Just in time for holiday travel, we’d like to share with you our best tips for traveling with children.
Your vacation doesn’t start when you reach your destination. Your vacation starts when you leave your house. You and/or your partner are already off work. You’re already spending time with your family. And you can make it a stressful time, trying to get where you’re going as fast as you can. Or you can take a deep breath, realize that traveling with kids takes longer and requires more patience, and enjoy the ride. On a road trip, it can mean stopping at a scenic overlook you might have ignored, or wandering into a coffee house you would have blown by. On a plane trip, it can mean sitting and chatting with other passengers, or stopping by a window because someone’s enthralled with watching planes land.
Although the above tip changed the way I travel with my family, here are a few other things we do that make our journeys smoother.
For airplane flights:
-Leave earlier than you think you need to. You’re traveling with kids. Everything takes longer than it used to, and a little extra time means you’ll probably be much calmer and less stressed. Besides, you want to have time to watch those planes land.
-If you’re traveling alone with children, most airlines will let another adult (like a spouse or grandparent) accompany you to the gate. At the check-in desk, the ticketless person needs to show a driver’s license, and is issued a gate pass. Then they can help you through security and with watching the kids until the plane arrives. Be sure to confirm this with the airline you’re flying, just to be sure.
-Bring something to pop ears. Plugged up ears can make little kids really uncomfortable and cranky. Bring suckers, gum (for kids who are old enough), pacifiers, or other things to help unplug their ears. If you can time it right, it helps immensely to nurse or feed your baby then, too.
-Bring snacks. Things like dried fruit, granola bars, chocolate or candy (treat yourself!), crackers, and packaged cheese are all allowed on the plane and don’t require bagging and compliance with the liquids rules (except possibly the cheese).
-Bring some new things to do. These can be as simple as a new package of crayons (come on, you know that new crayon feeling! Everyone loves that.). Other great ideas: new coloring books, new books (or new-to-you ones from the thrift store), Mad Libs, travel games, or card games.
For road trips:
-Have a shoe spot. The first thing my kids do when they get comfy in the car is to kick off their shoes. And there’s nothing worse than a kid who desperately has to go potty and can’t find their shoes. Have a bag or something to keep everyone’s shoes in one place. You’ll thank me later.
-Prebag your snacks. It’s so much easier to distribute crackers and pretzels and other snacks in the car when they’re already in small containers (perhaps because I just sort of throw them back there like feeding time at the zoo?). Also, applesauce packets and yogurt tubes are great ways to get some nutrients without everyone making a huge mess.
-Make goody bags. Our road trips are multi-day affairs, so I have a bag near my seat with a bunch of small treats — new crayons, individual boxes of animal crackers, word searches, coloring books. Every morning, and a few times during the day when the kids are getting restless, I pull something out and everyone is occupied again for a while.
-Run off energy. If you’re bringing food along on your trip, stop for lunch at a playground and let everyone play. If you’re getting fast food, stop somewhere with a play place. Make sure you build time into your drive for the kids to get out and run around. I know it will take a little longer, but trust me — everyone will be so much happier.