Our trip to Thailand is only a few weeks away and, even though I’m beginning to make headway with our holiday preparation, there are still other, probably much more important matters, that need to be considered when it comes to taking a toddler to a long-haul destination
Things such as how to cope with jet lag, what to do when potty training, food choices and the long flight itself – all subjects that I will be covering in due course. I’ve talked at length about how important I think it is for children to travel and how hugely adaptable little people are, especially when thrown into new and different situations.
But as much as a holiday is exciting for adults, the lead up to the event itself can be hugely thrilling for a youngster, too. Plus, the older they become, the more involved that can be with the planning. As we all know, happy children = happy parents.
Get them involved
Travelling with children takes careful planning, but a little motivation will make for a much more positive and enthusiastic experience once you arrive. Once they are old enough to understand properly, getting them involved with the process from perhaps reading about the destination or looking at photos, finding it on a map, explaining the currencies, local customs and food, and the places you will be visiting – even teaching them a few words in a different language such as please and thank you, can make a real difference in terms of getting kids prepared.
Obviously, Monkey is only three, but I’ve been following the same ideology. For a long while now we’ve been telling him where we’re going, how far away it is, how we’re going to get there. Explained to him it’s going to be hot, and that he needs to wear a hat and sun cream, that there will be a lot of swimming, and that we can take his bucket and spade to build sandcastles. That there might be different foods and things that he may not be used to, I’ve even showed him picture of our hotels and the swimming pools. But all the while reassuring him that both of us are going to be right by his side the whole time. He’s been telling anyone who will listen: ‘We’re going far away to Thailand, where I can have lots of ice cream.’
Children can be notoriously fussy when it comes to trying different dishes. If you’re going self-catering then it’s always easier to manage but in a hotel, you’re stuck with what’s on offer. Of course, western food offerings are pretty much available all over the world, but if you want them to try some local cuisines then it’s a good idea to begin offering kids particular dishes before you go. It can be a fun way to get them talking about the destination and what they can expect. For the last couple of months I’ve been introducing more rice and prawns into Monkey’s diet and he now loves them both. Thankfully, because we’re going somewhere where seafood is plentiful!
Obviously, you will have the final say to what actually goes in it, but to help kids feel like a participant on the trip, have your little ones help you pack their own bag. I’ve already been asking Monkey which favourite toys and books he wants to bring with him, and making it clear we can’t fit everything in one suitcase! But home comforts will make all young children feel much more settled, and parents less stressed.
Having a dummy run with new things, or trying unfamiliar equipment or toys on home turf can be a good idea. For instance, new goggles for swimming, new toys, a new sleep suit or even new clothes – it will help kids familiarise themselves with these items. We’ve recently brought Monkey some headphones to use with the iPad on the plane and I’m glad he’s worn them in the car a few times now, because he didn’t really like them at first. He’s since got used to them and will happily put them on.
Toddlers and young children need reassurance because they are creatures of habit. Explain to them that they will still be having some of the same home rituals while away, such as a story before bed, and that even though things will be a little different for a short while, on your return routines will go back to normal. Kids will feel less anxious about an upcoming trip knowing that while the location may change, some things will stay the same.