After more than two years of pandemic life, Alhumdulillah, all praise be to Allah, we are now witnessing the easing of restrictions and resumption of activities toward normalcy. And, this includes travel.
With more people fully vaccinated and children also gaining access to the vaccine, families are becoming comfortable with the idea of being able to travel again. For some people who were born overseas, the past few years have been challenging and halted any chances of visiting family and spending quality time with them back home. Even though many turned to online tools to communicate, the comfort that comes from being surrounded by your loved ones is incomparable.For others, who enjoy globetrotting, it was a major setback, too.
Preparing for the Travel
Preparation for travel with children, is a must. Before you set foot to travel, here are some helpful tips to get you in the groove.
1. Be Mindful of the Details.
As you begin to gear up for the travel, you must remember that the pandemic is not over yet. Hence, it is important to consider the risks associated and try to minimize them.
Among other things like checking up on testing requirements, be prepared for Lay-by or transit (for long haul travel) - airports tend to have a higher footfall, now that testing is not deemed essential prior to travel for most countries. Avoid crowded lounge spaces, keep your own snacks handy, if possible. Use the sanitiser and keep your masks up at all times! Research suggests that disposable masks are safer in comparison to cloth masks. Sanitizer sprays are also good for disinfecting surfaces like seats, tray tables and arm rests (which are high bacteria carriers). Wipes come in handy too.
It would be wise to ring up the hotel a day or two in advance to get updated information regarding indoor/outdoor restrictions.
2. Keep the Kids in the Loop.
Before you start off your journey, it's always best to have a discussion as a family so you're all on the same page. Giving a heads up on what to expect and be prepared for can really help with travel anxiety. For instance, letting the kids know that airports and crowded public spaces are still high risk places and that safety precautions will need to be followed.
3. Have a ready plan.
Having a plan in mind is very different to having it written on paper. Planning your itinerary BEFORE you travel can save you from a lot of adhoc stress. Jot down the places that you'd like to visit, keeping your children's interests and energy levels in mind (and the weather, too!). This way, even if you have to make any adjustments it'll be relatively easier to work around the days.
It's also a good idea to allocate responsibilities between yourself, your spouse, and kids. For example, one can be in charge for ensuring that all members of the family are sanitizing hands regularly, another ensuring that everyone has their masks handy and one when necessary. Similarly, staying hydrated in the summers is also absolutely essential and helps keep the mucus membranes of your nasal passages moist so they can catch viral invaders before entering your body.
5. A Special Word of Advice.
For those who are travelling to visit family, it is important to keep SOP's in mind and go prepared. It might take up extra courage to stand up for yourselves as others in the family may not necessarily think the same way. You could be on totally different mindsets in terms of being cautious, so be wary and do what you must to make the trip memorable and safe.
6. Keep up the Vitamins.
Multivitamins are a must, if you do not want to compromise on your immunity whilst you're travelling. Alongside the usual cold and flu meds, be sure to keep some of these gummies/chewables for the kids. The good thing is they tend to remember to have them even if it skips your mind! For adults, effervescent tablets (Vitamin C with Zinc) are a convenient option as they dissolve in water.
7. Other Essentials.
Some other medical necessities include a thermometer, paracetamol, ibuprofen, anti-allergen, band aids, disinfectant spray for wounds, insect spray, and tummy bug medication. Again, be sure to pack extra masks and hand sanitizers too.
Additionally, keeping a small box of powdered detergent always comes in handy when travelling with or without kids. You can choose to purchase it from a local store or carry it along with you in your luggage. Its vital to consider keeping yourselves and your clothes clean (especially with the highly contagious variant spreading - change as soon as you get to your destination and dump the clothes in a separate plastic bag for washing).
8. Minimal Cash Exchange.
Its preferable to use the card instead of cash, as much as possible. This will help limit the chances for cross-infection, through exchange.
9. Be flexible.
When it comes to routines or habits, you've got to allow yourselves to be less rigid and more flexible for the trip's sake. A bit of rule-bending here and there won't hurt anyone, in fact, you will realize it can actually alleviate the stress. For instance, if your kids refuse to eat a meal, follow their gut call or let them have the ice cream before the meal if that helps. Packing some healthy non-perishable snacks from home can be helpful, too, like granola bars or whole wheat crackers.
It is important to remember that kids tend to mirror your anxieties, so the more relaxed you are, the more they will be, too. Whether it is a missed nap or a late meal, remember that you are on vacation, and the day-to-day rules don’t need to apply.
