Travelling with kids? The 5 expert tips to make it all go more smoothly
Over the past 20 years, I have travelled with many families who were looking for a little help on holidays.
Each time I was working, so the focus was on making sure everyone was enjoying themselves, and the parents were able to have a break during the stay.
Most recently, our whole family travelled to France for my sister's wedding. We had the two little nieces with us, (at the time they were aged five and two and a half). We were so excited. We were going to have so much fun. There was going to be a swimming pool and a beach nearby. We brought their aunt for wedding day minding so, we had it all covered. Excitement was high!
This time, I watched the children from a different perspective. There were moments the little one seemed so confused. She didn’t know which end was up. At bedtime, she would ask “Are we still in France?” It seemed to play on her mind. The older child said, “I remember Dublin” and “I remember our trampoline.”
It seemed no matter how much we felt we had prepared them, there was something not quite right with them. It got me thinking about how it must seem when we uproot little people and take them out of their comfort zones. Day-to-day routine goes out the window and actually, anything goes. And although they had buckets of fun – kids like routine – they like to know what’s happening next.
In theory, the whole scenario was great – loads of people to watch them: grandparents, aunts and uncles all under one roof. But in reality, there were too many chiefs for our little Indians, and they were all over the shop!
The-five-year old was able to articulate how she felt, so it was easier for her, but the smallest found it more difficult to say how she felt so the little things became a big deal. She simply had meltdowns because she was unsure of herself.
My sister couldn’t wait to get them home and put a little order back into their lives.
On one of the evenings, myself and the little one went for a walk. She turned to me and said, “Just you and me Niamhy,” I melted. She just needed a break from her 'holiday'.
We still had a wonderful week. The tricky moments with the kids were few and far between, but they still resonated with me. I’m not sure the kids will remember the little internal struggles with life on holidays, but I think it is worth acknowledging. We plan these trips and say that we do it "for the kids," but is it too much for them to cope with?
Here are a few ideas I think might help to keep things as normal as possible for them on holidays:
1. It's exciting to visit fun parks and adventure centres, but don’t go every day. Have one or two days that are relatively normal. Try to strike a balance between routine and fun.
2. Don’t make promises you can’t keep – if you tell them you're going to a particular place the following day, try and make it. The disappointment can be too much for them. So, don’t promise a beach day if the weather is looking suspicious.
3. Keep them active and avoid over-use of screens. iPads and tablets have become holiday babysitters – I understand how great they are for a peaceful life occasionally, but there is a time and a place. Set limits for use and stick to them.
4. Keep your bedtime activities as similar as possible to the ones you have at home. Familiarity of any kind is good when kids are in a strange place.
5. Eat at the times you would normally eat at home. It stops cravings and snacking and will save you money. Even if the grown-ups are going out for dinner and you are bringing the kids, try and feed them at home first and then they can have a little something at the restaurant.
At the end of the day, holidays are a break for all of us. Just bear in mind, the kids are often too young to see it that way.
In a sense, have lots of fun, family time together but maybe, lower your expectations – just a little.
Niamh O’Reilly is a sleep coach. She's also a baby and childcare guru, a 'parent nanny' and the answer to many a weary parent's woes. When it comes to baby and child issues, Niamh is your woman. Always on hand to offer a no-nonsense solution, in an approachable way.
Niamh's book, No Fuss Baby & Toddler Sleep, is now available to buy from all good book stores or online from Amazon.com.