On the road:
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- Protein. Trust me.
- Before going to foreign countries where the kids don’t speak the language, teach them a few basic phrases so they can try it out. Please, thank you, no thank you, etc.
- Figure out what they like, and spend a fair amount of time doing that. For example, my friend took her two-year-old with her to Paris when her husband had a business trip there. Crazy, right? No. The toddler loved fountains and horses, and there are beaucoups of those in Paris. My friend pushed the kid around in the stroller, finding all the fountains and horses, and that earned the mom enough equity to sightsee.
- Don’t be afraid to do something ordinary if your child is lagging. It’s ok to go to McDonalds or see a movie in an exotic location! We’ve been to Hard Rock Cafes the world over with our kids. It pays off. Besides, they have awesome margaritas.
- When kids were small, our family implemented the Two-thirds of the Day Rule: the family may be out and about for two-thirds of the day, but must stay in the other third. Morning and afternoon at the beach? Then have a quiet dinner and evening at home. Theme park? Go to Wallyworld in the morning, return to the hotel for lunch and a rest, then back to Wallyworld late afternoon and stay for the fireworks. You will enjoy yourselves more if you don’t exhaust everybody.
- Get an anti-diarrheal antibiotic from your doctor before you go abroad. Don't ask how I know this.
- On trips, keep kids informed. Nobody likes to be dragged around all day not knowing where you’re going.
- For little kids, use Ziplock bags for packing. Put a shirt, underwear, and socks in the bag and label it by days of the week. Pants usually last more than one day, so they just go in the suitcase. Each day, the child takes out the appropriate bag and gets dressed in a flash. End of day, put the dirty clothes back in. Or use this fun video to bundle clothes.
- For kids who can read, give them a packing list and let them pack. Double-check it, and you’re good to go.
- Take cards along. They can amuse themselves solo, with siblings, or with kids they meet. Keep a spare pack in your luggage.
- Iron out finances before you leave. Are you going to buy them everything they want? If yes, skip to number 11. If no, try one of these: either agree on a certain number of purchases (one stuffed animal at Wallyworld) or give them some money and let them spend it as they want (keep it in an envelope in your bag if they’re little). We bought our kids very few souvenirs when they were little, and it paid off. They didn’t accumulate stuff, and they spent their own money carefully.
- Stay in a variety of places so your kids learn how to cope in every situation: relative’s houses on the fold-out couch, sleeping bag at friend’s house, tent cabin at national park, hostel with shared bath, rental house with Airbnb, motels, hotels, etc. This way they’re ready to backpack Europe in college!
- Take along individual-sized fiber supplements. Use at first sign of trouble. Trust me.
- Hide an emergency entertainment item in your bag, and save it for those times when kids are losing it. Find-a-word book, crossword puzzles, travel-sized game, pack of gum, new book, whatever will buy you some peace. Use only as a last resort. Sometimes my emergency item never came out of the bag, and I saved it for the next trip.
NEXT: Traveling with Teens