Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online

Traveling with Kids

Traveling with Kids

Have Kids, Will Travel

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In this era of social media, carefully curated and heavily filtered “selfies,” and the ever popular hashtag “blessed,” it’s easy to find ourselves lulled into lofty parenting expectations. Even the most seasoned parents fall victim to the lure of the perfect Instagram shot – working in social media, even I am not immune. I readily admit to finding false security in snapshots of chubby baby thighs resting in white sand, building sandcastles on a faraway beach. It looks so magical, so idyllic.

What I later learned was that those photos didn’t show the toddler eating fistfuls of sand mere seconds later, refusing an afternoon nap, and later throwing an epic tantrum at Joe’s Crab Shack, forcing her sheepish parents to abandon $78 worth of crab legs and elaborate fish-bowl sized cocktails in favor of Happy Meals in the hotel.

#Blessed? More like #Stressed.

With that being said, I am a firm believer in the magic of traveling with children, beginning at a young age. There are so many lessons that are only taught by experience, whether that be navigating a new place together, being immersed in different cultures, or just the unforgettable bond of being unplugged and far away from all obligations while you experience life together. The gift of travel is the only gift you can truly count on forever having a place in your child’s heart. It can influence decisions, shape life choices, and make them more confident, capable people. Of this, I have no doubt.

It starts with managing expectations. Will there be meltdowns? Most likely. Do they have to ruin your trip? Absolutely not. You know your child better than anyone, and working off of that knowledge is key. Trust me when I say that your child will not automatically transform into some character from an ABC Family special when presented with pristine beaches and a spacious vacation condo. Toddlers are particularly equal opportunity fit pitchers. There is no invisible line they will not cross. What I am saying is, keep your schedule while traveling loose, particularly for kiddos who are easily over stimulated. Work in plenty of down time for naps, snacks, and reassuring snuggles. Being in a new place is exciting, but also scary for small kids who depend on consistency.

Another thing to consider is your accommodations. My daughter has a particularly difficult time falling asleep when sharing a room with others, so hotels are not usually a good choice for us. Condo rentals work best, where I can give her a bath, tuck her into a bed in her own room, and shut the door as I would at home. Oftentimes, we can find condo rentals cheaper than many hotels, and a full kitchen allows us to save the stress and expense of eating out.

Believe it or not, cruises are a great option for parents with small children. Carnival and Disney are particularly geared toward kids, with incredibly staffed kids programs that run late into the night. Where else can you drop off the kids for a few hours so you and your honey can enjoy a massage, drinks on the deck, a comedy show, or an upscale dinner? Not only that, but most cruises dock at multiple ports, allowing you to spend time in a variety of places. Our best vacations with our kids have been on cruises. And pro-tip – Carnival is the only cruise line that will actually CHANGE DIAPERS. You’re welcome.

With a good dose of practicality, a well-packed travel bag (you can’t ever have too many fruit snacks and for the love – don’t forget the iPad), and a loose schedule, you can be well on your way to enjoying a family vacation worthy of the hashtag blessed. But trust me when I say that we want to see those meltdowns, too. They make us love you even more.

– By Kristan Roland

Kristan Roland, a work-at-home mom living in Fort Smith, Ark. has been blogging at Confessions of a Cookbook Queen since 2010. She works with brands such as Pillsbury, Disney and eBay. Her recipes have been featured in Parents Magazine and Women's World Weekly. She is a regular contributor to Entertainment Fort Smith.

This article appears in the March 2017 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine.

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