Traveling with Children

You May Love to Travel, but your child May Need a Little Preparation

While parents might be pros at navigating the airport and traveling to new places, it can be a stressful endeavor for some kids who miss their normal routine.

Vacations often require children to follow adults through many unfamiliar situations – from security lines to using public transportation, to “living” in a hotel room for a week. It’s helpful to talk about the trip in advance so your child can know what to expect. Consider these tips to help your travels feel like a grand adventure rather than a continual struggle.

Explain, explain, explain – Take away the element of an unwelcome surprise by helping a child know what to expect.  Prepare a toddler for a flight by explaining how you’ll go through security and why you need to use your inside voices on the plane. Remind your picky eater that it might be hard to find a PB&J sandwich on the road.  Explain to a teenager that he may not be able to find wi-fi during an international trip.

Hola, Aloha, Bonjour – It can be overwhelming and confusing for kids to be in a foreign country where they don’t know the language. Learn a few basic words (good morning, sorry, please and thank you) with your children and make a game out of using the words in the days leading up to the trip.

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Prepare for new sights, sounds and tastes – Help children understand that there will be sights, sounds and food that they’ve never experienced before. Find books about the destination or look at pictures online. Before your trip, consider cooking foods from the region or country you are visiting. Involve the children in cooking so that by the time you arrive in the new place, they will be familiar with some menu items and a little more comfortable in the new surroundings.

Different isn’t bad –  Talk to your children about the local traditions of the country or region you are visiting and discuss how they are different from your own. Teach them any customs or taboos from the culture that are different from yours (like not pointing with your chopsticks in China or taking afternoon siestas in Spain). Help them respect different traditions and not view them as “bad” just because they are different than their own experiences. While traveling, continue the dialogue with your children by asking them what they noticed about the culture and new surroundings. Encourage them to ask questions so that you help foster respect for these new places.

NOTE: This information should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of a mental health condition. Call 612-871-1454 to learn more about Washburn Center’s mental health services for children.