For adults living fast-paced professional lives, an opportunity to go on holiday is very much welcome. When you have a family to support, bills and mortgage payments to stay on top of, and a career to build (among other things), it can be easy to get lost in the tangle of meetings, appointments and paperwork that all help you generate valuable income and live in comfort and security. Every now and then, it’s important to leave all these responsibilities behind and indulge in a little relaxation and recreation.
In your younger years, you would have simply booked a destination, packed your bags, and hopped onto a plane to get your leisure time started. But now that you’re a parent, going on a vacation requires a little more planning and consideration — now, you’ve got little ones in tow.
While traveling alone or with fellow adults comes with a measure of freedom, spontaneity and independence, most parents agree that going on trips with their children is an experience that they simply would not miss for the world. Being on the road (or in the air) and discovering new places, people and cultures with their children simple helps create countless experiences and memories that cannot be gathered any other way.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the journey won’t be fraught with chaos, craziness and plenty of messes, but that’s part of any fun family trip. Planning and preparing well go a long way in ensuring the success of any trip, so take a cue from these tips for getting started on your big adventure with your kids (with the least amount of stress):
You may have a destination that you’ve been meaning to see, or a friend may have told you about a great place where whole families are sure to have some fun. Either way, set aside time specifically to learn about promising locations and to compare them with each other so you can determine the best one to try out.
Being armed with information is crucial in putting together the right kind of holiday experience for you and your kids. Driving distances, plane fares, accommodation, amenities, activities, weather conditions, currencies, languages, customs, restrictions, safety considerations — all of these factors must be carefully evaluated. The arrangements you make can assure you of quality experiences with your spouse and kids.
It’s best to plan your holiday around your children’s interests — not only will they be looking forward to traveling (to whichever corner of the globe) with the family, but they will become more invested in helping to put the travel plans in motion.
So, sit down with the kids and talk to them about the activities they would like to try during the trip. Swimming in beaches, hiking up mountains, exploring heritage sites, engaging in extreme sports, sampling new cuisines — your children’s’ interests can help you pinpoint the most fitting countries or cities to visit.
You and your spouse may have gotten into a prolonged frenzy packing things for your children and yourselves and double-checking everything on your to-do list, but the battle’s not over yet. You’re entering the next phase of your travel adventures the moment you load everything into the car and get everyone in their car seats or seat belts.
It helps to consider each of your children’s ages and their specific needs, temperaments and quirks when making preparations for a long (or even a short) trip. Here are a few things you best keep in mind when traveling with kids:
Every baby is different, but babies in general require a tremendous amount of supplies — clothes, extra clothes, formula, wipes, washcloths, diapers, toys, carriers or strollers, etc. Their health is still delicate so you must pay close attention and constantly check if they are hot, cold, hungry, uncomfortable, sick, sleepy, or in some kind of pain. They may or may not need to follow a strict routine every day.
With these taken care of, however, you’ll soon observe the bright side of traveling with a little baby. For the most part, they are mobile — you can feed them or let them sleep while you are on the go, and they’ll always be right in your arms or next to you, so keeping an eye on them is more convenient. And if you’re visiting family, relatives will always be happy to take the baby off your hands for some adorable cuddle time.
Because toddlers are curious about the world, able to walk and run around, and always happy to interact with others, going on a trip with them becomes more exciting, engaging and involved for everyone.
You’ll be kept on your toes, however, and trying to keep up with your toddler’s boundless energy. More watchful eyes must be focused on their every move and you need to be there to pull them away from dangerous objects or situations which they will always be trying to get closer to. Mealtimes may also be more challenging now because they are building their preferences for certain foods and dislike for others, and being on the go can present them with many distractions. Your best strategy would be to arrange for other family members to take turns with you to watch over the little ones, to pack plenty of convenient yet healthy snacks, and to engage them in interesting activities and throughout the journey.
When you have preschoolers, tweens or teenagers, traveling begins to take on more meaning for the whole family because the children are now able to ask questions, share their opinions, and take note of everything they see and experience. You can sit down with the kids and plan the day’s itinerary and ask them to pinpoint the places, activities and situations that they prefer.
