Dragging a reluctant toddler along with his restless, diva sister to someplace foreign may sound intimidating for most people. It is.

While holiday time is definitely a period to make family memories and get closer to each other, most people wish travelling does not need to happen; whether via plane, train or personal vehicles such as cars.

Being stuck in a confined space with a bunch of kids with pent up energy (and anger) is like travelling with a time bomb, you just don’t know when it is going to explode.

As a mother-of-two myself, I’ve had my share of nightmare trips to totally arm myself with some preparation to thwart as many unwanted episodes as possible. In fact, the mental process begins way before the actual day itself by forecasting as many worst case scenarios and prepping the young ones on the trip.

When you have kids who are slightly older (above five), communication works wonders to an almost foolproof and enjoyable vacation.

Fire Their Imagination

My eight-year-old daughter and toddler son are always eager and excited to explore new places and cities. It is a break from the usual routine that they do. Therefore, before going on a getaway, I try to share interesting facts about the destination. It could be historical, fun or plain descriptive about the place. For example, when I first brought my daughter to the Borneo Island for a holiday a few years back, I told her about the Rafflesia, the biggest flower in the world which is found in Sabah. We actually got to see the big wonder during our trip to Kundasang. It was the same when we planned a trip to Pulau Redang, Terengganu. The prospect of crossing the sea on a boat and seeing crystal- clear waters with visible corals and fish got her giddy with anticipation.

Rules And Safety

If you are flying somewhere, especially for the first time with kids, brief them about the plane environment. While most kids get exhilarated about watching the clouds, once aboard the burst of endorphin will only last a while. The moment they find out they are stuck inside for over an hour or two, tantrums will be high. Therefore, it is vital to go through the dos and don’ts on the plane. Even though the lesson may fall on deaf ears, they will benefit from the familiarisation effort.

Many may find the in-flight entertainment system a blessing, but in some cases (i.e on long-haul flights), they are not reliable. So, plan some activities to fill the void during the journey. Try not to depend on electronic gadgets as it could adversely affect their eyes (as well as mood) due to the electronic vibrations. Cards can be a good bet.

Packing For The Trip

Once you have foreseen the worst case scenarios, it is easier to handle packing. I’d advise parents to take the Zen approach: be a minimalist. My husband and I made enough mistakes to realise that over packing can murder a trip. Imagine lugging EVERYTHING, WITH YOUR KIDS throughout your trip. Only pack the necessities: medical supplies (if your kids have allergies or acute illnesses) and comfortable outfits.

Keep important travel documents, if you are crossing borders, within reach (in your hand carry), to avoid the hassle of looking for them while at the airport. My husband and I opt for a thin plastic folder that can be zipped shut to keep our e-tickets, passports and boarding pass. Also print out hotel reservations just for reference.

When we are roaming the streets of, say, Malacca’s Jonker’s Street, I always opt for light sling bags as it is easier to reach for things like wet tissues, sun block, sunglasses and gummy bears while having both hands free to handle them.

Apart from preventing dehydration and cranky moods, this arrangement also prevents untoward incidents. You are more able to stop them from crossing the road unsupervised or jumping into the nearest lake.

Destination Matters

When you pick your destination, it is important for parents to note the current political and social climate of the location. While some may have been distracted by affordable ticket prices, some fail to research the current situation of their travel destinations which may affect the safety and health of your children. Never compromise safety for fun when you plan your travel spots.

Highlands can be very peaceful but make sure the kids are well-clothed and hydrated. Pick places that offers a variety of attractions within the range. Batu City, Malang in Indonesia can be a wonderful one-stop, family-oriented travel spot. Thanks to the cold weather, you can go apple-picking at Kusuma Agro Wisata, as well as visit JATIM animal park that house exotic animals from penguins to white tigers.

Proper planning is key to a great family getaway. Make your vacation an unforgettable experience for you and your kids.

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