Sunday, August 20, 2023

Tips for Travelling with a Six Year-Old

As you can see from our other posts, we are experienced travellers with a small child. 

Then, there's a big gap of time that's missing due to COVID-19. That really put a damper on our travel! We did lots of little local getaways but nothing that felt big enough to start our blog back up for. And really, who had the time?

So this trip felt like an entire new era of travel for us. We said goodbye to SO much gear (we are notorious over-packers). We strapped a backpack on our kid, and off we went!

How to Prepare
We started talking about the trip a few months before we left. We took out books on Spain from the local library and read them together so that Adventure Girl had an idea of what the country would be like and what there was to do there. 

We involved her in the planning by asking her what she was most interested in seeing and doing. We showed her pictures of places that we were considering going to and got her input. It helped that we had very little itinerary. When F said that she was excited to see a castle, we made sure to put that in our plans. (We also curbed expectations by ensuring she knew it wasn't a working castle like in a book!).

We'd been given a MEC backpack that seemed like an appropriate size for her. We made sure it try it on with things inside of it to test for a proper fit.  We taught Adventure Girl how to fit the straps properly. She was already used to walking/hiking/biking with a fairly heavy backpack so we weren't too concerned about the weight. It would be ideal to take that backpack for a spin a few times to make sure kiddo feels comfortable. 

When it got closer to our departure, Adventure Girl and I packed her stuff together. I showed her how to roll her clothes so they'd fit tightly in her bag. We talked about how the more things you brought, they heavier the bag would be. We expected her to carry all of her clothes, her cosmetics (toothbrush, toothpaste, brush, hair elastics) and her small stuffed animal. We would help with the car seat and activities. 

Our kiddo has lots of experience with airports and plane travel. If yours doesn't, I'd highly recommend showing your child the TSA video on youtube for kids. It prepares them for the different steps you'll need to take: lining up to check bags, going through security, etc. Even with her experience, we review what she should expect before every travel day: we'll take a cab to the airport, then we'll line up to check our bags, then we'll go through security. Next, we'll find a place to fill our water bottles, stop at the bathroom, grab some food, and find our gate. Those reminders really help her feel confident in what to expect. If your child is impatient, those little "check marks" once each task is completed, might help break up the long time there actually is between arriving at the airport and the plane taking off.

Travel Day! (we had a lot of groceries we were bringing onwards)

We continue to like the Air BnB route for our family. It gives us a private space with a kitchen for self-catering. This keeps costs down and ensures we can prepare healthy food that we know we'll all like and will feel like home. We try to find a place with a view whenever possible, or choose a location that's within walking distance of things we'll want to see/do. We don't have to worry about a nap schedule anymore but it is nice to have a balcony to sit out on with a view to admire so that we can enjoy the evening after putting F to bed. 

At some places, we contacted them ahead of time and were able to get an early check-in, which helped cut down on the length of time for a travel day. At one place, we even booked the night before our arrival so that we could check right in when we arrived (that was after our very long journey to get to Europe and we knew our flight would arrive at 8 am). It was worth it to us to be able to check in right away and start relaxing. Depending on how long your journey is, what the time change is, and your own family's needs, you can decide if any of these tips would work well for you. 

We tend to bring extra snacks because of dietary issues (F can't have lactose; Erin can't have gluten or lactose). It can also be nice to have a taste of home when on the midst of a long hike or travel day. We brought one item for each day of the trip, plus 3 things for each long plane ride). These were things like granola bars, cracker packages, and fruit sticks. All items that F likes, and all light-weight. It was hardly any space in our bags and provided a comfort for her and us. 

For this trip, our routine became: breakfast and dinner at home, lunch at a restaurant. Adventure Girl is very good at trying new foods. With only one meal out a day, she was very willing to test out new flavours and eat things that maybe weren't her preference. She knew that we'd be making dinner ourselves so I think that helped her be more easy-going with the lunch spots. We made exceptions on long travel days and let her get a hamburger. We didn't feel the need to push it when we were all jet-lagged or starving.

Together, we chose a few small books, blank paper, a notebook, and a few writing utensils to bring. I added in a sticker book, an activity book, a Chirp magazine, and some fun pencil crayons that she'd never seen before just in case. It's always nice to have something novel to present when you want a moment of peace like when trying to recover from jet lag. :) We also brought her headphones for the plane and a small tablet that was essentially just for her for on big travel days and to use for Skyping with our families while we were away. Remember to download a few shows ahead of time for the plane ride!

When we arrived in San Sebastian, we found a dollar store and bought some basic sand castle building toys. These were used once. ONCE! All she really wanted and needed at the beach was a shovel. At six years-old, Adventure Girl is very into imaginative play. She wanted to dig giant holes, be buried under sand, make a car in the sand and pretend to taxi us around, make a bakery/coffeeshop that sold hot mud drinks...It was a really good reminder for us that with some very basic supplies, her imagination will do the rest. We brought masking tape as a basic emergency item and she used it to make nametags and put on shows for us. We easily could have left almost all of the sticker books and activity books at home. 

Erin's Swimming Report Card  LoL

We got to that castle F wanted to see

Three bags and lots of groceries!
The only items we brought that we consider to be kid "gear" was our travel booster seat for the car and a set of inflatable water wings. (We use this travel booster seat by Cosco). Boy, did it feel good for us all to be hands-free. 

We also brought along a collapsible snack bag and cooler to use for trips to the beach and in the car. The dollar store sells collapsible hampers that are another non-essential but incredibly helpful item especially when you're going to be travelling by car and can just toss all of your dirty laundry in. 

Our last item that provides comfort for everyone is laundry detergent. This was essential when Adventure Girl was a baby: things smelling like home makes for a good night's sleep! For this trip, we found that Spanish detergent was very chemical-smelling. We were thankful to keep our clothes unscented!

The last few trips for us felt like we were building an enjoyment of travel and really catering to what our kiddo liked, while squeezing in some things for ourselves. With Adventure Girl as a six year-old, it felt like all of that hard work had paid off. We felt like a team. We woke up in the morning and each picked something we wanted to do. It was a very liberating and exciting feeling. We had so much family fun!

You know your family best so we're sure that you can find the strategies that will be successful for you and ignore the rest! Happy Travelling! 
xoxo the High Five Adventurerers

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