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Top 10 Tips For Keeping Kids Happy and Healthy During Travel Vacations

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Top 10 Tips For Keeping Kids Happy and Healthy During Travel Vacations

If you are a parent, and are anything like me, there was a sweet time period between you wanting to have kids and actually having kids where you dreamt of being a family that travels. You imagined your little ones playing happily in the blue waters of some far away destination while you and your partner quietly sipped cold drinks and watched them play from the comfort of some chaise lounge…

 

Then the kids actually existed…

 

And the mere suggestion of traveling with them was enough to send you back to bed. As was the case for me, at least. But! After being a mom for 7 years I am delighted to report that I am finally in a position to make my family travel fantasies come true.

My family (two boys, ages 8 and 3 and late-thirties) and I recently took our dream vacation to the United Kingdom and Amsterdam. The trip lasted 5 weeks, and each week we’d stay in a new location within those countries. So essentially, we were traveling every 5 or so days.

This is the second overseas trip we have taken with the boys – the first being Oktoberfest in 2022 where we visited Munich, Nuremberg, Berlin, Prague, and Krakow. During that trip we learned that we needed to stay put a little longer in each location to make all the work in between destinations worth it for us and for the kids. So the most recent trip was planned around that and let me tell you, it was a big success.

 

While it was a tremendous amount of work, I gotta say that the joy, excitement, and experiences we had exceeded our expectations (unless you ask our 8-year-old son Jack who would tell you he can’t remember anything at all), and so, I wanted to write down what I learned during this trip and the lessons I will take with me on our next family adventure. And who knows – maybe they’ll inspire you, too!

 

1. Prepare for the Transportation

The internet is chock-full of info about how to keep kids happy on an airplane and in the car, often focusing solely on that initial leg of a trip. But do not overlook activities and entertainment DURING your trip. A Eurotrip often requires taking many planes, trains, and taxis and the handful of times that I didn’t bring snacks, make sure the ipads were fully charged, or fail to give motion sickness medication when appropriate were regretful. It’s easy to get in the flow of things while traveling and forget the little things, but treating each travel experience as you do the initial plane ride over will save many a headache.

 

2. Trade Space for Being Close To the Action

Don’t get me wrong – I love a good hotel. But booking a space where we had at least two rooms (with doors that closed) was key for us ensuring everyone would get adequate rest. Now that requirement often meant being about a 10-15 minute drive from the “cool stuff”, but if you have little kids, you know the grave importance of good naps and sleep overall. As a bonus, if you can book a spot with a small yard, you’ll be giving the kids the ability to go outside in the mornings or during lulls which is a totally worth-it luxury.

 

3. Book Accommodations With a Kitchen and Order Groceries Immediately on Arrival (Or Schedule Them Ahead of Time)

When we arrive in a new place the first thing I do after throwing the suitcases in a corner is open up UberEats or Instacart and order snacks and groceries. During our most recent trip my boys didn’t get sick at all (outside of motion sickness) and I credit that to making sure they had access to fresh fruit and vegetables every day. Not to mention a lot of “I’m bored” can be fixed by throwing a bag of pretzels at them. While they likely won’t have access to their favorite snacks, a strawberry is a strawberry no matter where you go (and Scottish strawberries taste like candy by the way).

 

4. Plan on Providing Exercise for the Kids Daily

We don’t like to overplan our days when traveling, but the one thing I do plan for is 30 minutes of activity or exercise every day. This usually meant a Google of “closest playground” or “parks near me” and having that be the regular hang during our stay. It’s very easy for kids to miss out on physical activity when traveling and exercise will help keep the sickness and tantrums at bay.

 

5. Make Peace With the Trampoline Park

This relates to number four and to the overall enjoyment of the trip by your kids. Trust me, I didn’t love going to indoor play places, trampoline parks, bowling centers, and arcades during my beautiful historic vacation… but it had to be done (Bluey fans… unite). It’s another means to an energy-expenditure end, plus in tourist towns, you often have access to science centers and museums – which will exhaust their little brains, too.

