Having just come back from a European vacation with my children, I discovered several ways to make the trip more enjoyable for my kids. It all starts with the airplane voyage. Many of the larger planes now have individual video monitors built into the seats, so entertainment is fairly easy now. There are numerous movies, TV shows and music channels to view, as well as video games, and on Virgin Atlantic, seat-to-seat emailing. If, however, the flight you take doesn’t include this very nice convenience (and I would suggest that you find an airline that does), make sure to bring plenty of magazines, books (depending on the age of the children), toys, games or puzzles (word searches are good). Just remember that you’ll be lugging this stuff around with you, though, so don’t bring anything heavy or bulky.
If you have kids who tend to get airsick, make sure you pack air sickness medicine. Give your child the medicine about an hour, or whatever is recommended, before the flight to give it a chance to work. If it’s a night flight, your child will probably be bored anyway and fall asleep, then your job of entertaining is easier, and shorter. If not, be prepared to play cards or games. Portable travel games are a good thing to bring, like those little magnetic checkers or chess games you can get relatively inexpensively in most stores.
After landing, make sure that your child understands they are in a different country. If they are teenagers, they’ll already be familiar with the concept of different cultures, but the younger kids most likely will not. Tell them about different money, different clothing, languages or customs, that way, it won’t be a surprise when they hear everyone speaking a language they don’t understand. They will most likely be thrilled to experience something so foreign. Give them some pocket money so they can make some purchases themselves with the different money and allow them to take some photos of things that interest them.
While some kids love museums, most do not and grow bored very easily. My kids are teenagers and all but one was actually bored at the Louvre! I couldn’t fathom that, but it’s true. So, keep museum trips to a minimum, unless there are interactive exhibits that are geared toward children. Go to events or places that children will enjoy, like grave sites, tombs or ancient prisons (unless you have a squeamish or easily frightened child). It’s very important to keep the trip exciting and fun. Make sure you do a lot, but also have some down time to just relax with an ice cream cone or something. Having the child keep a little journal or diary of the places they saw will also help to keep them interested, and will serve as a reminder later on.
Once it’s time to go home, help your child pack their own bag. This also involves them more in the process. Then reiterate about the flight home, just so they remember what it was like. Again, if there are no video monitors in the plane, bring books and toys. If you’ve managed to keep your child entertained throughout the trip, you’ve done an excellent job of parenting and should be proud, and your child will thank you for it one day.