Travel is an opportunity to experience new things, meet new people, and broaden your horizons. But the travel experience isn’t without its headaches, and as a single father, those headaches can turn into full-blown meltdowns. Here are a few tips to help you manage your travel and have a fun, enjoyable time with your kids.
Planning, Research, and Getting the Kids Involved
The best place to start: ask where your kids would like to go. If they’re unsure, give them some options that you and they might enjoy. If you already have a destination in mind, don’t worry. It’s the experience that matters.
Once you and your kids have agreed on the destination, spend time researching and planning together. Ask them what types of things they would like to do during the trip. What would they like to see and experience? What amenities would they (realistically) like their hotel to have? Even the simplest activity can become that much more exciting when it’s “their idea.” At the same time, don’t be afraid to include activities that you think they’ll enjoy.
After you’ve laid out all your activities and lodging arrangements, make and print out your itinerary. This should be a basic schedule that lists when you’ll be leaving the house, the expected time you’ll arrive at the destination, and all the activities you have planned out along the way.
Keeping Your Kids Busy
It’s easy for kids (and adults) to get a little fidgety on long car rides or plane trips. Make sure to bring plenty of activities to keep your kids busy. This is the perfect time for them to barrel through any homework or reading, which frees up even more time when you reach your destination. For younger kids, bring along some new coloring and activity books and crayons. If all else fails, bring along a portable DVD player and a handful of your kids’ favorite movies.
Have some healthy snacks and treats handy as well. Airplane food can be expensive, unappetizing, or just not very kid-friendly, and car trips are riddled with long stretches of empty road. A hungry child is an unhappy child. The granola bar or bag of trail mix could be a lifesaver.
Children love being part of the process. On long road trips, let your kids navigate and read the road maps.
Planning for Emergencies
You never know when emergencies will sprout up, so the only thing you can really do is be prepared. Pack a simple medicine bag with a thermometer, junior or infant strength aspirin, Band-Aids, disinfectant, anti-bacterial ointment, and any prescription medications your children need (an inhaler, for instance). You can never pack enough paper towels or tissues.
Health isn’t the only potential emergency. In the event that your kids get lost or separated from you, do they know what to do? Do they know your cell phone number by heart? Make sure you and your kids know what to do if you are separated.
- When you get to any new destination, show them a meeting spot where they are to go in case they are separated. This prevents them from wandering around in search of you. Make the meeting spot an easy location for you and your children to reach in no time.
- Inform your kids that, if they do get lost, they should find another mother or father and tell that parent they they’re lost. When worse comes to worst, who better to help your kids find their parent than another parent?
- Of course, if you’re uncomfortable with that, identify people of authority that your kids can go to if they’re lost. That might include police officers, security personnel, staff members, or airport employees.
A few other tips to keep in mind:
- Try to find programs that allow your children to meet other kids. This gives them the chance to make new friends and allows you to meet parents.
- Camping is a fun, inexpensive experience that gives you and your kids the chance to unplug from technology and society for a moment. Camping is a great opportunity to teach your kids some basic survival and, potentially the most important skill of all: how to make a proper fire. Camping also gives you a chance to show your kids wide open spaces and breathtaking landscapes, teaching them respect for the environment.
- Make sure your schedule has plenty of down time. You and your kids will get tuckered out throughout the day from seeing all the sights. Allow for free time to recharge back at the hotel.