Survival Tips: How to Travel With Kids
Whether journeying by car, train or plane, there are perils and pitfalls to traveling with children, but the joys of a wonderful family experience far outweigh the difficulties. Before setting out on your next expedition with your kids in tow, prepare with following tricks and tips and make your vacation one that will be fondly remembered for years to come.
1. Start the Excitement Before the Trip
Unless your children are very young, get them involved in the pre-trip planning. If you have a choice of two interesting sights along the way, ask your kids which sounds best. Look at pictures of your destination on the Internet, and talk about what you might see on the trip. Have the children count down the days until departure by crossing them off on the calendar.
When it’s time to pack, have your older kids pack their own bags, and let your little ones make decisions on which jacket to bring, which pajamas and definitely which favorite toy. If you are traveling by car and have room, consider bringing a favorite pillow and blanket.
2. Your Carry-On Is Your Bag of Tricks
Your carry-on can make the difference between a meltdown and a child who is quiet and entertained. Airports are notorious for delays, stress and rush, and long flights can be boring. Hours spent sitting in the back seat of the car lead to fidgets, cramped legs and irritability. A carry-on can be your own personal bag of tricks, producing entertainment and distraction in the form of:
- Familiar, well-loved toys
- New toys
- Books or magazines
- Small, non-messy crafts
3. Have Plenty of Snacks
Kids need to eat more frequently than adults do, and a hungry child is a child who is going to make your trip difficult. Always have snacks available in the car or in your airplane carry-on bag. Make sure you include foods with protein, not just sweets or empty carbs. Protein helps keep blood sugar balanced, preventing fatigue, irritability, sugar highs or meltdowns. Your snack bag can include:
- Beef or turkey jerky
- Fruit, either fresh or dried
- Crackers with cheese or peanut butter
- Carrot or celery sticks (wrap these in a damp paper towel so they don’t dry out)
- Boxed juice
4. Make Drive Time Easier
If your trip involves a long drive, plan to break up the monotony with plenty of stops for bathroom breaks, food and a good stretch of the legs. If you have two adult drivers, head out at night and alternate driving while the kids sleep in the backseat.
- If your kids are old enough, give them an inexpensive digital camera and encourage them to take photos of interesting sights along the way. You might be surprised at what catches their eyes, and some of your most treasured photos from the trip might be these candid, child’s-eye views.
- Old standbys like “I Spy,” “20 Questions,” spotting license plates from other states and alphabet games are always good for passing time. You can also keep kids entertained with books and art supplies designed for car travel.
- If you have a child prone to motion sickness, check with the doctor for possible prescription or over-the-counter medications like Dramamine. Ginger ale or ginger candies are also good for relieving nausea. Have a plastic bag and towel available just in case these remedies don’t work.
- If desperate enough, you can always resort to a portable DVD player with favorite movies, an iPad or iPhone for games and video or a laptop with cellular access. Though these are all good ways to keep the kids busy, they also eliminate family interaction, so try to keep electronic entertainment to a minimum.
5. Plan for Your Flight
If you are flying to your destination, your carry-on bag will function as an entertainment center both while waiting to board and once upon the plane. If possible, book a red eye flight so your kids can sleep the hours away. If not, keep them entertained as much as possible and take deep breaths as necessary. Other helpful tips on surviving a flight with your kids include:
- Use the bathroom before boarding the plane.
- Dress in layers, as temperatures on airplanes can vary widely.
- Everyone should wear slip-on shoes and have empty pockets for ease when passing through security.
- If you have three or more kids, have everyone wear the same brightly colored T-shirt so it’s easy to do a headcount.
- Have gum handy for plugged, hurting ears during takeoff and landing.
- Review the airport and flight procedure long before reaching the airport. Kids should be aware they will need to go through a security checkpoint; they will be expected to sit in their seats with the seatbelt fastened; and running in the aisles, kicking the seat in front of them or loudly flipping the meal tray up and down will not be tolerated.
Traveling with kids can be stressful, and most children cannot tolerate inconvenience, boredom or discomfort as easily as adults can. Take this into account when planning your trip, and you are likely to enjoy a wonderful, family experience that will one day be a treasured memory.