At this point, there may be some negotiations necessary to decide on destinations and activities that everyone will enjoy, so a little effort to arrive at a happy compromise is called for. Ultimately, however, having older children with you on trips means that you can now converse with your child about their experiences, help them gain new perspectives of life, and bond while sharing observations and musings that you will remember long after you’ve come home from your trip.
Travel by car with your family
A great benefit of traveling with your children is that you can rent a car or take your own car and go almost anywhere in your country or to adjacent countries. Road trips are some of the best ways to bond and learn things with your family. There are definitely some much needed car safety products you should take with you. What you take depends on your children and size of vehicle, from a spare tire, snow brush to the best weight distribution hitch, you can’t be too safe on the road.
In the midst of the whirlwind of planning, moving from place to place, and looking after everyone’s needs throughout the trip, there’s no escaping the discovery that your shared journey has enriched everyone’s lives in more ways than one. Here are 10 valuable benefits of exploring the world with your children:
Parents with stressful careers often miss out on spending quality time with their children. In the UK, for example, 65 percent of parents admit that they only get to play occasionally with their children. Also, just a quarter of the children surveyed say that they are able to talk to their parents about something that matters more than once a week.
Without the distractions of work, household chores, and other routine activities, families can truly be present in the moment and engage in comfortable and meaningful interactions.
If your children are of preschool age and older, they can be taught about the rudiments of planning a trip that can also help them understand basic planning, organization and calculations. Teach them about the costs of transportation, accommodation, and activities. Take them through the process of securing their passports or, for example, how to get a tourist visa for Canada from Dubai. Help them understand the value of putting together an itinerary and following a schedule. It’s also a great opportunity to teach children about staying safe while on the go and in other countries.
Children will want to bring all the comforts of home with them on a trip, but you can teach them how to sort their things according to priority, decide which items can be left behind, and determine what be picked up along your travels.
Children may think that their life at home, at school and in their neighborhood is all there is to the world. Travel broadens their view, presenting them with a variety of cultures, customs, beliefs and practices observed by children their age and by adults. It’s never too early to help your children learn about the diversity that the world has to offer.
Travel isn’t always about discovering different ways of life all over the world; it’s about seeing the similarities you share with people from halfway across the planet, too. Your kids can see for themselves how children from other countries spend their holidays, go to school, eat and play at home, and experience other familiar situations.
Anyone who has ever gone on a vacation will tell you right away that you can plan your trip to the very minute, but that’s no guarantee that things will take place exactly as you prepared for. From delayed flights to sudden storms, from lost wallets or tickets to an unexpected reaction to the local cuisine — there are plenty of curveballs that life can throw your way while traveling. The good news is that children will learn this way to take things as they come and to adjust their plans accordingly — and to be a good sport about it, too.
Children need not be confined to the company of kids their age with similar interests. Engaging with all kinds of people throughout your journey can help them relate and gain perspectives that they wouldn’t normally see by sticking to a single group of like-minded friends.
Confidence is a trait that your young ones can build over time when they are continually presented with unique experiences. Exploring a different city or country means trying a new mode of public transportation, tasting a dish made with unfamiliar ingredients, or speaking to a stranger using words from a different language. Your child will learn to embrace new challenges long after the trip has ended.
Kids can observe realities firsthand and gain a greater understanding of these, helping them to develop compassion and empathy. This may also lead them to consider moving to a different part of the world — say, migrate to Australia from Dubai — when they are adults to suit their vision for their own careers and family life and immerse themselves in a culture they like.
Finally, traveling with your children shows them that even a trip planned for the family’s enjoyment will inevitably run into some problems and complications — and that everyone must come together to work through them. Conversely, travel also provides them with special memories of being with the family that they can take with them through to their adulthood.
So, the next time you have vacation leaves coming up, sit down with the family and talk about the adventures you’d like to have. It’s the best way to spend quality bonding time with your children while they’re young and to create experiences and memories that you’ll lovingly look back on in the future.
Bevan Berning is an Immigration professional and owner of Pathway Visas, an Immigration Agency dealing mostly with skilled immigration to Canada and Australia. Bevan’s enthusiasm for the industry has kept in the Immigration field for the past seven years. Bevan is South African by birth and has been residing in Dubai for the past eight years.