It’s finally the holiday season, which means it’s the high time for traveling. While traveling with kids can be exhausting and stressful, with some planning and preparation, it can also become a fun adventure. I’ve gathered some of my favorite tricks, learned from my own journeys with two young kids, to share with you here. Please add your favorite tips in the comments too. I’m always looking for more great tips and tricks.
If you’re driving somewhere, make sure to look up fun places to stop along the way and make the road trip part of the fun. A stop in the local town’s coffee shop or bakery, a farm visit, or a stop to enjoy a spectacular view adds to the whole experience. If your child is still at napping age, drive on nap time! This might be obvious, but just in case, I’m mentioning it!
When flying, if at all possible, avoid those very early flights that involve waking everyone up and rushing out the door in the cold dark night. Don’t do it to yourself! It becomes a very long and tiring day this way. Instead, opt for a flight around 10 or 11 a.m. (or nap time) so that you can have a pleasant morning, eat breakfast, and get where you need to be without rushing. Rushing is not fun with kids.
This might not be the time when you want to set too many limits and restrictions on that screen time. Make sure to download their favorite movies, shows, or games ahead of time. But even with screens, the kids may want some variety. Bring along a roll of scotch tape that they can tear off pieces from and paste all over their tray table and seat and then peel off again. Card games like Uno or Go Fish are great and give you something to do with them. Coloring and activity books are an old-school go-to and it might be worth splurging on a new one just for the flight. Sticker books are also a hit with toddlers and young ones. Books and audiobooks are always a winner. Invest in some kids’ headphones that fit their heads comfortably and won’t play the volume too high. For the youngest kids, bring both their favorite toy and surprise them with a new one. A couple of pointing books are great to have on hand too. Choose the aisle seat and expect a lot of walking up and down the aisles saying hi to friendly strangers.
When traveling I always bring a lot of snacks. It both keeps them busy, makes sure they don’t get cranky and hangry, and ensures that I have some control over what they’re eating.
This is where freeze-dried fruits, crackers, snack bars, nuts, seeds, and sprouted cereal come in handy — and maybe even an organic lollipop for emergencies.
I try to stick to dry things that won’t make a huge mess. For food, I’ll bring hard-boiled eggs, organic toast with butter, an avocado, and some smoothie pouches. I also make sure to pack snacks for myself: nut butter packets, some fresh fruit (it’s nice to have something hydrating and fresh to eat!), some avocado, dark chocolate, and a refillable water bottle.
Seats and gear
There are different opinions about the best strategies when it comes to seating. Some like to sit the whole family together, while other prefer to get one seat by itself so the parents can take turns sitting by themselves while the other sits with the kids. We tend to stick together, but think about what makes most sense for your team.
With babies and toddlers, bring your carrier if you want to be able to walk through the airport hands-free and think they might be able to fall asleep easier when in the carrier. We invested in a blow-up pillow (similar to this) for putting between the kids’ seat and the seat in front so that the kids can stretch out their legs or lie more comfortably. It made a huge difference on our overnight flight. I always bring a blanket for the kids and a change of clothes for all in case of accidents or spillage.
We also got a travel stroller that is allowed onto the plane and fits in the overhead bin. Having access to the stroller right away when you land is the best. Depending on the airline and the airport, you may have to walk all the way to baggage claim to get your stroller, and if you’re alone with two (tired!) kids, that’s not great. I love having the stroller right away, especially since my kids tend to fall asleep as we’re landing. Another investment we’ve made (we travel often to see family) is a travel car seat. We always book a rental car ahead of time at the destination and it saves us time, stress, and money to have our own car seat to plug in when we get there.