If you're getting ready to go on a trip with kids, you're probably more worried about preparing yourself than them. Afterall, you've got a mountain of gear to pack, hotel reservations to reconfirm, and details to check and recheck. Put that all on hold for a minute -- if you forget something, you can always buy it at your destination. It’s important to recognize that you’ll be expecting your child to follow you through one unfamiliar situation after another. Not knowing what to expect, especially if mom and dad seem stressed can be scary for a young child. It's worthwhile to set your child's expectations about what's going to happen (and your expectations for their behavior). With any luck, your travel days will feel more like a grand adventure and less like an upheaval.
As with most new experiences, the overall theme is to a) act out and talk about what will happen, especially any parts that might be scary or disorienting b) read stories or show videos the demonstrate what will happen and c) clearly describe what behavior you expect.
Preparing Babies and Toddlers to Fly
Preparing Preschoolers to Travel
Preparing School Age Kids for a Trip
With older kids, start earlier, telling them about the destination, what you’ll do there, and perhaps teaching them some of the local language (or learning it together). You can find books about the destination or look at pictures online. Be careful that in your excitement to teach your kids about where they're going you don't remove the joy of discovery and exploration from the trip itself. Let their interest level guide you.
Involve your school age child in the packing and preparation. Give them a packing list, and let them select their own clothing (you might want to review their choices before you go)
For this age, a travel journal and an inexpensive digital camera may greatly add to the whole family's enjoyment of the trip and your memories.
In addition to telling your kids about your destination and what they should expect to do once there, make sure you share all the details about how you'll get there. Things that seem little (or obvious) to you, like riding to the airport in a taxi or shuttle, might be stressful for young children. On the day of travel keep reiterating what's going to happen next and, when appropriate, what expectations you have of your children (e.g. I expect you to wear your seatbelt on the plane just like you do in the car.