Tag Archives: travel with kids

Back to real life: Some tips on making your life easier when coming home from vacations

Coming home from vacations can be tough. Coming home from vacations with kids? Well, raise to the power of your liking. This is of course not about a short trip or a day-out, it is more the issue for coming back from at least a 7 to 10 day vacation or longer. I am not going to be talking about dealing with that psychological phenomena that you might feel down or depressed when you come home; I just want to touch upon purely practical issues and share some of my tips on how to get back to “real life” as smoothly as possible.

  1. If you are flying and you happen to have a choice, pick an early flight back. The day of departure is anyway a lost day in a sense, so if you can just get home in the morning and still have some time for a smooth transition to your everyday life and for adjusting back kid’s schedules, use that! In general try to have at least a day to breathe out before jumping back to work, school and all the everyday chores. If you are able to schedule your vacation so that you have a weekend at home that’s even better. During your vacations you tend to loosen up daily schedules, you tend to have somewhat different eating habits and in general vacation time is obviously not the same as your daily routine. Additionally travel itself from point A to point B tends to be tiresome, especially for the little ones. Thus, if you arrive on Sunday and on the next day your kids need to go to school that will be very harsh on them! That will also be very harsh on you. So if you have a chance – take it easy and factor in the “adjustment time”. Small note on a daily schedule: on the day of arrival try to get kids to sleep at the usual hour and also get them up at the usual hour the next day – even if the next day is Sunday. Yes, 7 a.m. on Sunday might sound counter-intuitive, but trust me that would make the following Monday much easier.
  2. If you have that possibility do the laundry on the pre-last day of your vacation to arrive back with clean clothes instead of two-three full machines work. Big-big “but” here – only in case it is not too much of a hassle, as it is not the idea to actually ruin one of your vacation days! For us this time we just came back from our vacation at my mom’s, so doing the laundry for us was totally not a problem. Also if you were on vacation in a country where laundry service doesn’t cost the same as renting a limo you might consider using that. But to be honest the beauty of having laundry already done is worth even some extra bucks.
  3. Try sorting your clothes in your luggage in a way that it is possible to immediately take them out and put them in your closet. To be able to do that you need 1) to sort them at least per person (use plastic or paper bags; or just “divide the luggage in necessary amount of parts and assign a part for each of the travelers) and 2) to fold them in the same way you usually fold your clothes to put in your closet at home. What I mean by the latter is that if you for example usually fold your t-shirts flat to put them in the closet there is no point of rolling them to put them in your luggage, as you will get yourself an additional work when you come home.
  4. If this option is available to you – order your groceries online in advance, as your fridge is probably empty, isn’t it? What we usually do is order everything to be ready for a pick up on the day of our arrival. All we need then is just to quickly pass the supermarket and pick the boxes assembled for us. If that would not be possible we would need to physically go to the supermarket and lose at least an hour. If that can be avoided – by all means avoid it!
  5. Unless you have been away for just couple of days the amount of dust everywhere will be surprising in a bad sense of the word. You will have some time for a thorough cleaning later on, but upon arrival try quickly going over some common surfaces like a table, night stand, TV with a wet cloth (or a cleaning tissue). Same for the floor – “Swiffer” or analogues works perfect as a quick so-to-say “in-between cleaning” solution. You can of course skip this point if sounds irrelevant for you, but I personally prefer to have it relatively clean around at all times, and that way according to me is also a nice “take-it-easy transition to reality”.

As you have probably noticed I have a lot of “ifs” in my suggestions. Obviously. Some of the options will not be available for everyone (like a possibility to order groceries online, or an option to choose the morning flight), thus you have to see for yourself. The main point I want to make is – just have it at the back of your head that there are various ways how you can simplify your life upon arrival back home if you just do some homework in advance.

