How to Calm Your Kids' Fears about Traveling

Posted Travel Tips by Janice Sakata-Schultze on February 25, 2015

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It can throw a curve into your vacation plans and itinerary when your child is scared of flying. Another challenge is when they have fears about scary or thrilling activities, like those found at an amusement park. Your other kids may be eager to go on these rides or attractions, but you’ll have one child that may not…and plenty of stress can accompany that.

Here are some ways that you can help your child cope with fear-inducing situations when you travel and when you’re on vacation.

1) Fear of flying

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This is perhaps the most common problem parents face when traveling with their kids. Being prepared for the trip can go a long way in helping them cope. Tell them exactly what happens when you board the plane and describe takeoff and landing. Consider finding age-appropriate books, TV programs or movies that describe flight and talking about them together.

While the plane is taking off, allow your child to watch a favorite video or listen to music on a personal device. For younger children, have them hold on to their preferred plush toy. Or even better hold their hand all the way through take-off. It can make a big difference. You can also try a well-placed “bribe,” like a videogame or favorite food, to help them forget their anxiousness.

Remember when you arrive safely on the ground at your destination to praise and reinforce their positive efforts and for handling this scary situation very well.

2) Fear of strangers or crowds

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Walks on your vacation provide a great opportunity to experience the local culture. But if your child turns white at the thought of being around hundreds of strangers, you won’t have to sacrifice exploration on foot. Instead, engage in some strategic planning.

Of course, the easiest way to calm your child’s fears is keeping them close by. Wear something that stands out, like a hat or bright shirt, so your child can always spot you.

To be more proactive in lessening their anxiety, find out the best times when crowds at certain attractions will be minimal. These are usually during the morning hours, so be prepared to rise early on your sightseeing days.

3) Fear of thrill rides or activities

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No amount of cajoling, teasing or encouragement will make your child go on an intense amusement park ride if they don’t want to. The best way to handle this situation is to go on rides where they do feel comfortable. But you may want to tell them how fun a ride was, and suggest that they might want to try it later.  

The most important thing you can do when traveling with your children if they have fears is validate their feelings. Resist dismissing them and saying, “Oh, don’t worry about it.  That’s silly!” Be calm when you deal with their issues. When you model serenity, they will also become better at dealing with their own fears.