6 Tricks to Help Kids Fall Asleep on Long Trips
Taking children on a long trip, whether by car or by plane, can be a taxing endeavor for everyone. Since nothing helps to pass the time like a nap, I decided to round up some smart ways to calm young travelers and direct them toward dreamland.
For advice, I reached out to the most qualified expert I know—Fern Michonski, an early childhood and music education specialist with over 35 years of experience in the field. Over the course of her career, Fern has run several preschools and her own daycare center. She also has six CDs on the market, including one that was recommended as one of the top picks for kids in the country by USA Today—her Christmas CD, "Kids! Christmas! Fern!" (Full disclosure: she's also my mom and I'm sure the job of raising me and my two brothers was its own sort of education as well).
Here are some of her favorite tips:
1. Pack your children's favorite bedtime toy. Whether it's a blankie, a teddy bear, doll, or something else, having a toy comrade along for the trip will be calming and will make your children more comfortable, which is key to engendering sleep.
2. Tell your children stories while you are driving or flying. I don't mean read a book. Use your imagination and create a story on the spur of the moment. Create an adventure about yourself when you were little, or imagine something exciting that you and your children could do together. Encourage them to add parts to the story. It will keep everyone occupied and the stories you create together might just surprise and fascinate you.
3. Pack a thermos of warm milk and a snack of peanut butter and crackers. Not only do kids love this combination, but the combination of carbohydrates and protein has been shown to promote sleep.
4. Plan on taking your trip after dark. Eat dinner, pack the car, and head out with your children already dressed in their pajamas. Snuggle them up in their car seat and head down the road. Before you know it, your little ones will be blissfully sleeping, right on schedule.
5. Pack your child's favorite bedtime CD. The right music can do wonders to sooth a child. Pack a quiet album that your children know and love and when you see them getting sleepy, hit play—and then sit back and watch them relax.
6. Play the "Who Can Be Quiet the Longest?" game. Bring along a stopwatch and see who can be quiet for the longest period of time. The kids get a kick out of trying to win and frequently they fall asleep while trying to win the game.
What are some tricks you've used to get your children to fall asleep while traveling?
Travel Guides For Kids, By Kids
How do you know what your kids want to see when you travel? Why not ask kids who live in the city that you're visiting? That's the concept behind a new guidebook app called Bound Round, which is scheduled to launch this December. It's not the first travel guide geared toward kids—there are others such as Lonely Planet's "Not For Parents" series, and ABC Travel Guides for Kids (both of which have more U.S. options than Bound Round, which is based in the U.K.). It does, however, appear to be the first guide that has gone straight to the source and asked kids what they care about. Because the guides are apps they're also interactive in a way that print guidebooks aren't. The program reveals a destination through stories, photos, videos, and games that are designed to entertain and educate young travelers. The goal is to give youngsters the information they need to have a say in family travel decisions (and give them something to do while they get to their destination). There's also a section that makes it easy for kids to create a travel journal that they can share with friends when they return home. Naturally, there's a parent-friendly section with plenty of boring adult details such as opening hours, directions, and so on. The drawback? The program is based out of the UK, so destinations are likely to be places that are easily accessible from that side of the world and not necessarily from the U.S. (they're starting with Sydney, for example). Plus, there's always that pesky problem of scale—it takes a while to build out a guidebook series, so it may be months or even years before your next vacation destination is covered. Still, it's an interesting idea and one to keep an eye on if you have small children.
Renting a Vacation House with the Kids
Last week we took our first real family vacation (i.e. going away with our 15-month-old son somewhere besides a relative or friend's house). We decided to rent a house for a week in the Catskills and enjoy some fall fun. Which was easier said than done. My husband and I had very different feelings on what type of house we should rent. I was intrigued by 1800s farmhouses with overstuffed couches and country kitchens. But his number one pick was an ultra-modern house with Scandinavian furniture and stainless steel appliances. I turned my nose up. Until I saw the gate at the top of the stairs. Turns out the couple that owns the house have two small children (the youngest just a couple months older than our son) and the house was completely baby-proofed. Score. It never even occurred to us that renting a house from a family with children made the most sense. But in hindsight it's such a no-brainer. In daily life parents worry about outlet covers and locks on cabinets. But those are no less important when you are renting a house with young children (just because you are on vacation doesn't mean your kids won't want to find out what happens when they stick a finger in an electric socket or what bleach tastes like). Going beyond those basics, we were glad to see locks for the doors to the fireplaces plus a lack of breakable objects on low shelves. And not only were there gates on the stairs, but also a net edged with steel wire on an open banister to prevent falls by little climbers. Phew. Another bonus? Less gear you have to drag with you. We knew there was a crib and a child carrier for hiking when we booked, but they also had a baby monitor already set up and an umbrella stroller available (which would have freed up a lot of room in the trunk). We packed our son's favorite books and some select toys. Not surprisingly he had way more fun with the books and toys that were already in the house. Many of his didn't see the light of day until we got back to Brooklyn. Have you ever rented a house with your whole family? What tips do you have?
Traveling with children under the age of two isn't always easy from a logistics standpoint, but it is economical. Airlines let them fly for free on your lap and they usually snooze in hotel rooms and laze by the pool at most all–inclusives for no extra charge. The one exception to this rule is cruising, where everyone on board pays, no matter what. Fares for children under 18 aren't typically the same as for adults, as long as they are sharing a cabin with two adults (they are considered third passengers and pay a percentage of the full cruise fare). Norwegian Cruise Lines used to be one of the cheaper options, since the line charged a smaller percentage if the child was under two (it's not like they are gorging themselves at the midnight buffet). According to a report by Travel Weekly, the cruise line has discontinued the policy and all children, regardless of age, pay the same rate. This policy is also in effect on Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruises. Keep in mind that infants under six months of age are not permitted on Norwegian cruises (which is standard for most cruise lines, except for long–haul trips like TransAtlantic cruises, where the minimum age is higher). Disney Cruise Line is (not surprisingly) one of the only lines that discounts more for children two and under. A four–night Bahamas cruise in December costs $632 per adult, and $282 for an infant under the age of 2. If your child is 3, the fare would be $564. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 10 Common Cruise Myths—Debunked 12 Top Tips from the World's Best Cruisers Your Top 5 Money-Saving Cruise Questions—Answered
Give Dad the Gift of Travel this Father's Day
We recently asked readers and the staff here at Budget Travel where they would take Dad for Father's Day. We say get Dad a travel gift certificate and make that dream trip a reality. Airlines like Delta, Jet Blue, Southwest, and Alaska Airlines offer cards applicable to flights anywhere Dad would like to go, whether it's visiting the grandkids or going on a golf getaway with his buddies. He'll need somewhere to stay in that case. Good thing gift cards are available from hotel chains like Best Western, Marriott, and Hyatt. If you would rather help Dad finally go on that grand vacation to China, India, or Australia that he's been talking about since you were a kid, many tour operators sell gift certificates as well. Gate 1 Travel offers certificates in denominations of $100 with no expiration date. Globus sells certificates for $50, $200, or $500 towards land/cruise trips, and you can get a gift certificate in any denomination from American Airlines vacations for air/hotel packages to destinations around the world. Wrap these up and then tip Dad off to our Real Deals section to save him even more money. You're guaranteed to be the favorite child this Sunday. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Do You Work on Vacation? How Do You Pay For Your Vacation? Forget Apps! What Are Your Favorite Old-School Travel Planning Tips?