As I sat in my office trying to figure out what to write about this week, I began reflecting on my recent trip to Mexico. We had a lot of key learnings on that trip, including things that worked really well, and things that we could have done better. So, today I thought I’d share some of those key learnings with our Escape Artist readers, in the hopes that they can help to facilitate a smoother travel experience for all of us!
Introducing my 7 Tips for a Smooth Travel Experience with Kids!
Tip #1: Set expectations
I think every one is better off when they know what to expect beforehand. This goes double for kids, who don’t quite have a fully developed concept of time yet. The travel day is going to feel really long for them. So be open about what to expect and what the itinerary is so they can wrap their minds around what is happening.
If they have certain milestones they can identify in your travel day (ie head to airport, check in with security, board plane, food and drink service, etc) they can orient themselves enough that they will see things progressing and will be less likely to complain. And remember to keep reminding them about all the fun that awaits at the end of the travel day, too! It may feel long, but it will be worth it!
Tip #2: Be organized
As someone who does not like to leave anything to chance while traveling, good organization is key. Essentially, you want to be the human Swiss army knife for your family. Being well-organized definitely helps you take some of the stress out of traveling, because you know you have covered all your bases and can get a certain level of peace and comfort from that.
Here are some of the ways I make sure I am well-organized for our family trips:
Make lists for EVERYTHING
This is a measure twice, cut once situation. I make lists for what needs to go in the suitcases, what we need to bring with us on the plane, and for what I need to bring in my purse. I also make lists for different categories of items such as clothing, toiletries, medications, entertainment, etc. Making these lists helps to ensure I don’t forget anything, and also jogs my memory about what I want and need to bring on the trip.
Think of possible situations that could arise while you are traveling and pack for those situations. I find this more important for international travel than for domestic travel to Canada and the US. Now, generally if you forget something, you can go out and purchase it somewhere, but the point is that you don’t want to have to waste your time doing that, so it’s best to try to be prepared before you go.
Ziploc bag it
Since I’m usually the one that books all the travel, I am also the one that carries all the important items such as passports, tickets, foreign currencies, residency cards, etc. The last thing I want is to be having to dig through my purse to find what I need. And that’s where my handy dandy Ziploc bag comes in!
To keep my most important documents easily accessible and safe, I put them in a medium-sized Ziploc freezer bag in my purse and I tell you, it works like a charm! It’s easy to grab out of my purse when I need it and it can be sealed when I am done with it, so I have extra protection against anything falling out.
I don’t know about you, but my purse can turn into a bit of a black hole. So knowing exactly where all my important items are and having quick access to them is key to making our way through the airport quickly and confidently.
I also use large Ziploc freezer bags for things like sunscreen, bug spray, medications, etc in our luggage both to keep it well organized and to protect against any leakage that may occur during travel. Ziploc bags for the win!
Tip #3: Try to get a direct flight, when possible
Never underestimate the importance of a direct flight, especially when traveling with kids! In today’s uncertain travel times, when there are constant delays, I always try to mitigate any travel disruptions by booking direct flights whenever possible. It really helps you to avoid the stress of making a connection (and wondering if your luggage made it) and just minimizes the number of things that can go wrong.
When we went to Mexico in August, we could have flown via Edmonton with a stop in Calgary before going on to Puerto Vallarta. While that would have meant less driving for us, it introduced more airport time and more risk, so we opted to drive a little further to Calgary to just take the direct flight.
On the way back from Mexico, our flight was delayed by several hours so we definitely would have missed our connection to Edmonton. It was nice to know we could simply drive home from Calgary the next day, rather than having to deal with further airport shenanigans in our quest to get home.
Tip #4: Bring your own entertainment
Let’s face it, when traveling with kids you need to be prepared with some sort of entertainment, lest you hear the dreaded: “I’m bored!”
While screen time is not something I strive to give my kids more of in our everyday lives, I absolutely welcome it on a long travel day. We download games, movies, and tv shows so that, even in the absence of wi-fi or data, the kids can keep themselves entertained.
Even on the airplane where you should be able to connect to their wi-fi and hook into their entertainment, you need to be prepared in case it isn’t working or your device does not want to connect. Go in with the assumption that it might not work and make sure you have enough shows or games to entertain your kids through the duration of the flight.
Pro tip: Your VPN may prevent you from connecting to the airplane wi-fi. This has happened to me on several occasions with WestJet specifically. If you are having an issue connecting, try disabling or even uninstalling your VPN and that should fix the issue.
We also like to walk around the airport if we have a lot of time to kill. It helps the kids get their energy out before they sit for a long time on the plane, and it’s a great time to just connect with them and talk about all the fun stuff you will do when you get to your destination!
Tip #5: Be prepared for delays
When we had our several hour delay on our flight home from Mexico, I was not prepared. Straight up. I sat there in the hotel lobby sulking about it, rather than looking at the situation as what it was: a gift! WestJet had essentially given us an extra day to enjoy in the Mexican sun!
And, in fact, I found out that our resort was prepared for this exact situation with complementary showers and a changing area for people to use if they did not have a room to go to. Unfortunately, I did not know this enough ahead of time to plan it into the day.
But next time we go to Mexico, I will be armed with a good-sized duffle bag that I can pack for the day with everything we need, should our flight be delayed long enough that we have had to give up our room but can still stay at the resort. That and a couple extra plastic bags for our wet swimsuits! That way we can keep our luggage in storage while still having access to what we need.
If you are delayed on the way TO your destination or are already in the airport when the delay occurs, well, refer to Tip #3!
Tip #6: Have medication handy
I never travel without my trusty bag of medication! I always make sure to carry Gravol, Rolaids, Tylenol, and Advil on me while we are flying, as they are the main medications you may need while in transit. I also always make sure to have things like cough syrup and Benadryl in my checked luggage. This way we are ready for most situations that could arise while we are on vacation.
I also now make a point of picking up some electrolyte beverages (ie Gatorade) when we go somewhere hot so that I can make sure the kids are replenishing their electrolytes and staying hydrated. See my trip to Mexico last year for why this is so important for our family!
Tip #7: Frankie says RELAX
In my Road to Mexico Part 3 article, I reflected upon how important it is to loosen up a bit so you are better able to deal with things when they go wrong. Travel is stressful for everyone and it’s up to you, as the parent, to help keep your kids’ spirits’ up by setting a good example for them and having a good attitude.
Relax, focus on enjoying yourself and making memories with your family. Even the things that don’t go as planned end up making entertaining stories down the road!
Now, get out there and make some great memories!
Circling back to what I mentioned at the beginning of this article – travel is getting harder, not easier. But, if traveling is important to you and your family, you can still make it work! It just takes a bit of extra preparation and, for some of us, a bit of an attitude adjustment! Focus on controlling the controllables and rolling with the punches when things don’t run according to schedule, and both you and your kids will be set up for an awesome travel experience.
Need some good reading material while you’re hanging out in the airport? Then you definitely need to check out Escape Artist Insiders magazine. Every month I read the magazine I learn something new and feel inspired to keep working towards my Plan B and investment goals. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in living and investing overseas.
Happy traveling, and I’ll see you next week!
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