If you plan on traveling with the kids this holiday season, then there are a few things you should know in order to make the time go by smoothly. Traveling with kids doesn’t have to be nightmare. In fact, just a little preparation a head of time can lead to a hassle free (and headache free) trip.
The goods news about teenagers is that they are pretty easy to travel with. Regardless as to your means of transportation, teens are satisfied with their electronic devices and a pair of headphones. The trickier travel companions are the younger children…
If you have children under the age of 10, then preparation for the trip is key. You probably need no reminding that attention spans are short at this age, so be ready to gather several items in order to keep the little ones entertained.
Traveling by Airplane
Air travel can be a pain in itself. With so many TSA rules and regulations, the last thing you want to worry about is how to handle the kids during the flight. So, no matter how long the flight will be, prepare as if you’ll be traveling for several hours.
· Pack extra clothes in the carry on. Everyone knows if kids can find a way to get dirty, they will. Pack an extra set of clothes in case of emergency i.e. spilled drinks, lunch landing in the lap, or even worse – throw up from an upset stomach. Again, don’t take a short flight for granted. Pack an extra top and bottom for precautionary measures. Parents of extremely young children and infants may also need to pack an extra shirt for themselves just in case of that messiness transfers on to mom and dad. Also, be sure your child is comfy in their travel clothes!
· If the airline allows phone and tablets – use them. Be sure to have fun, kid-friendly apps on the device and ready to go. Research new games before you get on the flight so you can surprise your little one with something new. If your device has the capacity to hold a movie or two, be sure to add a couple of those, as well.
· Bring new toys and activity books. Kids love everything that is new. Plan ahead and purchase a couple of new toys and books for the trip. The items don’t have to be expensive and can even come from the Dollar Store. Anything your child hasn’t seen before will keep them busy (at least for a little while).
· Don’t forget the obvious. Check, double check, and triple check that you have all the parenting essentials such as diapers, wipes, tissues, hand sanitizer, etc. These items can be overlooked as you worry about entertainment, but don’t forget to pack the items you use every day. One of the best ways to be sure you have thought of everything is to go over a typical day in your head. As you think of an item, add it to the bag or to your list immediately. The more obvious the item is, the more likely you are to forget it.
· Bring snacks. Most airlines allow passengers to bring their own food aboard. Pack your child’s favorite snacks, including a few special treats. If there is something that your child likes, but you don’t always allow, then go ahead and let him or her have it this one time. Just watch out for the sugar content because the last thing you want is a hyper child with nowhere to roam.
Traveling by Car
Traveling by car isn’t much different than by plane, except you get the luxury of bringing whatever you want with you, without restrictions. You also get to stop along the way for breaks and leg stretching. If you are traveling a long distance by car, be sure to schedule rest stops so that everyone can take a breather and regroup when necessary. If you have a child still in diapers, keep this in mind and don’t use the diaper to your traveling advantage – a dry baby is a happy baby.
· Electronics are a must. When traveling by car you won’t need to worry about what you can and cannot bring with you. Even if you are a family that restricts electronic use, consider breaking the rules during travel. Not only is it the holidays, but it will make your life much easier. Smartphones, tablets, and in-car DVD players are excellent resources to have on hand. Like traveling by plane, have the apps downloaded and ready to go. Remember that new games are the most exciting. If you don’t have a portable DVD player, check out your local retail store – they sell as a single screen player for less than $100 or dual screen for less than $150. If you have more than one child, you may want to spend a few extra dollars and buy a portable dual screen DVD player that plays two different movies at once.
· Pack a cooler. Snacks are also a must for long road trips, but don’t forget to also pack a cooler with drinks. This will help you to avoid stopping when it’s not necessary. It also cuts down on travel expenses to bring your own food and beverages from home.
· Make Comfort a Priority. Although you may be trying to pack a week’s worth of things into the car, make sure your child is comfortable. Give him or her enough leg room, a small amount of space to spread out their things, and a carry along pillow or stuffed animal. In addition, don’t worry about what they’re wearing – allow sweatpants and even pajamas.
· The Essentials. Again, the same tips for traveling by plane can be used for traveling on the road. Let your child pack a goody bag with a few of their favorite toys or activity books. And also make sure that you have everything you may need as a parent. This means all the everyday parental essentials, but at least if you forget something while driving, you can always stop at the nearest gas station.
General Traveling Rules
In general, when traveling with kids:
· Be sure they get a good night’s sleep the day before (or take an afternoon nap)
· Be prepared to diffuse meltdowns and sibling squabbles
· Play visual games that will distract kids from tiresome travel woes such as, “I Spy”
· Remember to pack any required medications and travel emergency kits
· Give yourself plenty of extra time
And, in addition to all of this preparedness, don’t forget to pack your patience. Kids are just that, kids. Expect them to act like kids and don’t be surprised when they do. Not that you have to let your child be unruly or throw a temper tantrum, but expect some tired behavior so that you are ready to handle it when the time comes. Just think, if you are tired of traveling all day, how your child must feel.
Traveling with kids doesn’t have to be a hassle. Remember to plan ahead, make lists, and check everything. It’s also okay to understand that you aren’t perfect and as much as you “plan” – something may be forgotten. Give yourself a break, improvise, and put those wonderful parenting skills to good use – you will get through it!