Traveling with kids!? Those words themselves can bring thoughts of meltdowns, headaches, and craziness. Do you remember being single on the plane and seeing parents suffering wondering how they make it through the struggle? Now – you are the parent and anxiety is normal
Even the easiest plans can seem impossible. With the busiest travel time upon us, it could be easy to break down and cry. I am not here to tell you that travel with kids is always easy or that I have figured out one simple lifehack to make it all seamless; however, what I can tell you is that it does not have to be as bad as you think.
The good news is that you can continue Children are portable; they just sometimes make noise and want extra attention. Let’s bust some clichés! Having children certainly changes your life, but it really does not have to change ALL of it, especially if you enjoy traveling.
If you love to travel, keep doing so and start your children early.
Tip # 1: Exhaust your child at the airport before you board the flight! The best possible scenario is having your child get used to sleeping on the plane. Children are excited at airports, it is a new environment for them to explore. Get to the airport early.
Plan to have a sit-down meal at the airport before the flight – have your child color, eat, observe
Find an empty carpeted hallway for kids to run around in and burn off some energy.
Take turns going for walks with Kids around the airport, talk about the things that you see – this may also be a good time to finish last second-holiday shopping
Ride the tram from terminal to terminal (a favorite of both mine and Eliza)
Find an unused and empty gate area to explore, as well as look at the windows at the airplanes.
Keep children awake so they would be tired and sleep on the plane.
Scheduling the actual travel portion of the trip (flights, train rides, etc.) around nap times or bedtimes. These tips can really be used for any travel situation, not just a plane. If you have a long road trip ahead of you, work in some time before you get in the car or on a train to let the kids burn off some steam.
Tip 2: Go through the normal bedtime routine
Put on pajamas, brush their teeth and read some books (the same thing we would do on a normal night at home). Regardless of the length of the trip, keeping normal routines should help kids sleep for (hopefully) the majority of the trip. There will be awake hours though and that is where my next tips come in.
Tip 3: If kids can’t sleep on the plane, load up an “entertainment bag” to keep them occupied
Traveling with a child means you get an extra bag(s)! (A diaper bag at a minimum if your child doesn’t have his/her own seat.) Since children are small and most likely won’t take up an entire bag themselves, this leaves room for plenty of books, toys, and other items to be packed and used on the plane and at your destination.
Give them one item at a time to keep them occupied – Don’t dump them all out at once, as kids sometimes have short attention spans and might plow through everything in a short amount of time and then you will be stuck with nothing left.
One popular idea – wrapping any new toys you might have bought for the trip and give them to your child as a “gift”. Personally, I do not think this is a very good idea as your child might then associate going on a plane with receiving a gift, and if you don’t want to do it every time this might cause issues in the future. For our long trip to New Zealand, we did buy a few new items for Eliza, but mainly we stick with items she already has at home. And as she gets older, we let her pick out what she wants to bring.
Some fun ideas and items for travel that just might do the trick for your kids when they are awake (but we secretly hope they sleep the entire time)!
Sticker Books – The more stickers in them the better. These can be found in pretty much any theme, character, amount, and size you could want. For the 2-3-year-old age range, sticker books with designated spots for the stickers are especially engaging.
Magic Marker Coloring Books – The markers that come with the books will only color on the pages of the book. Even if your child can’t keep within the lines (Eliza sure couldn’t) they can just scribble on the page and a picture will appear! Again, you can find these for pretty much anything your child likes.
Finger Puppets – Whether putting them on your own fingers and telling a story or letting your child use them, these can be highly entertaining. We bought some Alice In Wonderland ones on Etsy, but there are a lot of places that make and sell them. Hey, if you are creative and crafty you could even make your own!
Wikki Stix/Pipe Cleaners – There are great to just let your child mess around with, or to make fun things. We made Eliza a pair of glasses to wear what she thought was hilarious!
Weekly Pill Organizer – Make snack time more fun and interactive. Put a different snack inside the pockets of the organizer – not just for grandma and grandpa anymore! Kids have a fun time trying to open all the days of the week and eat what was inside.
Ipad With Educational Games And Your Child’s Favorite Shows Or Movies– A no-brainer these days. Seriously, there are so many apps and games for kids for both Apple and Android it’s crazy. Even the free versions have just enough to keep kids entertained for long periods of time. I don’t think we paid for any of the apps that Eliza played with on the flight. If you can’t find your child’s favorite show/movie to download for free on your iPad, or if there is no in-flight WiFi, you may want to seriously consider buying episodes or movies. Eliza was obsessed with a show called “Trotro” (a British donkey with an attitude) so it was an absolute must-have.
As I mentioned, all of these tips and activities can be used really with any mode of transport and any length of a trip. If flying, some airlines have better reputations of being great with children, so researching those is a step further you can go in the planning process as well.
Traveling with children can be stressful, but it can also be a fun and an actually pleasurable experience. If you plan well and are prepared, you might be surprised just how easy it actually is. That first time there are minimal or zero meltdowns in the car, or if you are traveling on public transit, the first time you get that compliment “Your child was so well-behaved!” you will know it is all worth it and you can keep doing what you want to do without worry.
When my daughter, Eliza, was born in June of 2014, my wife and I had a lot of travel under our belts, together and separately. We had both traveled (and lived) throughout the U.S. and internationally so naturally we wanted to continue this trend with our child* and try to instill wanderlust into her life. *Now children, as we have added a son, but he is only two months as of this writing. His first trip will be to California in February.
Father. Husband. Knower of many things. Master of none.