Expert Tips from a Travel Agent & Holistic Nutritionist Mom

I recently came across a study that showed that travel is not necessarily the answer to reducing your stress.  Yep, especially really long vacations lasting longer than 8 days. But, it turns out that the best recommendation in terms of travel is to take more frequent, but shorter trips. This alleviates stress and you reap the benefits of a getaway, with an increase in creativity and focus.  (I’m down with that!)

As a mom who is a travel agent and holistic nutritionist, I’m sharing my best tips for travelling with kids from each of those perspectives in this 2-part series.

Tips from a Travel Agent Mom

March Break is coming!  Hopefully, you’ve realized by now that booking for March Break needs to be done EARLY.  While the rates are pretty high prior to Christmas, booking after Christmas can put quite a dent in your wallet. Not only is the price still high or higher, but you are also now stuck with remaining inventory, so your choice of resorts is now limited.  And it might be limited to the 6+ star properties. ☹️ So, one thing I would advise is that if you are even considering a March Break getaway the following year, book in September!

Plan Ahead: Packages, Special Amenities & Perks

I find that travellers with small children are often worried about the travelling bit, and how their kids will handle it.  But travel has come a long way! Airlines now offer packages and perks for families to help you have an easy travelling experience.  Sometimes it’s a kit filled with cool travel stuff for kids, pre-boarding for families, stroller gate service, or free seat selection on roundtrip flights.  There are many tour operators offering getaways that specifically cater to families with children, and these will typically be Caribbean properties with a really cool waterpark or kids/teen club, special activities for children and best of all, if you’re a large family, they will put you in accommodations close to each other or adjoining rooms.  If your budget allows, I highly recommend booking a family suite!

The Plane Ride

Typically, it’s the plane ride that parents worry about.  The screaming, crying, the air sickness. If your child is cranky, iffy or scared, definitely bring your always-reliable tech gadget!  I personally don’t like them, but they have some use in helping your kids forget their temporary pain, and can help make for a smoother, calmer journey to your destination. Crayons, paper and small toys are all good. Bring your own headset. Buying one on-board can be pricey for something that will likely be forgotten on the plane!

I also suggest giving your smaller children their main meal before boarding, as opposed to relying on the airline meal.  Appetites can be dicey, and your kids will probably not eat much on the ride. If you can swing it, try to fly out later in the day, or closer to their bedtime. Your child may be able to catch a few winks en route.

Pro tip: pack a few NEW unwrapped toys to surprise your child with on the plane, or for use during your trip at a particularly trying time.  (I’m not saying reward your child for having a meltdown; it’s really for the parents to be able to catch a breather.)

Travelling with an Infant

If you’re travelling with an infant, fear not!  There are indeed baby-friendly all-inclusive properties in the Caribbean!  The inclusions are different for each of them, but they can range from a full-time nanny, baby clubs and pre-ordered baby packages that offer a supply of baby items upon arrival, to cribs and cots and more!  I don’t recommend packing a ton of toys because, honestly, the little one will be preoccupied with the new surroundings and there will likely be toys there for them to play with as well. However, definitely pack that special toy or blanket your little one needs when homesickness hits.

Don’t Forget The Passports!

Travelling with kids has never been easier.  BUT, please, please, please check your passports first!  All Canadian children, from newborns to age 16, need their own passport.  They’re valid for a maximum of 5 years. Some travel agencies offer a passport renewal reminder service.  When your passport is up for renewal soon, you will get a reminder email. It’s very handy if you have lots of kids and can’t keep track of which passport is ready for renewal.

All-Inclusive = Less Stress

To start off on an easy note when travelling with kiddies for the first time, choose an all-inclusive.  You’ll be too busy consoling the wee ones with their homesickness in the beginning than to worry about what to make for dinner.  With an all-inclusive resort, all of your food (and your drinks!) are ready for you. Typically by the third night, the homesickness fades somewhat and sleep comes easier for everyone.  Try to stay at a 4-star or higher category of hotel, just to be sure that you have everything you need for those first few trips with the kids. As the kids get older and easier to manage, there is definitely more flexibility when it comes to the types of trips you take, as well as the duration and accommodations.