 

6. Try to Enforce Bedtime to Help with Jet Lag and Keep Sickness At Bay

It’s very easy to let bedtime be an idea instead of a rule while traveling, and I absolutely didn’t hit the same bedtime or nap time everyday. However, kids need to sleep even more when they are traveling to keep them healthy. Jet lag can be the culprit for vacation sickness, so keeping your kids on a consistent sleep schedule will help make the jet lag easier to recover from, and, hopefully, achieve quality rest sooner. It took about four days for our family to get back on schedule when we returned from the UK.

 

7. Make Peace with Devices

“I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom”…at least that’s what I tell myself when my 8-year-old plays six hours of Roblox in one day while in Edinburgh. The truth is, vacation is supposed to be a happy experience. One where you get to do what you WANT to do and not what you have to do. Jack likes to play Roblox. He doesn’t like to look at medieval architecture. So during the times that my husband and I had “need to see” experiences I allowed my oldest son to choose to look at a screen instead. It was an exercise in balance and I knew that for every Ipad marathon it meant a trampoline park was in my future, during which I would be staring at a screen uploading vacation pictures to Instagram while Jack and his brother bounced happily.

 

8. Know Your Audience and Tag Team

I want to clarify that it doesn’t have to be either a peak adult experience or a peak kid experience while traveling. More often than not, there are heaps of family-friendly museums, parks, and historical sites no matter where you go, and I encourage you to do them all! After all, it’s those times together that really make your trip. That said, there will be things that a parent wants to see that a kid will find painstakingly booooring, which definitely makes the parent’s experience not so great. We experienced some of those moments, and to help thwart any emotional blowouts or avoid future fights, my husband and I decided to tag team the excursion. Maybe I would stick around for the must-see, and he would take the kids to get ice cream. And/or vice versa. Just because the family isn’t all together at all times doesn’t mean we won’t try to have the best time we can while on vacation.

 

9. If Changing Locations During the Trip, Allow for Packing Time Routine

We hit up seven cities in four countries during our recent 5-week Eurotrip so those location changes got to be a grueling routine. The night before a departure I had existential dread thinking about gathering and packing all our belongings that had inevitably exploded all over the AirBnb. Not to mention you have to leave the AirBnb “clean” with no dirty dishes or garbage in the bins. I soon decided that the night before a checkout I would not personally go out. I would get up 3 hours before our checkout and do it all. Not having the kids awake to take things out of suitcases as I packed them was essential and soon I felt like an expert family mover.

 

10. Bring a Nanny or Utilize A Service and Don’t Fear the Rental

Full disclosure: we brought our nanny with us on the trip, and I saved this for last so you wouldn’t click away immediately.

Having a nanny or a sitter service while traveling is not that out of reach. During our Germany trip we used a service called InternationalBabysitters.com and absolutely loved the nanny they sent us. The cost of the service was $150 per day and you provided accommodation and travel for the nanny. They also offered babysitting at $20/hr in certain cities. All the sitters are background checked and you could watch videos of them to get a feel for the one you wanted (not to mention a ton of reviews). Additionally, lots of European hotels offer babysitting services when booked in advance! There are lots of options that are affordable and having the ability to go out in the evenings as adults takes the experience up multiple notches.

While we didn’t personally utilize this service as our kids are a bit older, there are also tons of baby equipment rental sites you can book so you don’t have to schlep your car seats, pack-and-play or sound machines with you! Babyquip.com is a web hub that provides product listings all over the world (and they often deliver, too!).

 

So there you have it! If you have any other questions please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. Or if you would like to say hi in person you can always swing by the gym on Tuesday and Thursday at 4pm where I will be coaching the Crossfit Kids class at CrossFit Renew!

 

Who wrote this post...

Tiffini Steding

Tiffini Steding

Tiffini joined CrossFit Renew as a never-before CrossFitter in 2021. She started with the intention of improving her fitness after her second son was born, and burpee box jumped her way into wanting to be a part of the CrossFit way of life in a more significant way. In the fall of 2022, she earned her status as a Level 1 CrossFit coach and went on to pursue the CrossFit Kids certification so she could coach her 7-year old son and his friends. Outside of the gym, Tiffini likes to go down rabbit holes reading about anything from turtles (thanks to her son) to historical events to the emerging world of Artificial Intelligence. If she had to choose a favorite benchmark workout, it’d have to be Annie.

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