15 Travel tips for stressed parents

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One of my new year’s resolution was to not stress/freak out during my holidays. I failed it badly. I got stressed several times, got grumpy and freaked out. And we are only half way through. God help us all.

Mr C and I don’t travel as much as we would like to simply because we are too scared of how hard travelling with kids can be. Yes, it is hard, bizarrely hard and sometimes not even worth the trouble. But it can be fun too and I dare say it gets easier less difficult the more you do it. So i put together a list of tips and things to remember when travelling with kids IF YOU ARE THE TYPE OF PARENT THAT DREAD LEAVING THE HOUSE WITH YOUR CHILDREN. (you might want to consider councelling/therapy because it’s not normal/ok to be scared of your children… But I know the feeling):

1) make a list of places you would like to visit and check with friends, bloggers, strangers which are kids friendly and suitable for kids same age as yours. If the child doesn’t like the place or is bored, your holidays are ruined. On the other hand, if the place is great for children but you hate it (let’s say you hate themed parks/Disney), you are going to ruin every one’s holidays.

2) take lots and lots of activities books/magazines if you are going on a long haul trip. Colour in, sticker books, story books (this will also help with bedtime) and if your child is in to it, ipad all help. Long haul flights are a pain, but they take you to the best places, so it’s worth the effort to start your holiday well. The way back might be harder…

3) routine is good, but only if it works for everybody. Back home I’m a sargeant when it comes to bedtime. My kids are in bed no later than 19:30-20h on a bad day – normally it’s 19h. They were so into it that even when we are on holidays, they start getting tired around 18h and can easilly fall asleep at 19h. But what if you are somewhere nice and want to stay longer? What if the kid is too excited and cannot sleep? It’s best to relax a bit and hope for the best. If you panic all the time with routine, you won’t have much fun and will end up stressing the whole family out. Yes, it’s hard to go to bed at 22h and wake up at 5h, but eventually children sort their internal clock out. Same for eating. The kid won’t starve, so it’s not a problem if you skip a meal or if the child refuses to eat. I’m still breastfeeding Bea, so we are not that regular with her meals. We give her fruits whenever we have them available and if I can get some, I also give her rice, beans and vegetables.

4) things never go according to plan when you have children, so don’t bother planning to much. Make a list of things to do and decide in the morning. Give room to cancelations – some times all the child wants to do is stay in the hotel room and watch TV. Sometimes it’s worth trying to convince them to go out, sometimes it’s not. Just don’t do anything too labour intensive if you had a bad night or if you are in a bad mood.

5) stick to the basics. The amount of things we carry when going out with children is overwhelming. Pushchair, towel to protect from the sun, sunscreen, hat, bikini, spare clothes (3 sets, just in case…), arms bands, baby carrier, inflatable pool, towels to dry and to sit on, flip flops, shoes, food, cameras, nappies, creams, colour in book, umbrella to protect from the sun, travel potty,… It’s always hard work to pack and to leave the house, then a pain to walk around carrying lots of bags. Pack what you think you need on the previous day and after 2-3 days you have an idea of what is useless. One thing we have been taking, even though sometimes it’s like carrying an elephant, is the pushchair. Today it was awful, as we had to walk on the sand for a long time, but we used it to put Bea to sleep, so it was worth it. But I cut down on some useless things and slipt everything into two bags, as opposed to one – easier and lighter to carry.

6) Smile to strangers. People are more likely to sympathise with you if you smile and are nice to them. If they are rude or don’t do something as expected, smile. Always smile, even if you are angry.

7) ask for help. When you are on holidays, people tend to be more relaxed (everybody seems to be more relaxed than you, even those with five children) and helpful. Don’t forget to smile when you ask for help. And think you are asking a favour, not that it’s the person’s obligation (even if it is).

8) take someone close to you on your holidays – mum, in law, sister, best friend. If they are not of much help, at least it’s someone to talk to (and carry the bags).

9) if you are angry, frustrated, furious, take a break. Lock yourself in the bedroom for 5-10 minutes or go to bed earlier. Of course, make sure someone is looking after the children.

10) shorter holidays (1 week,10 days) are better than longer ones if you want to rest. No one relaxes and rests when there are small children to be looked after. Holidays are now synonym of adventure, adrenalin, hard work. Think boot camp. Don’t bother bringing loads of books unless you suffer from insomnia. Longer holidays are good if you have other people to help with the kids – otherwise you will need holidays after these holidays. Also, the shorter your holiday is, the smaller your luggage will be.

11) If you are staying in a place for a week or more, consider renting a flat with kitchen, so you can prepare a quick meal in the evening or early morning. You can use this breakfast time at “home” to start making your child tired. Hahaha also good for planning and chatting about the day ahead or buying some time if you are too early for an attraction (we’ve been waking up at 5-5:30am so nothing much to do at this time, unless wr go straight to the beach)

12) respect your child’s pace. No point trying to do lots on one day. If the kid needs a nap, try to find a place for a nap. If the child got tired of going to te beach, take the opportunity to read a book while the little one watches TV or draws.

13) safety first. Avoid trips to A&E by giving your child plenty of water, keeping him/her cool (or warm, if it’s a winter holiday), and always looking where he/she is. If you panic on holidays in general, you will panic even more if you child gets ill.

14) say sorry and talk to your husband/mother/in law/child if you explode. They normally will understand and forgive you quite easily if they know you “didn’t mean it”. Say when you are not happy about something – nicely, explain how you like things done. But try – just try – to be cool when things don’t go according to plan. You don’t want your baby to have sugar before she is 1? Perfect! But your eldest will give her ice cream as soon as you get distracted. It isn’t good, but it’s not the end of the world; no need to freak out, just be more vigilant next time and explain your reasons.

15) eat good food. It works for me: if I eat something I like, I’m kinda happy. And everybody – even your hyperactive children – needs to eat, so it’s an easy family programme to fit in your schedule, at least twice a day. I’m sorry to say, but not everything you like can replace eating. :/

If you are a true panicker, you can try as hard as you like, but you will still panic at least once during your holidays. With some luck, it will be just once. I panic before, during and after each holiday, but I’m determined to stop reduce that.

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4 responses »

  1. Great, great, great tips! I’m kind of relaxed when it comes to trips and holidays in general, very used to it, me and hubby have wheels, not feet. And I agree with you in every item!
    One thing I’d add are medicine, though. I carry a big bag everywhere. Lia usually gets sick on cars and boats (once she threw 3 times in na airplane trip and we had to change her clothes so many times, she even used the ones we carried for Marina to wear, and let me tell you that Marina was a baby still)! Always carry the ones you are used to give your kids, you may not Always find them around!

  2. Hehehe, que coincidência. A gente viaja e escreve um post sobre dicas de viagem. Mas é quase impossível não estressar, né? Ainda chego nesse ponto, daqui a umas 20 viagens, espero… Beijocas.

  3. Here is one more tip I would like to share that goes in a little different direction. We all know that there is extra commotion and distraction when traveling with kids which can lead to leaving things behind. I found this out while traveling to Canada with my son and my laptop got left behind at a cafe. Luckily for me I had a tracer tag on it. A waiter where I ate lunch found it and entered my tracker number on the website and I was sent a text message (and an email) before I ever even knew it was missing. I was able to recover it before leaving Toronto. I’m not sure what would have happened had I not discovered it until the next day when I was 400 miles away. The tags are available through Mystufflostandfound.com. They saved my trip and I now have them on almost everything that goes with me on a trip.

  4. You live and learn, and although it sounds like you are having a hard time, I hope the learnings are helping dealing with it and making things easier! You deserve a break and relax friendo!

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