For those of you who follow me on Instagram you saw pictures of my first family trip on a plane to Croatia. I was excited about the trip but I also dreaded it. Everyday things can be a challenge with children, flying and being trapped on an airplane with four can spell disaster for you and make you the target of angry strangers just trying to fly in peace. Moreover, driving through a European country with tight windy roads, in a nine seater van, can lead to lots of “Are We There Yet” fatigue. Last year when my husband and I went to Croatia I was on a plane in front of a child who kicked my seat, so I knew what if felt like to be on the receiving end of a bored child.
I am not a great planner, while my husband is the master of organization. Now for this trip I knew the only way it was going to be success was if my husband and I had everything ready before we left and this trip really was a team effort. So here are some tips for travelling with children:
1. Know your Roles – My husband is the best trip planner I have ever known. He was in charge of the itinerary and I was in charge of making sure all the kids stuff was purchased and packed. Division of labour is key here, no one person can or should do it all.
2. Plan Early, Buy Early – Once our trip to Croatia was booked I started to look for deals on items we would need to bring and my husband booked flights and hotels for early discount rates. For example, one of the best purchases I made occurred in February when our family went to New Jersey. On our way home we stopped off at an outlet mall where we picked up four Ralph Lauren backpacks on heavy discount. These backpacks would be the carry on luggage for our children and they would hold electronics, games, books etc. Another example, once Costco had their snorkelling gear out we picked up a set for each child. My husband had the itinerary ready and we knew what we were doing and would need. This helped with packing and made my job easier.
- - Tip: Shop Back to School sales (I did all mine at Staples, but Walmart & Target are also great places) and have travel supplies on hand.
3. Get the Kids Involved and Excited – Every family starts their dialogue at different times. My oldest daughter is 10 and my oldest son is 9. With them we were talking about the trip right when we booked to get them more engaged and had them research to see where we were going. When we bought the backpacks we let them know they would be used for the trip and would be carrying what they needed/wanted for the plane and on the road trip. My middle son is 7 and he was in a grey zone – some early interest and then it would fizzle. My youngest is 4 and we didn’t get him too excited until closer to departure.
4. What to pack in everyones Carry On – This is what I packed for every one of my children, myself and my husband:
- - one change of clothes (t shirt & shorts, this takes little room), underwear, flip flops and a bathing suit. If you lose your luggage you at least have some clothes and a bathing suit and still are vacation ready and you don’t have to spend time re-buying things until luggage is found. I knew of a family that had their luggage lost while traveling to Croatia this summer so it can happen to you. In fact, my husband had his luggage lost on the way home.
- - fully charged electronic devices, chargers and electrical converters for Europe. This one seems like a no brainer so sorry if I am stating the obvious. I am fortunate that we have lots of gadgets and tablets. Every child had access to a tablet and all tablets had their favourite apps (we have iPads, Google Nexus and a Kobo. I had to buy some apps twice. Just think of it as buying your sanity). At home we have very limited screen time but for this trip all bets are off. Don’t listen to the tsk tsk of other parents. Do what gets you to your next destination stress free.
5. What to pack in the kids Carry On – For me it was all about keeping them occupied when we travelled in the airplane and keeping boredom at bay during the remainder of the trip
- - a deck of cards. We had a set of Uno cards and a regular deck or cards. The Uno cards got the most play and were used in every city/town we visited.
- - crayons or coloured pencils and a book to draw/write in. I had stocked up on school supplies during the Back to School sale at Staples so I was ready for this trip. Back to School sales are a great time to stock up if you and your family travel a lot.
- - books to read
6. Pack Medical Essentials – My family does not have the best of luck – stitches, staples and allergic reactions are our norm. For this trip I packed Benadryl Allergy, Children’s Tylenol, Adult Tylenol and bandages. I could have bought all of this in Croatia but I figured it would just be easier if I had it instead of trying to find it. My father-in-law needed stitches and my husband had a spider bite plus the Benadryl Allergy was used by an extended family member.
7. Let kids make some of their own decisions – For example, let them pick out an outfit to pack, let them choose the restaurant while on vacation or stay on the resort because they don’t want to see one more church. I call this picking your battles because you want to win the war. NO ONE likes to be told what to do for an entire vacation, allowing them to choose activities will make it more enjoyable for everyone.
8. Check the Weather – Yeah I know this sounds like a no brainer. Croatia has HOT summers, 40 degrees Celsius plus, but this summer they had lots of rain and mild temperatures. My husband followed the weather and was in contact with others that were travelling in Croatia. We packed pants and sweatshirts, something my husband I never did in our past travels during the summer months in Croatia. We were lucky, the first two weeks of our vacation we didn’t need them but the last few days we all wore jeans and long sleeve shirts. Global warming people!
Our family trip to Croatia was perfect. We are already planning to go back. Being of Croatian background makes it easy to travel because we already know the language. For everyone else this country is a great destination and has a booming tourist industry. You can hear German, English, French and Spanish spoken in major Croatian cities and smaller destinations. The plane ride was smooth and the kids were well behaved. That’s not to say that there wasn’t some kicking of seats (that was taken care of right away) or boredom but we dealt with it and survived! My trip was successful because of the points above. I didn’t set out to create a list of tips when travelling with children but once the trip was all said and done I realized I did use several strategies that helped make the trip so memorable. I hope that this post helps you make your next family destination a success.
This is the first post about my Croatian holidays. I plan on doing at least one more in the next month.
The red, white and blue theme was a coincidence. Just realized it when I posted these picks. Yeah, the boys and girls are colour coded to match. It must be subliminal.
It was my husbands idea to monogram each back pack and it was a great touch to a wonderful vacation.
Yup, that’s how we rolled!