The Travelling Mom's Tips for Happy {and Sane} Family Travels

travelling with kids {Editor's Note: This is a guest post from The Travelling Mom who writes a modern mom's guide to {sane} family travel. Her blog inspired me when I read this: "When I became a mother, I knew that we'd continue to be travelling enthusiasts. We took our first child overseas to Europe when he was 5 months old." Since then, she's continued to travel with her husband and two kids. Here are her tips...}

If you're a new parent, or haven't done much travelling with your wee ones yet, the idea of being in a car or airplane for any length of time can be nightmarish. How can you keep baby/child happy and thus ensure your own happiness and travel sanity? These tips will help you maintain that sanity while on the road, in the air, and once you're back on the ground again, so you can relax and enjoy your family holiday.

1. Plan for Sanity: Be Prepared The travelling mom and dad share this Boy Scout motto: be ready for anything and everything that might happen. This motto applies to all the things you're planning while on holiday, and even before you leave home. For example, preparing for the right amount of luggage; carry-on or check in? Planning what's going into that luggage (we have a great check list for that!) for all members of the family.

While you may not be able to predict or prevent an accident or injury, you should pre-plan your health care, emergency plan and travel insurance. If you know you'll need a rental car overseas, book it from home where it's cheaper, and it's guaranteed to be waiting for you upon your arrival. If you need a car seat for that rental vehicle, determine if you're taking your own, or renting one while you're abroad. Have your contact and emergency numbers with you while you travel, and photocopy your passport, credit cards and driver's license before you leave, in case of theft or loss while on the road. If something happens, you'll be very thankful for the time you've spent planning for that what if scenario. It's just good travel practice.

2. Pack Your Magic Bag of Tricks Whether it's a diaper bag, backpack, or designer tote, travel sanity will be greatly increased depending on what you include in that Magic Bag of Tricks. The essentials (may) include; bottles of baby formula (if not nursing) or baby food; diapers, cream, wipes and a change of clothes; age-appropriate snacks in bags or containers; empty water bottle (to fill after security check); childrens' medicines (less than 100 ml bottles only); adult headache meds; two or three small, lightweight books; a few of those special stuffies, soothers and blankets; UNO or Go Fish playing cards; a small but carefully chosen selection of toys; and electronic entertainment (i.e. iPod, DS PSP), if you permit them. I like to include a special, small 'surprise' toy item, specially purchased for the trip, and something that is 'lose-able' (ie. Polly Pockets, mini-dinos or toy soldiers). Translation: if a part gets lost or left behind somewhere, it won't cause panic or meltdowns. A special food item that you may consider a special treat, such as chocolate or candy, can also be pulled out in times of crisis.

3. Embrace Compromise You love museums. Your partner loves castles. Your children are 1 year, or 3 years, or 10 years old and don't like either. Balancing the many needs and desires of family members on a holiday are an exercise in patience, compromise and understanding. Family travel is about the 'we', and not so much about the 'me.' There is a way to ensure that everyone is happy, regardless of whether your destination is Disneyland or Paris. Before you leave, sit down as a family and discuss and write down your 'must see and do' list, and ensure each family member gets to check off at least one personal highlight. You can plan your days in advance so everyone knows when their special activity or destination might be on the itinerary. You can even assign a day per family member. Every child would love to be the Trip Tour Guide for one day.

The age and abilities of your children will help determine what is possible and the level of compromise that is necessary. Instead of 3 museums per day, it might be one museum per trip, but it should be THE museum, and the visit might be limited to 3 hours versus eight. But, if it's a museum that can meet everyone's interests, such as a transportation or antique toy museum, you may be able to get in more than one visit. The amount of activities in a day should be kept to a manageable amount, keeping in mind fatigue, distance and interest. If your end-of-day activity is time by the hotel pool or at the beach, you may have a better chance of success getting through a busy day of visiting relatives, art galleries or ancient ruins. Such promised rewards work wonders.

4. Ask for Help When you travel as a family, you (mom/dad) are responsible for everyone's well-being---remember the 'we' versus 'me'? There are times when you will be stretched to the limit dealing with kids, jet lag, delayed flights, getting lost, etc... Know in advance you'll have to ask others for help, whether it's a sympathetic fellow plane passenger, a flight attendant, tour guide, hotel staff person or server. Not everyone will be willing to assist you, but you may be pleasantly surprised at how many would when asked politely and directly for assistance. Babies and children can bring out the best in many people, and they'd rather hear your child laugh than cry, much less see an adult cry out of frustration! So ask for your baby's bottle to be heated on the plane or in a restaurant, ask if there is a fast-track, family-only security check-in line (many airports have them now) and even ask your seat-mate if they wouldn't mind holding your baby for a second if you need to run to the washroom. You will feel better (and infinitely saner), and potential problems/crises may be averted in the process.

5. Be Adventurous It can be hard to leave one's comfort zone, surrounded by familiar things like toys, friends and routine. What's great about travelling is the joy of appreciating those things all the more when you return from a great trip. You don't have to begin your family travels in a foreign land; you can start small and local with weekend getaways, or week-long camping trips. This will get everyone used to travelling, being together in different places and doing things that are fun (and often amazingly educational for both kids and adults). Once everyone has some experience with shorter-haul journeys, take the plunge and plan a longer trip somewhere new, where they may or may not speak the same language you do! The payoff in family time together, new discoveries, and lasting memories is priceless.

Author Bio Name: Claudia Laroye Website: Details: Claudia is an avid local and world traveller, writer, and Vancouver resident. Her blog offers a modern mom's guide to travel sanity with your family. She is passionate about family travel and about educating children through travel. You can follow her travel tweets and blog post updates on Twitter: @travelling_mom.

[photos by  @travelling_mom]