P.S. Some additional alarms on the first workday after vacations might also be a nice-to-have – like an alarm to remind you that you need to pick up your toddler from school! 🙂

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Traveling with kids: How to survive and keep your sanity

My husband and I have always been traveling quite extensively and once our kids were born we decided not to stop the habit. Thus we do some city trips now and then (like we went to the National Sea Center Nausicaa in Boulogne-sur-Mer to celebrate our first son’s birthday), we go to visit interesting places (also not just interesting for kids, but interesting first and foremost for ourselves – e.g. recently we went to see the Moses bridge in the Netherlands). Additionally, my family still lives in Latvia and my granny is already relatively old which makes regular air travel a necessity. We traveled with our daughter by plane for the first time when she was couple of month old, with our son – when he was just one month old. Since then we accumulated quite some air miles. Also by car during the last 3 years we traveled both short and very long distances (like 2000 kms one way). Although I am in no way guru of traveling with kids, throughout our experiences we have accumulated a list of useful and tried tips and tricks on how to survive and keep your sanity while traveling with your precious little monsters angels. Some of the tips are more about air travel but most of them are applicable with adaptations to other means of transportation as well.

So, let’s begin:

1. First and foremost, attitude is everything. Things tend to go wrong at the moments least expected. Try to go with a flow and try to keep your cool. Kids are little radars that very easily pick up their parents mood. So if you become irritated and cranky prepare to have your little ones go even more berserk.

2. Factor in some spare time. This is a difficult one because, for example, with air travel you don’t want to be at an airport too early as you would simply go nuts waiting. On the other hand, you don’t want to rush in at the last moment and then discover that you have a so-to-say toilet accident that you need to urgently solve. You need to reasonably add something like in between 15 minutes and half an hour to your usual timing – that would normally do. Same for traveling by car – factor in additional stops on top of what you would normally do yourself.

3. Have antibacterial wipes, wet tissues and just normal paper tissues easily accessible. And by easily accessible I mean not just in your handbag or diaper bag, have a small version in your pocket that you can take out in no time. And speaking about pockets…

4. Wear clothes with pockets! It is not the idea to look like Anatoly Wasserman but he has some point. It is very handy when you can have the above mentioned tissues, or a small toy to immediately act upon a possible emergency. Also for passports and boarding passes – you need to show those things way too many times so better have them by hand (in case of documents opt for an inside pocket or the one which you can close securely).

5. A toddler can have his or her own bag. That saves space in your hand luggage and gives a toddler a feeling of involvement (allow him to pack, but by all means check and adjust afterwards!). Just don’t choose these cute pull-ones with wheels, as they twist and turn all ways and you will end up carrying that uncomfortable thingy yourself in addition to everything else you already have. A small backpack is the best choice.

6. Have some plastic bags (preferably zip lock but usual ones would also do) in an easy-to-reach spot.

7. For everyone kids included opt for the shoes that are easy to put on and get off. In an airport that will save you some time at the security check; and on the long-distance car ride you would want to take your shoes off in the car to relax your feet but be ready to run out fast if your toddler suddenly (and urgently) needs to pee.

8. Where there are kids, things tend to get messy and clothes might get dirty so make sure you have some spare clothes nearby. Here I prefer to pick the ones that are more or less suitable for both of my kids – a little bit too small for my daughter, a little bit too big for my son, yet overall fitting both of them; and from fabrics that are easy to roll. And in general…

9. … roll your clothes. There are numerous ways of how to efficiently pack your luggage but I personally choose rolling. When done properly you can stash a lot of things in less space. Also stuffing socks and underwear inside shoes allows to use the otherwise unused space to its full capacity. To optimally use the luggage weight allowance when traveling by air try to wear your heaviest clothes instead of putting them in your luggage.

10. Have that additional moment of going to the bathroom and change even seemingly clean diapers closer to departure (for air travel). It is feasible to do it while on board but so much easier when don’t have to.

11. Of course you don’t expect to lose your little one in a crowd yet better safe than sorry so either get an ID-bracelet or write your mobile phone number on the inside of kids clothes, or even just write it on their arms.

