Recently we shared our plans (and our fears!) for our upcoming family odyssey to the USA.
Last year I wrote about our tips for taking kids overseas based on our experiences in New Zealand and I wanted to expand on those strategies as well as share some additional tips with you today.
1. Develop an itinerary for the kids
We have put together yet another awesome itinerary for the kids for the US. We are still putting the finishing touches on it but if you are interested in finding out what we mean by developing an itinerary just for kids check out the one we put together for our NZ trip – NZ Holiday Book-final. It really does make the world of difference in preparing your kids for the trip to come.
2. Seek their input
We have discussed the options for each day and sought the kids input into what we should do. We have pencilled in visits to Griffiths Observatory and Kennedy Space Centre for Gilbert and meet and greets with the girls’ favourite Disney characters at WDW. The kids have seen videos on YouTube about WDW, Universal and the cruise so they know what to expect and can let us know what they would prefer to do.
3. Invest in noise cancelling headphones
We are investing in a few more pairs of these for the US. These are a god-send. They take out all the ambient noise of the flight and allow you to concentrate on listening to music or watching a movie or playing a game on the inflight entertainment system. On our trip to NZ our kids didn’t even know that we had taken off, they were so absorbed in what they were listening to with the help of their headphones. They are definitely well worth the investment!
4. Build rest time into each day
It is so important to build rest time into your itinerary. It can be hard to justify slowing down when you have limited time in a particular place but taking it slowly and not pushing too hard will definitely make the holiday a greater success. Despite having a punishing schedule this time around, we have still carved out opportunities where we’ll be able to just splash about by the pool or have lazy mornings to recover when it all gets too much. And it will – so it’s better to be prepared for the overwhelm rather than have it consume the entire holiday.
5. Encourage the kids to document the holiday
In NZ, Gilbert took video of the different destinations and found comfort in talking to the camera about what he was seeing and experiencing. Matilda wrote each night in her diary and loved sharing this with us each night. We also made sure we talked to Delilah each night about her favourite part of the day. We found this was a really effective way to get the kids excited about each new destination. This time around we’ll again give the kids every opportunity to document and capture their own memories of the trip in their own individual way.
6. Expose them to a variety of foods
Gilbert is our fussiest eater and we already know that he will struggle the most while we are away. We have had a look at menus online and have talked to him about what he might expect while in the US. For instance, WDW seem to put carrots or grapes or broccoli with every kids’ meal so we have started placing these on his plate so he is used to them. He may not eat them (usually he doesn’t) but at least he will know what to expect and not get upset when they are served up while on holiday. This is also a great tip if you are heading off to a country with a completely different cuisine and diet to yours. The more your kids are acclimatised beforehand, the better the experience will be.
7. Ease them into the time difference
We are already planning to start getting the kids ready for the time difference in the days leading up to departure. We will start subtly changing meal times and sleep times so it is not quite so much of a shock when we arrive in the US. The time difference between Sydney and Los Angeles is 18 hours which is recipe for a serious case of jet lag for all of us. Preparing the kids (and yourselves) beforehand will help reduce the pain a little and help get you all on track a little quicker. This is especially important for us as we are only in LA for two nights – I’d hate to be tired and grumpy for most of that time!
8. Take a backpack with activities & favourite belongings
This was one of the best strategies for our last holiday – getting the kids to carry their own backpacks with activities for the trip and their favourite belongings for a sense of comfort. The backpacks will be used a lot this time around to also transport water, jumpers and headphones while we are tripping about during the day. Just make sure you put a tag on the bag with your child’s name, your contact number and a little bit about them, in case they get lost or separated. That way you should be quickly and easily reunited should the worst happen on your travels.
9. Make time to talk about the holiday everyday
Each night at dinner we talk about the holiday. We are trying to ease the kids’ fears and give them more insight into what might happen while we are away, the behaviour we expect from them and the fun they will be sure to have. Talking about the holiday will help increase levels of excitement and will allow you to find out what they are most excited about and better plan the activities you will be enjoying as a family. I sometimes think the simple act of talking through things gets overlooked – it really is important to have regular and informal conversations with your kids, everyday.
10. Plan to have fun!
A holiday can be stressful – I’m quite tense at the moment just thinking about everything we need to do in the next three or so weeks before we leave! It’s easy to be caught up in the planning and in the stress of everything that has to be done and inevitably you can lose sight of the reason you are going – to have fun. So ensure you plan to have fun too! Build things in that YOU want to do as well. Book the kids into kids clubs for certain periods during the trip so you can do things as a couple and have a restorative break yourselves. Make sure you sound excited when you talk to the kids about the trip and emphasise that this is going to be fun – this will help ease any fears and gee everyone up to have a great trip!
Do you have any suggestions to add to the list?