Enhancing your Travel
Traveling with kids sure isn't always as smooth, but it is definitely amazing and rewarding, too. There are times when there is an unsatisfying marathon of treats, unpredictable trips to the bathroom, and moments where you may find that your level of frustration during a trip increases when you have to accommodate your children’s whining. But in the end, its the happy memories that leave their mark. Plus, all that time that you spend together helps to nurture the bond between you as a family.
In addition to all the fun and excitement, the greater good that can potentially come out it is by making use of plenty of opportunities for learning. Here are some ideas to help you get thinking.
1. Keeping the kids busy.
First and foremost, whilst you're waiting at the lounge before boarding why not make use of the time and help your kids sit tight. We all agree that gadgets are an excellent resource for keeping us and our kids entertained, and what better way than to use it to watch videos and have a discussion about aircraft or runways, take off/landing, etc. There are tons of areas to look into for inspiration. However, be sure to make it age-appropriate.
With younger kids, playing games like 'I Spy' can be fun and help teach them new vocabulary and build on existing one. There are many others, too.
2. The places we go.
Travelling exposes us to a host of experiences. It widens our horizons and helps us think from different perspectives. Especially when we travel to new places, we are forced to be outside of our comfort zone and we learn about different cultures, traditions, languages, food, places of worship, and how people around the world do things differently than what we are accustomed to seeing.
The more the children are exposed to differences, the more open-minded they become and less rigid toward change. So, whilst travelling make sure that you are comfortable yourself and not draw attention to the minor details such as the people's accents, their clothing or other cultural practices. The intention here is not to be judgmental but rather to value the diversity amongst us.
3. Connecting with our Roots.
For those, who live across the oceans and miles away from their family and only get to visit occasionally, family trips can provide the opportunity to allow your children to learn more about their family roots. With older kids, you can help them fill in gaps in the family tree or find ancestral anecdotes. With younger ones, its best to start by making them visit the elderly and people from the extended family as it helps them to become familiar and connect. Children can learn a great deal about family values just by interacting.
You could also schedule day trips and show them around the old city areas, whilst you recall your childhood memories, giving them a glimpse of your own childhood days. Children tend to be really inspired by stories, so make use of all those good memories that you have and teach them a thing or two on a lighter note. For instance, how you always used to race across the street to be the first one to enter school - because your dad was very particular about reaching places on time (lesson on self-discipline).
4. Wonders of His Creation.
As we wander on the land and around the world, we are exposed to the magnificence and beauty of our Creator. The varied skin tones, facial features, accents, physical geography, colors of nature, the sky, nighttime views, other creatures, and a lot more. Provoking our children to ponder over these signs can help teach them God-consciousness and also acknowledge how Allah has designed everything for a purpose and for reasons best known to Him only.
5. An Attitude of Gratitude.
Some unpleasant experiences can also serve as valuable teaching lessons. For instance, one may find that the street food in your destination has a pungent smell which makes you not want to eat anything from there at all. Or the poor sanitary hygiene in a small village area can be off-putting. These instances remind us that we must learn to appreciate and be thankful for access to good food and nutrition, pleasant living conditions, and a religion that prioritizes cleanliness.
6. Maintaining a Travel Journal.
This can be a fun and productive way to let the kids organize their travel memories. You can purchase a journal for each member of the family. Younger children can be encouraged to draw pictures. To help engage kids, let them take photos and you can even use those to compile a travel video when you get back home.
Post-travel, you can sit down together as a family and reflect on all the beautiful memories and jot down the key takeaways. These might be the good things that you observed and would like to adopt in your own day-to-day lives.
7. Making dua.
Along with endless opportunities for learning, parents must be mindful of enlightening children through the lense of Islamic guidance. It is widely believed that the supplications of a traveller are answered by Allah, therefore we are encouraged to make lots of duaas while we are on a journey. There are also some specific duaas for seeking Allah’s protection when we are travelling. Make it a habit to recite these and help your children memorize them as well.
In conclusion, whether it is that you’re travelling back home to visit family or venturing to a new place, remember that things may not go as expected or planned. Don’t be too hard on yourselves or the kids, afterall its not everyday that you get to be together on vacation! So, relax, enjoy, and be safe. Bon Voage!
Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and mother of three boys. Always on the quest to learn, she is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it on to others. A writer in the making, she draws inspiration through deep conversations, laws of nature, and her own children. She and her family are currently living in Abu Dhabi,