The first step to travel with children is to RELAX! There will be hiccups along the way, and you can’t be prepared for every misadventure, so having the right mindset is key. A big part of the travel adventure is the journey… the way in which you handle these surprises can make all the difference.
After years of travel with children I have come up with a few must-haves and tips for keeping everyone sane.
Within Arm’s Reach
- Wet wipes: even if your kiddos are out of diapers these are great to clean up sticky faces or hands for a quick picture or to clean up messes in the car or plane.
- An empty, sturdy bag: you never know when a stomach bug may hit or car sickness comes into the picture. I have been known to empty a bag carrying luggage, now I have a few extra empty ones on hand. Even in planes, often times the seats that need the airsick bags the most don’t have them ☹
- Always carry-on your child’s prescription meds and have the fever reducing medication of your choice on hand. It’s not fun to dig in the trunk of your car for medication when you need it now or to realize that it’s in the cargo section of the airplane!
- I usually limit screen time at home to less than thirty minutes a day. During the school week the tv isn’t even on. Therefore during times of travel I have no restrictions. I fight my battles and this is one the kids will win. For airplane travel when the twins were small we had handheld DVD players. As they got a little older the DS came into the picture.
- School-aged children, if not prone to motion sickness, should get their AR reading done in the car en route to your destination! This is a great time to complete this task while stuck in a car or plane with nothing else to do.
- Surprises: on one trip I wrapped up little surprises in gift wrap! A new toy is always fun and can provide hours of entertainment. Get something new out every hour or as they get bored. The dollar section at Target is a great place for ideas.
- For older kids, especially on road trips, a travel journal is a fun keepsake.
- Postcards: a great way to learn letter writing and to put a smile on grandma’s or grandpa’s face is to send a letter. Send a postcard to your class to share your adventures. If on a road trip this can be mailed along the way.
- The Sit & Stroll is the best invention ever. We purchased two when our twins were infants knowing that we would travel often. It is an FAA approved airline seat, a car seat and a stroller all in one!
- Bathing suits and sunscreen need to be handy upon arrival to your destination. The kids have been patient and are ready to jump in the hotel pool to get some of that energy out before bedtime.
- If you’re planning a road trip this Christmas or Thanksgiving, download this fun app for unique roadside pit stop ideas.
- Check out our Kid-Travel Pinterest Board for more great hacks.
Remember travel with children has benefits too. If the lines are very long at airport security, ask the attendant if you and your little ones can move to the line reserved for children and handicapped persons. Something I saw during my last flight to California is a service called CLEAR. I have not tried this but am curious since kids are free.
Keep calm and carry on and accept that during the holidays things will move slower. Just look at this as bonus time to spend as a family! And the little inconveniences that a whiny toddler or an ungrateful teen might create on this year’s family holiday trip will make a great story for next year… when you wish you were on another road trip instead of sitting in a room full of people that wish they were elsewhere eating foods they actually like and having something more exciting to do than wait for the movies to open.
Born in Germany, but raised in Huntsville, Melika Nixon brings a unique perspective to travel and culture. As a nurse practitioner and single mother to seven-year-old twin boys, including one with serious medical issues, she brings an even more keen perspective to traveling with children. She frequently writes about creative, cost-effective ways to introduce children to the world through the gift of travel.