12. Explain to your kids what will happen, what they should do in case they are lost… It is not going to work with small kids of course, but repetition does wonders. And in general I am very much pro explaining everything even to an infant.

13. Have some entertainment for kids ready but give it out in small doses (by no means all at once!) You know your kid better than anyone so you know if a coloring book works better than a toy car, so pick. There is no need to have a lot of stuff (2-3 different activities would do). If you have an iPad, pre-load some offline games. If you have a small tablet-PC put some cartoons on. If you opt for electronic devices make sure they are fully charged, otherwise a cartoon stopped in the middle will cause more drama than it was supposed to avoid.

14. A good idea for a bit older kid would also be a child-friendly photo-camera. That is a great stimulation of creativity for them but can also produce unexpectedly nice artistic results to add to your family photo-album.

15. There was a good advice on one of the websites – ignore the idiots and don’t be one yourself. Some people don’t like kids in general, irrespective of how well-behaving they might be, so imagine if they are not? Don’t ignore other people or intentionally annoy them but also don’t stress too much about what somebody thinks about you or your off-springs.

16. Wear kids out! Let them run when it is possible to run. Let them explore when it is possible to explore. Let them shout when it is possible to shout. Traveling is a great experience for your little ones, so let them experience everything to its fullest. And also in the airport, let them run around (reasonably!) before they will be confined to sitting still in an airplane for hours.

17. Finally, also for the air travel, make sure to make them drink or chew on something at take-off and landing otherwise those little ears will hurt. Nurse if you are nursing, give a bottle, or if a kid totally refuses to drink – give them a gummy bear! Long live Harribo’s! What also helps if a kid is already screaming from ear-pain – gently massage the area around their ears, that normally helps to relieve the pain a bit.

18. Couple of words about car seats and buggy’s during air travel. When our kids were infants we took car seat (Maxi Cosi) with us on the plane as it was used also on the buggy. Rules depend airline per airline but usually you are allowed to take Maxi Cosi and sometimes even keep it during the flight on the chair next to you. Otherwise the flight attendant will take it away while already in the cabin and give it back to you after you land. As for the buggy usually you have two options: either to check it in together with your check-in luggage or keep it until the plane. So far we went for the latter, as even if a kid doesn’t want to sit in a buggy anymore, you can use it to put all your hand luggage. As an additional bonus, with a buggy you usually get through a fast security check.

 

Some additional comments on traveling with an infant

The great thing about infants that are breastfed and can be carried in a sling is that they can be breastfed and be carried in a sling! Both points make traveling with them much easier than with an overly active toddler. When my kids were infants I had a set of breastfeeding clothes and a light blanket to cover-up and I always found a place where I can breastfeed as discreetly as possible. In the airport sometimes you can get into the lounge, or almost always go to a chapel. On the city trip you can find a quiet place in the park or in some cafe’s. I have breastfed even in a church once while on our city-trip to Paris… To note that I was always sufficiently discreet and covered-up so no one could actually tell that I am breastfeeding anyway. Breastfeeding while traveling by car is even less of a trouble – you can just pull over, make a kid happy and move on – to explore the world together.

 

And finally – some general tips which make sense even traveling without your precious little ones:

1. Take pictures or make scans of your passports and other documents and e-mail them to yourself. In that way if you ever lose your documents you will spare yourself lots of time while you’ll be replacing them.

2. Have a last-moment to-do list with things you need to still do right before you leave, for example: plug-out coffee maker, switch off water (in case applicable), take out garbage, finish that pack of juice that’s been open for 2 days,… whatever there is. If you actually have it all written down and you scratch items off as you take care of them that would improve your “pre-departure” efficiency and remove at least some stress.

3. I like spontaneity but it helps when you have at least a draft of your plan for the day. You need to stay flexible (and especially with kids) but you need to know at least in general lines where would you like to go and what would you like to do or see.

 

And I’ll wrap up with what I have started – most importantly enjoy your travel experience and stay positive! Attitude is everything!