I love traveling, and I love my kids, but sometimes they mix about as well as oil and water. I’d often times wonder is the destination worth the trip?! The answer is yes… mostly. With holiday travel just around the corner, I’m sharing some tricks I’ve learned to help things go smoothly, or, at least as smooth as possible anyway.
My family traveled often when I was younger – imagine 8 kids in a “church van”, plus dogs, luggage, food, etc. We really should have had a reality show. Point being – long car rides and hectic airports don’t scare me.
Since having kids, our travel schedule hasn’t slowed one bit. In fact, due to my husbands demanding job, much of the traveling has been just me and the kids, or me and my mom and sister for backup 😉 My youngest (5 mo) is pretty chill – so long as her needs are met, she is pretty forgiving. My toddler is your high-energy, high-need, “strong willed” child, you know, the child that people either shake their head at or say, “oh she’s going to rule the world one day” or “she’s going to do great, powerful things one day” yes, that. I have one of those, which I love, but if you truly have one you know that some days, that future world leader may cause your eyeballs to explode or at least cause you to consider a strong drink at the end of the day. Needless to say, traveling with a high-energy child is definitely challenging – but not impossible and still enjoyable!
- Entertainment – NON-media entertainment. This is my first line of defense, because I’d rather have my kiddo coloring, or using their imagination than vegging out for hours on end. Pack each kid their own “surprise bag” with new toys, sticker and/or felt books, (this puffy sticker book was a huge hit) travel coloring kits, animals, water color pad, etc. that they have never seen before.
I choose things I know they will like, but nothing I won’t be
- heartbroken over if 1/2 of it falls out and gets left behind at a rest area or boarding gate. Whenever they begin to get antsy, they can choose something out of their own special bag. I like to hit up the Dollar Store, the dollar section at Target, or Amazon (I’m definitely an Amazon Prime kind of mom) to get most of it and a cute bag to pack it in (Target had a My Little Pony tote bag for a $1 that I packed my 3 year old’s stuff in – she loved that the most, lol.) Note – cars, or anything round or with wheels, roll away on airplane floors just FYI… Also, if we are going on a long trip, I will consider getting a “bigger” toy (something a little more expensive than the dollar section) and pull that out if nothing else is working. But lets be honest, it’s a long trip and you’re just trying to make it to point B. So if non-media doesn’t work – move on down the list.
- Snacks – food is the language most every kid understands or at least mine. Choose snacks you know your kid loves, but ones that also travel easy. The baby food/todder pouches or applesauce pouches are genius – (love this brand). One of my favorite hacks is to use a 2-week medication/pill containers (like this one, or this one) and fill each compartment with different snacks (puffs, granola, dried fruit, yogurt bites, etc) this is a huge hit with my toddler. It’s both a snack and an activity as she has the freedom to open and close each little compartment on her own – plus if it falls, all of the snack doesn’t fall out all over the floor. Will people potentially look at you weird for letting your kid rummage through a pill container? Probably so, but he or she will be happy as a clam and you won’t care one bit.
- Movies – this may sound weird, but we go on a media fast before our trips – meaning little to NO media for a couple of days. The idea is to have them interested and engaged in movies when it really counts (right now my toddler is loving Moana, Magic School Bus, Super Why, Spirit on Netflix, and really anything that has a horse or a mermaid in it). If we are driving I have them all prepped to go (I use this case) for our car’s DVD player, but if we are flying, I make sure the iPad is charged and has a selection of everything ready to play.
- Apps – speaking of iPads and tablets. Now that my daughter is old enough to play games – there are a few that she loves and actually holds her attention for more than 30 seconds. SAGO MINI has a few that she really likes including Pet Cafe and Puppy Preschool. We also are LOVING the KidloLand app – this is a subscription but totally worth it, I’ll share more on this one in another post.
