Tips For Traveling With Kids
Before we had kids my husband and I would plan our next vacation before our flight even landed from the one we were finishing. We love experiencing new places and cultures and it was part of what brought us together. I remember having a panicky moment when I realized traveling would be so different when kids came along. And it is- but not in the way I expected. We don’t travel nearly as much (stating the obvious) but we still make time to plan trips with our kids. (Glossary: Trips: places you go with your children vs Vacations: places you go with adults only.) I consider myself extremely lucky that both of my kids travel very well but we still have our “system” in place for helping make that happen. Here are the tips that I have found to be the most helpful:
Travel with your kids: This seems like a silly point to make, but if you never travel with your kids then they won’t learn how to behave on a plane or on a long car ride. You can’t expect them to know how to act in those situations if they have never been in them. It doesn’t have to be an expensive or far away trip- take them to Waco or San Antonio for a day or weekend trip. Then build up to longer trips bit by bit.
Practice makes perfect, as they say.
Snacks: Let’s be honest- this tip is really for any time you leave the house. When we are headed somewhere on a plane I make sandwiches for everyone, bring an arsenal of snacks, and the kids each a water bottle. You never know when you might be stuck at the gate on the plan for an hour due to mechanical issues and need to break out a pb&j. For a car trip, a bag full of snacks and we stop for lunch so everyone can stretch and use the bathroom. Plus car trips are the only time my kids get McDonalds (no judgement).
Screens: If you are not opposed to screen time then this tip is a must. Ipad, kindle, iPhone- whatever type of screen works best is a necessary evil for traveling. I don’t let my kids get their hands on a screen until we are on the plane. No sitting at the gate watching a screen- we play games and I try to keep them moving before they have to sit for a long period of time. We do stretching, jumping jacks, or walks to try to get that energy out.
Once we are settled in our seats (and I wait until they ask) they can watch a movie.
Travel prepared: We always check our main luggage but bring one carry on full of things just for the kids- toys, games, UNO, a change of clothes for both kids (you never know when there might be a bathroom accident or a cup of airplane water spilled on a shirt), neck pillows, and books.
Bribes: I am not above bringing lollipops or cookies on a trip to ensure good behavior. They say to pick your battles and I think this is one you absolutely should give into – mainly for your own sake. And don’t underestimate the fun in a cup of ice or picking your own drink on the plane- a cup of ice once bought me 30 minutes of quiet time.
Lower your Expectations: At the end of the day they are still kids who don’t know not to yell on a plane or not to open the tray table 150 times. Go into any travel experience with no expectations and allow lots of time for the lowest amount of stress. Get to the airport early and have more time running around at the gate rather than being late and having to run to catch your flight. Turn negative things into a fun game (oh our flight is running late so now we get to guess how many planes we will see before ours arrives at the gate).
And if you see another family or parent struggling in the airport, at the rest stop or on the plane give them a smile and “we’ve all been there” nod to let them know they are not alone.