more enjoyable the journey will be.
S is for safari. It’s the animal thing again, but on a much grander scale. Seeing the circle of life – from baby animals to predators hunting to animal carcasses throughout the bush – left us all completely enthralled.
T is for tasks. Assign your children travel-related tasks such as locating safety exits on planes, trains and in hotels and doing the final check of these places to ensure nothing is forgotten.
U is unexpected. Don’t be so attached to your itinerary that you miss the opportunity to do something unplanned or unexpected.
V is for video camera. Release your child’s inner Samatha Brown or David Attenborough by letting him or her film and narrate the trip. Looking at the video from a recent safari I was surprised at how intelligently they relayed the information learned on the trip.
W is for water. Water park, beach, the hotel pool. If your kids are like mine, they love any opportunity to splash around. Some of our most memorable trips centered around some body of water.
X is for eXpensive. By taking advantage of things like city passes which offer discounts on transportation, restaurants, museums and other attractions, discounts offered by loyalty programs and open museum days, you can save a lot of money.
Y is for the yellow truck game. In this variation on punch buggy, the initial goal was to identify yellow cars, but my oldest daughter decided to up the ante and look for yellow trucks. Random? Yes, but with yellow trucks being pretty rare, the game can go on indefinitely.
Z is for zip-loc bags. Putting crayons and colored pencils into zip-loc bags results in easier access than boxes and fewer crayons and pencils left behind on planes and trains.
What are your tips for traveling with kids?