Don’t Over-Schedule Your Days

Making a tentative schedule of what you want to do while at your destination is key to maintaining some sense of organization.  I totally recommend including a day or two – in between the craziness of planned excursions – of calmer, “boring” days.  Kids and adults need to unwind at times. Being on the go constantly will lead to burn-out for parents, and kids being miserable because they don’t know how to chill out.  I find many parents worry that if they don’t do stuff every day their kids will get bored and start acting out. But in most cases, after the initial resistance, the boredom typically leads to quiet time, creativity and a calm enjoyment for all.  Filling up your hours every single day will definitely lead to crankiness. Let the kids get bored! You never know what they’ll discover. (The same goes for you, parents!)

Consider Group Travel

If you can, try to travel as a large family group.  Ten or more adults is typically considered a “group” in the travel industry. This qualifies you for group pricing which is often a little cheaper per person, or you can get some cool perks, like a free seat for every 11th passenger.  It depends on the tour operator, as they all have different offers.

Length of Stay

Shorter duration all-inclusive holidays (3, 4, and 5-nights) are an option if you’re nervous about travelling with young children, but they tend to be more expensive than going on a 7-night holiday.  If time is more important than money (sometimes it is!), then definitely go for a comfortable 4-night getaway. It’s a good starter trip to gauge how well your family travels.  

Don’t Forget…

And finally, if you are travelling with young children, get travel insurance.  Seriously, the peace of mind you get from spending a little extra money on insurance is priceless.  If you’re going on an all-inclusive trip, get all-inclusive coverage. If you’re travelling to the United States, I highly recommend getting medical insurance, if nothing else.  Everyone has heard the horror stories of calamity befalling a family visiting the United States and having to pay ludicrously high hospital bills because they didn’t get insurance. Kids get sick.  Things happen on vacation. This should be the last thing that you cheap out on.

Pro tip: certain credit cards – especially travel rewards cards – can include travel insurance for the cardholder and, in some cases, for accompanying family members. Be sure to inquire about this well before your scheduled vacation and ensure you have a printed copy, noting the level of coverage, before you go. Some only offer very basic coverage, so it’s important to know exactly what is covered. You may still want to buy top-up 3rd party travel insurance, just to be safe.

Read part 2 of this series here.


References:

Dalia Etzion (2003) Annual vacation: Duration of relief from job stressors and burnout, Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 16:2, 213-226, DOI: 10.1080/10615806.2003.10382974  – Accessed January 7, 2019

de Bloom, J., Geurts, S.A.E. & Kompier, M.A.J. J Happiness Stud (2013) 14: 613. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9345-3 – Accessed January 7, 2019

Benton, David. “Dehydration influences mood and cognition: a plausible hypothesis?” Nutrients vol. 3,5 (2011): 555-73.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257694/  – Accessed January 7, 2019

Sandi Mann & Rebekah Cadman (2014) Does Being Bored Make Us More Creative?, Creativity Research Journal, 26:2, 165-173, DOI: 10.1080/10400419.2014.901073  – Accessed January 7, 2019

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/nurturing-resilience/201206/let-kids-be-bored-occasionally  – Accessed January 7, 2019


Rebecca Ramdeholl is a great wife, a weird Mom to two interesting girls, and a mediocre domestic goddess.  She loves steampunk, science fiction, and fantasy, learning how to do things off-grid, and communing with Nature.  She’s a Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant and loves to teach others through writing about how to polish and shine their innards and add extra years and quality to their lives.  She directs most of her focus on guiding women 35+ in properly managing their stress, depression, and anxiety, and kicking life in the balls by getting a little bit stronger.  She works full-time on her blog and is the author of The Little Book of Ass-Kickers: 5 Ways to Get Your Health Back on Track Naturally, which you can download for free by subscribing to her website, Earthy Fix.