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Happy Patient Kids on Trips

At a recent play date, a lively discussion ensued on the best destinations for the upcoming December holidays. It turned into anecdotes of travelling with kids, and quickly became a heated tête-à-tête over whether or not it was possible to have happy and patient kids on trips.

When travelling with kids... When travelling with kids...

At a recent play date, one of my “mummy” friends asked about our travel plans for the upcoming December holidays. A lively discussion ensued on the best holiday destinations. It turned into anecdotes of travelling with kids, and quickly became a heated tête-à-tête over whether or not it was possible to have happy and patient kids on trips.

As patience depends on the child’s maturity (age) and the level of self-control, most of the parents agree that patience in a child hinges on the youngster’s emotional state. For example, if the child is happy, then he or she is more likely to be patient, (as will the parent).

Hence, keeping the kids happy on trips is paramount to the success of the trip. Otherwise, you may just need a holiday after the holiday.

Keeping the kids happy does not mean pandering to their whims and fancies. Instead, adopting the following tried and tested approach will guarantee you a delightful and stress-free vacation. Here’s what some travel savvy parents advise.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

Before we had children, the free-and-easy way of travel was the modus operandus. Today, with a toddler and a pre-schooler in tow, it is unthinkable to travel without any pre-planning.

Kathy Buckworth, a mother of four and an award winning author, said that “it isn't too anal to plan your trip from beginning to end” and recommends that you “think about the ages of the kids, their temperaments (and yours), and make up a guide that will suit your family, from start to finish.”

Adrian Au, who took his 20-month-old daughter on a 10-day road trip in Switzerland, said he and his wife researched, researched and did more research on hotels, car rentals, airlines, sights, routes, and even food options.

“We took care of every thing possible before the trip,” he said. “We made the decision not to travel [in Switzerland] by train, got a big car so everyone was comfortable, specially requested one with a GPS system to reduce stress, bought travel insurance and loaded up.”

The Journey

Once, you’re safely buckled in and have started your journey, keeping the kids occupied takes precedence over all else. Whether you’re travelling by car, plane or a cruise ship, here are a few things to note:

a) Time Your Travel

Pauline Frommer, of Frommer's travel guides advises that "if you can leave early or late, you not only avoid traffic, hopefully the kids will be tired and take a little rest."

Seasoned traveller, Valery Wong-Crowhurst, spent her June holiday in Canada with her three children aged 10, 5 and 2 ½. She maintained that night flights are the best for long trips (18-22 hours) as the children could sleep a good 8 hours on the flight. However, it was difficult finding a comfortable position on the narrow seats in economy.

b) Business Class and Size

Try travelling on business class was Jacqui Chua-Warder’s suggestion. When her husband recently visited his family in the U.K. with their two girls, aged 6 and 4, he traded in his air miles so they could travel with him on Singapore Airlines’ business class, and related that “the journey was a breeze.”

Lorita Bedi-Soltysiak, a mother of two, was quick to concur. Whenever she travels with her children, she tries to travel via business class as it is roomier and “the flat-bed seats are very comfortable.”

To help their little ones sleep on the journey, many parents rely on cough syrup. The Asianparent team strongly encourages checking with your paediatrician before administering the medication. So what happens if you’re not in favour of “drugging” your child, and he’s awake throughout the trip?

c) Keep them busy, busy, busy

Lorita surprises her daughter with a new toy each time she travels. She declares that the toy is usually something small and inexpensive but it occupies her daughter the entire trip.

“The excitement of being on a flight is enough for [the kids]” said Jacqui of her 2-hour trip to Bali. However, on longer flights or journeys, these experienced moms share the following must-haves to bring on your trip:

 Portable DVD player or iPod for the older children.

 Small toys such as Ben 10 or Transformers action figures and playthings with buttons and an adjustable volume.

 Colouring and sticker activity books as well as reading books.

 Favourite stuff toy that doubles up as a pillow.

 Magnetic games that will endure the bumps on the road and in the air.

 Snacks to fill the little rumbling tummies.

 Little rewards or surprises like trinkets or gummy sweets for good behaviours

If your little tyke has gone through the above gamut of entertainment, and is getting restless, you could always try singing, telling silly jokes, narrating stories or play the more traditional games of “I Spy”, alphabet games, spotting games or 20 questions.

I allow my son to experiment with our digital camera on our trips. It occupies my budding photographer for a good half an hour and sometimes as a bonus, some really good photos emerge from his endeavours.

On a final note, our panel of parents recommend adopting a flexible attitude on the regular rules we have at home on television watching or consumption of food during the trip. After all, everyone’s on holiday.

Meiling Wong-Chainani

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