In just a few days, the roads and the airways will be filled with holiday travelers making their way to see friends and family. What’s more dreaded than bad weather, a flat tire or turbulence? Traveling with a toddler!
Whether you’re heading over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house or the kids are taking their first flight, the trick is a little prep work before you pull out of the driveway (and a lot of patience once you do)! Here are my six tips for traveling with young kids:
- Set Expectations
I don’t mean just for their behavior (although that’s also a good idea). I am referring to the kids’ expectations. If this is their first time flying, let them know ahead of time what to expect at the airport and on the plane. If you’re staying in a hotel or a friend’s home, show them pictures and explain to them who else will be there. Keep it up throughout the trip by explaining the flight step-by-step or by showing the driving progress on a map.
- Pack Old & New
Travel can be unsettling for kids, as they’re taken out of their normal routine. Bring some of their favorites – whether it’s stuffed animals, a blankie, a pillow or special toys. Be sure to pack a couple surprises as well! A new book or toy could keep kids entertained for hours – or it could be a flop. That’s why I say “a couple” surprises, so you always have something new up your sleeve.
- Arm Your Phone
Board books are heavy, but that’s what toddlers like to read. Before your trip, take a couple videos of yourself reading books your kids enjoy. You can still bring their favorites, but this will save you from lugging around a dozen heavy books and give you a break while they watch. There are also great apps that can teach reading or math or just to have fun. Check out this list of kids’ apps before your trip – you may want to download a few.
- Pack Snacks
Nothing can calm a testy toddler like a snack. Load up on prepackaged single-serving snacks, like unsweetened applesauce pouches, raisins, pretzels or baked chips. A few treats may also smooth out a long flight or drive. A lollipop can last a long time and keep kids happy for the duration.
- Schedule Sleep Time
If you’re planning a long car ride, time it over nap time, so the kids will hopefully get a little shut eye in the car. Make sure you hit a rest stop just before naptime, and also have some drinks or snacks handy for those who don’t take a nap. Trust me – you don’t want to pull over when you have a sleeping kid! Flights aren’t as easy. I recommend avoiding naptime for flights (if you can) and either fly in the morning or late afternoon.
- Pack Your Patience
I said it before, and I’ll say it again. Traveling with kids requires saint-like patience. It’s not always easy to do, but look for the humor in the situation. Sometimes having a laugh can save you from tears.