After all the months of planning and organize, you're finally setting out on a family trip. The bags are packed, the dog's at the kennel, and your neighbor is gathering your mail; but you still have to get from point A to point B with everyone alive and all body parts in tact. Making it through the actual travel may be the hardest part of a vacation, but having a few hacks for traveling with kids will help you survive the trip without losing your mind.
Whether you're traveling with one child or as a family of six, keeping people other than yourself happy on a trip is no small undertaking. If you have ever traveled with kids, you know that someone is always hungry, needs to pee, or is constantly asking if you're there yet. It's enough to make you feel like the star of your own reality show about the most miserable ways to take a vacation. But before you consider asking the flight attendant for a parachute, know that there is hope.
The key to carrying out any good plan is preparation, and traveling with kids is no exception. To make your next family expedition one that is more dream than nightmare, use these ideas for organization, safety, and keeping your sanity.
1. Have "The Talk" Before You Leave
Taking the time to do some mental preparation with the kids will help them understand what the travel day is going to be like. Let them know the duration of time you will be traveling and what to expect. If your child is flying for the first time, explain to them the expectations and rules for being on an airplane. Having an idea of what the day will be like can help kids feel confident and ready to rock on the day of travel.
2. Divide & Conquer
If you are traveling with another adult, decide in advance who will be in charge of different responsibilities. One person can be in charge of the boarding passes, reservation confirmations, and directions, while the other is the point person for snacks, electronics, and hand sanitizer. This is a great way to avoid those I thought you were going to get that scenarios.
My husband and I use this system when we travel with our kids. It makes the day run smoothly (well, as smooth as can be expected) and helps us avoid scrambling or leaving things behind.
3. Take It Slow
Better to be the tortoise than the hare when traveling with kids. Allot extra time for unexpected bathroom breaks, or any of the strange, not-in-the-plan things that can happen when you have children in tow. Getting places early may sound like a drag, but better to be there early and have time to kill, than be racing against the clock to board a plane.
4. Make A Travel Journal
If your child is old enough to use crayons, pencils, or markers, buy them a travel journal for the trip. Travel and Leisure suggested encouraging kids to record daily activities or draw maps and pictures of what they see on their journey. No need for a fancy, expensive journal, a simple notebook will do the trick. Not only will this keep them occupied, after the trip is over, they will have a special momento that they created.
5. Put It In Ink
If you are traveling to a place with large crowds and fear your child may be separated from you, try a custom emergency contact temporary tattoo, like the one pictured above from Kristen McGillivray Designs, on Etsy. Knowing your phone number is easyly accessible to your child will give you peace of mind. If you're short on time and can't order a product like this in advance, do what I did when I took my son to an amusement park — write your phone number on their wrist in permanent marker.
6. Snack Smart
Try to avoid those convenient (and often sugary) snacks when traveling. Yes, they are so easy to grab and go, but all those empty calories and sugar won't keep the little ones satisfied for long. Try pre-making a batch of Gimme Some Oven's no-bake energy bites and tossing them in a plastic baggie for easy snacking access. Fruits like apples and bananas are also great options and travel with little mess or hassle.
7. Make Your Own First Aid Kit
Preparing your own bag of must haves for bumps, scrapes, and allergy attacks is a must have for all parents who are traveling with kids. To get a rough idea of what you will need, take notes from The American Red Cross, with their recommended items to include in a first aid kit. In addition to the commonly used emergency items listed, make sure you toss in s plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer for quick clean-up on the go.
8. Make A Reservation
Save the spontaneous hotel accommodations and restaurant exploration for an all adult trip. To avoid long waits and venues with no availability, make sure to book lodging and meals out in advance. There are always times you need to make choices on the fly, but when tired and hungry kids are involved, it's best to have plans that come with confirmation numbers.
9. Ignore The Stank Eye
The first time I traveled alone with my kids on a plane, I had more anxiety about the adult passengers more than getting to Florida with my children. Why? Because people who are traveling without children are very vocal about not wanting to be any where within earshot of children. I didn't want to disrupt someone's flight with loud kids, so I was hypersensitive to all the stares my boys and I received as we walked to our seats.
About half way through the flight — after I had given myself a stress headache — I realized there was no reason to let other people's judgements be my problem. That was only adding bad vibes to the situation. Better to just shoot them a smile and go back to my book. And if you see a mom struggling, note that there are plenty of ways to help a parent traveling with kids.
10. Get Your Child To Sleep
In a perfect world, you could plan your travel around your child's nap time. But as we know, this can only happen if all the stars align perfectly, so you usually have to make the best of a nap in traveling situations. However, if you are traveling with a child who naps, fitting in their daily snoozes won't just be an issue on the days of travel, it's also something you will need to consider during the trip. Luckily there are many of ways to help your baby sleep when traveling. My favorite take away: give yourself a pep talk. Because I am more likely to have a sleep deprived meltdown than my child!
11. Download All The TV Shows And Movies
Do not wait until the last minute to download apps, movies, or a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse marathon. Get on that stuff the day before you leave. Glitches and problems happen, and trust me, I have been overly confident in my downloading skills only to have Paddington call my bluff. There is not much worse than opening up a devise to start a movie and finding that said movie only downloaded to 15 percent.
12. Have Extra Clothes Within Reach
Having an extra set of clothes, in an easily accessible spot, will be your saving grace when there are spills or accidents. This doesn't just go for the kids — pack an extra shirt for yourself incase a sandwich goes flying in your direction. Also, having your spare duds in a nearby location means you won't need to rummage around while dripping with mustard.
13. Don't Trust The Weather
You can never be certain that the weather will stick to what is predicted. Save yourself from a last minute mall run by packing a a hoodie, just to be safe. Best case scenario, that hoodie never sees the light of day while on your beach trip. Better to have that option in the suitcase than have to waste time and money buying a new one.
14. Pack Activities
You don't need a backpack stuffed with toys and gadgets to keep your kids occupied when traveling. To help the time pass, try an airplane activity box, from makers like the idea box kids, on Etsy. Choosing one of these 30 activities, every five minutes, will provide over two hours of entertainment. If you're feeling extra creative, you can always DIY your own activity bag or box based on things you know your child enjoys.
15. Give Them A Camera
Have an old camera or phone that you aren't using any more? Hand it over to the little ones and let the kids document the journey. Most kids love to take pictures, and you can encourage them to snap shots of things they find unusual and interesting. Once you return home, you can make a photobook for them to keep as an awesome souvenir. My son still loves looking through his photobooks from years ago. It's a fun way to relive the memories of the trip.
16. Get Bookish
Although watching a movie is a fun way to make the time seem to go by faster, don't underestimate the power of a new book. These days, you can even make time for multiple stories by choosing audiobooks. There are some great, free options for kids audiobooks such as Storynory, MeeGenius, and Children's Storybooks Online, a few of which also have illustrations to accompany the story.
17. Take Care Of You
With all the packing, preparing, and double checking, it's easy for the grown up traveler to get frazzled. Make sure that you get enough sleep, have enough to eat, and remember to breath when you are traveling with kids.