- Timing – timing is everything when you are traveling with kids. In our current stage, I’ve found that leaving right after Ev’s 4AM feeding is our sweet spot. In the car by 5 or 5:30 AM seems to be our magic window to get a huge chunk of driving time out of the way. Ev will sleep for a few hours, G doesn’t usually sleep but she’s oddly sweet and excited for the “adventure”. Of course things change by the month, or day even, because, kids. So figuring out a general “window” that works best is key. Some kids travel easier during nap time – this is the case for my eldest daughter and car rides, but NOT plane rides. I learned that quickly. Flights are best when she isn’t tired – she has severe FOMO (fear of missing out) syndrome and will NOT sleep, much to the ENTIRE planes dismay.
- Prepare – prepare, prepare. Have a toddler? Expect they will need to pee every 45 min. Put a carseat liner/piddle pad in case you don’t make it in time. Have a portable potty ready and limit excess drinks while on the road. Have a baby? They have a unique way of missing their diaper, pooping up to their armpits and all over their carseat. So expect that. Line it just in case and pack an extra outfit… or better yet… two. Also, lesson learned, pack yourself an extra shirt, cause no one looks good with poop on their shirt. If we are in the car, I make sure I have the bag with extra clothes for everyone easily accessible. Have a husband who hates mornings? Prep to-go coffees the night before or plot out the nearest drive through coffee. Be sure to bring a thermometer, Benadryl, Motrin, etc. We have had severe allergic reactions, colds, mystery full body hives, high fevers, etc. its easier to have it on hand than to run around looking for a drugstore. Basically, think about predictable scenarios and prepare for them. You will have enough stress, so prepping for the things you know are inevitable are a life/stress saver 🙂
- Attitude – Yes, I said it and I probably sound like your mom. Your attitude. I’m a control freak and I realized that the one thing I have 100% control over is myself… Kids feed off your energy so try to relax. Travel has a tendency to bring out the worst in people – traffic, delays, cancellations, loud people who slam their seat back so far your drink falls in your lap on a flight. Patience y’all. Lower your expectations and just go with it. If you are a stress ball then they will take that and turn it into their own negative energy, which is never a fun idea. Traveling with kids *toddlers especially* is not always a walk in the park (unless it’s Jurassic Park) but take a deep breath and remember that there is an end to the travel tunnel and you can make anything work for a day.
Quick tips for airports:
- Arrive early – enough time so your kiddos can burn off energy walking around the terminal and so you don’t have to run with a kid on your hip and the stroller, purse and diaper bag on your shoulder to the gate to make your flight – yes, that happened.
- Wear your little ones in a wrap or carrier going through security.
- If they are nursing – nurse on demand, but especially during takeoff and landing. If they are older, offer them a drink or a sucker during takeoff and landing to help pop their ears.
- A luggage bag with wheels for the carseat – saved my booty several times.
- TSA will need to test your kiddos sippy cup if you have liquid in it (you can always dump it and refill it after). They are also known to take out and test (swab) the outside of the baby food pouches, just FYI.
- FAA approved CARES Harness – I never liked the idea of messing with carseats or booster seats that are yet another thing to carry and may or may not be approved for take off/landing or the airline in general. This harness, while not perfect, has worked well for my daughter and is a breeze to put on and off. NOTE: It kept her sitting, but she would often slide down in her seat. I found this idea from another mom blog – use a square pantry liner (the grippy kind) to have your kiddo sit on to prevent them from slipping in their seat.
Quick tips for extended hotel stays:
- Dock-A-Tot for baby – I LOVE traveling with this. My baby sleeps like a dream no matter where we are and its super travel friendly.
- Toddler sleep solution – everyone staying in one room can be challenging. So to make the trip (and staying in bed) that much more fun, we bring along a little kid sized tent and an inflatable toddler mattress (we use this one). Boom. Instant “bedroom” for your toddler.
I’ve taken my kids out of state, many times alone, and lived to tell the tale with some of my sanity left. SO that practically makes me an expert, right?! Ha. I am no expert obviously, but we are all on this crazy parenthood train together! It truly does take a village. I would LOVE to hear any tips and tricks of the trade from you – a mama can’t have too many ideas in her corner!