Friday, November 26, 2010

Fuss-LESS Vacation with Kids

As I'll be travelling again soon and this time with 2 toddlers on a flight(!) so I'm gonna share with you all the preps and a few tips for a fuss-LESS (means LESSER fuss instead of truly fuss-less, which is I'm dead sure impossible to achieve *grin*) travelling by air, and may be applicable for other ways of travels too...

1. Plan your trip
Like it or not, having kids especially those below 6 years old, you need to plan your trips well in advance, and the best would be 3 months in advance, unless you have trunks of gold in your bank *grin* So to get the best holiday deals, make it air tickets or accomodations, or both, you have to start browsing around at least 3 months in advance. I also found out that people nowadays are really travelling no matter what season, so planning ahead will also ensure that you got a place on the flights and rooms to stay. It'll be good to buy books of your place interest, and here I would recommend Frommer's books because he stated what/where is good for kids, which I found VERY useful (I'm a fan of his books!). Planning ahead, you will also have more time to survey and compare the prices between a few travel agencies, if you are using one :)

2. No tours please!
Again, if you are travelling with kiddies, please avoid taking those tour group trips as their schedule are very packed and they need to be punctual as they are not only serving you but the whole group! You don't want your kids to get tired and cranky, and wail along the way, or keep asking the bus to stop coz you need to change the diaper/take your kid to pee, or have to carry your kids all the way (you need those hands to carry your shopping right?*wink wink*). The situation may not only put your stress level up to the sky, but also cause certain level of distress to the whole group.
If you are worried you'll get lost in a strange place or you may need local tongue to help you around, it'll be best to book a personal guide instead, which you can also ask either from the travel agency or the hotel if they have such service (please take note that this may be chargable). You may also make friends with some nice locals to be your guide but this may need some precaution so I won't really advise this unless the person is a family/friend's friend :)

3. Timing is important
Again, back to proper planning, you have to do a bit of research to understand your destination's weather and culture..yes, I added CULTURE in. I know weather is quite unpredictable nowadays but a hurricane won't come unannounce so you can always check on the yearly report. Even if your family is the type that can travel rain or shine, it'll be good if you know when is the peak of bad weather, for example the dry or rainy season, or even snowy season, not only for your health but safety reason. We don't want you and the kids to be trapped in a flooded situation or stuck in the cabin due to heavy snow blocked your way or too dry season that the kids got ill.
On culture, learn on when is the peak of their biggest celebration. There's a pro and con to this - you could avoid the crowd of devotees celebrating their own festivals and tourist watching them which may cost not only bad traffic but also most hotels/shops to be full...but you will not be able to experience the local culture. But to think about it, I'd rather missed that than getting bad services from hotels/restaurants due to the crowd, or having my kids asking "Are we there yet?" the 999th time when you are stuck in the car due to bad traffic.

4. A living GPS
Once you've made the bookings, prior to the date of travel, you should sit down and start planning your whole itinerary. If you have kids below 3 years old, it's best to limit 2 places of interest per day so you can give the kids more time to rest, to ensure them anjoying the trip. You can go 3-4 places of interest per day if you have both kids above 4 years old, maybe max will be 5 places, but if you have either one of the kid is below 3 years old, it'll be advisable to go with option one, unless the young one could just sleep on the kids couldn't :P
Plan your day step by step base on the maps and time the attraction opens to have a smooth journey all together, so you don't have to rush back and forth. It'll be good to know where the nearest convenience store around your area of stay or the attraction place in case you need to buy any emergency things - diapers, milk, drinks...Also, I found it useful to know where McDonald's or any of my kids' fav fastfood place is, in case of real emergency.

5. Access baggage!
Having a small traveller doesn't mean his/her luggage bag is smaller than yours. Remember those extra clothes you need to bring? And not to mention bags of diapers, milk powders, snacks, toys, blankie etc etc *sigh...* Even though I have only 2 toddlers, I own a 7 seater SUV, but not to have more people on board but to have more THINGS on board! Those strollers, luggage bags, diaper bags...etc etc...We are even thinking of buying the extra carriage to put up on the roof so we can put more things when we travel :P
But nowadays, if we are going long distance, by land or air, we do not carry as much. You can also refer to my entry Got a Young Traveller? For all those diapers and milk powder, I usually brought enough for the day and bought a new pack there instead. Don't tell me the place don't have the same brand! Unless you are not travelling locally and your kids can only use the same brand for diaper/milk. Even for clothes, I don't put as needed for the trip since I'll be buying them those cheap ones there (those I don't mind to throw or leave) - we are travelling for fun & leisure, not attending a conference or have some cameramen tailing us like celebrities, so we don't need to dress up for it *grin* If you are worried your family don't look nice for the memorable moments on photos, you can bring a nice jacket (very thin one if travelling to a warm place or thick one if travelling to a cold place) and fashionable hats to cover.

6. Entertainment please!
I guess this will be the most challenging part of your vacation - getting your kids entertain and enjoy the whole trip :)
As per my post Got a Young Traveller?, I usually brought a lot of things for them. Prior to the trip, either we'll be flying or driving, I downloaded some kiddies songs into a CD for them to listen to. I also bought some new DVDs of their fav shows, books and toys, and hide them till D-Day. Please remember that usually a toddler under 2 years old specially (but can also be for those above the age), their patience level is only 30 seconds, and they can only concentrate on the same thing for 30 minutes max! So base on your travel distance, you could plan how many things you need to bring :) For long distance, I really recommend CDs/DVDs as kids could sit for ages with these. But if you have kids who will surely fall asleep and STAY asleep the whole journey, I have to congratulate you as the most luckiest parents on earth *grin*! Mine could sleep for 1-2 hours max and stay up another 1-2 hours :P

If you are driving for long distance, please remember to stop at least every 2 hours and the best is when your kids are awake, so you could let them out of the car for about half an hour to stretch out their legs, or they'll be in stress.

Hope these would help to lessen your stress and enjoy more on your family vacation! have a great and safe trip!