Travelling with kids, even in the best of seasons, can be hectic and borderline insane.
Kids are jumpy, somewhat senseless, and impossible to keep in line when they get excited. These normal challenges have only been compounded by the pandemic, which explains why many parents are putting their family holiday plans on hold until things clear up.
But if you’re determined to get away in 2021, you still can travel safely with little kids. You just need to know how.
1. Make COVID-19 safety measures look cool and fun
For school-going kids, or at least nine years old, you can explain what to expect at every step of the trip and why it is an act of love and compassion to mask-up.
Tell them, in a calm and loving way, that vulnerability to COVID-19 in planes, at airports, and in other public areas, is real and it is everyone’s job to keep other people safe and alive. You might say, “we all have to wear face masks and sanitise regularly so that we can stop germs. We don’t want to get sick, right? Don’t be scared because everyone else will be wearing their mask too”.
Kids will feel more at ease and in control when they know what’s coming.
For kids below the age of nine who might not understand the seriousness of the pandemic, making masks look cool and fun could go a long way. Instead of handing them a mask on the D-day, how about letting them choose their favorite colour, shape, and style, or even allow them to decorate their own masks using markers or stickers?
You could even invite them to sit with you at the sewing machine as you design their masks and genuinely put their input into consideration. It’s like fancy dress, so if your kid wants to be a Marvel character, you can excite them with cool Captain America, Hulk, and Spiderman mask designs.
2. Plan for nature-filled adventures
Make sure to get off the beaten path to avoid large swathes of people. You could book an isolated campsite for example, as opposed to hotel accommodation. If your kids are too young to camp outside, you can find a cabin or a cottage that has a functional kitchen.
There is no better quality family time than sharing sweet stories around a bonfire, under the stars, as you cook and enjoy family dinner in a make-shift kitchen.
In more remote areas, your kids will enjoy outdoor exploration and low-risk activities like hunting, biking in the woods, rollerblading, and fishing during the day. Older kids enjoy diving, kayaking, canoeing, snowboarding, boating/sailing, snowshoeing, and ice climbing too.
We advise buying or renting proper kid-friendly outdoor equipment.
3. Rent a car
Another way of avoiding crowds is to rent a car as opposed to getting around on public transit. It is almost impossible to get little children to obey COVID safety protocols on a public bus or subway because, well, kids will always be kids!
After renting a car, the next thing is to rent and add the right safety seat for your child. The most common car seats for kids are infant, child, and booster sizes. Also, remember to pack a bag of electronics to keep your kids entertained during the road trip. You can bring along headphones, a portable DVD player, toys or gaming consoles to keep them occupied.
Packing some healthy snacks, water, and non-perishable food is also advisable because dine-in restaurants aren’t exactly safe. If you must buy food, go to a drive-through where kids won’t have space or time to run around.
If you need to stop for petrol at any point in your trip, remember to wear disposable gloves and to dispose of them safely before touching the car or anything in it. Pay for the petrol with a credit card to avoid close contact with strangers. And if you need to use the bathroom at the station, remember to wash and disinfect your hands.
As much as possible, restrict kids from using public bathrooms - they will be okay using portable toilets in the car.
Note that driving in a foreign country will require you to have an international drivers license. Non-resident drivers in most countries risk hefty fines if they are caught driving without this license. The document is also required by most rental car agencies before they can trust foreigners with their cars. And even if you’re touring a country that doesn't legally require you to obtain this permit, it is important that you have it if your hosts don’t speak your language.
The information on the permit is translated into over 10 languages, simplifying communication with non-English speakers.
4. Visit parks, but…
Parks are great outdoor spaces to keep children entertained for hour on end.
But check out any restrictions, capacity limits, or cautions beforehand in order to avoid last-minute frustrations. The main things are to avoid crowded parks, go early, keep a safe social distance, and wear masks at all times.
Bring sun protection for the kids and enough water for everyone. Lastly, supervise the kids to ensure that they don’t touch swings, see-saws, and rides.
Tell them nicely - they will understand!
5. Boost your kid’s immune system
A healthy and strong immune system will keep your kids safe from coronavirus, as the evidence shows they are in the low risk category. “Most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or have no symptoms at all,” states the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That is why you should avoid processed foods such as cakes, cookies, and fruit juice even when on the road with kids. Feed them fresh fruit like berries, whole grains, and lots of green leafy vegetables - those are very rich in immune-boosting nutrients.
If your kid hates veggies, make them green ‘Smurfie’ smoothies that combine kales, banana, mango, and spinach. Adding a few tablespoons of maple syrup will add some sweetness to the smoothie too.
In case you don’t have space or time to make a healthy meal, many recommend that you give your kids zinc, fish oil, probiotics, and vitamin D supplements.
6. Bring basic first aid supplies for kids
On a normal day out, first aid kits have diaper rash creams, stuffy nose supplies, sunscreen, wound protection supplies, and mosquito repellent.
You need to do better than that in 2020.
Bring asthma, ADHD, cold meds, diarrhoea and rehydration meds, along with other prescription meds. That is not to say that your kid will need them - it is just a safety precaution in case the change in environment makes them wheeze.
You should also bring over-the-counter meds too because kids can get allergic reactions when they spend time in the woods. While you’re at it, remember to pack a thermometer in case they catch a cold or the flu.
Be a responsible traveller
If any of your kids exhibit flu-like symptoms or have a fever, it is best that you rain-check for now. Travelling with a sick child puts the entire family - and anyone who interacts with you - in danger.
A simple cold could also be the reason your family is forced to quarantine in a foreign land. Choose to be a responsible traveller and parent!