Travel and kids do not go well together, do they? I have seen many parents desperately try to get their to behave on long flights. Even I was in this spot a few times and I totally understand.
I also know that young kids do not behave badly on purpose. They do not know how to handle being cooped up when traveling and this comes out in different ways. Does not make any difference if it is a road trip or a flight or a train journey.
Some kids like mine might cry non-stop and any parent would find it nerve-racking. So, naturally I was very anxious when it came to traveling with my kids, a toddler and a newborn, for a Christmas trip last year.
This was until I got some excellent tips from friends and family who are pros at traveling with kids.
These travel tips literally made my life that much easy. Saved my sanity…phew! Save yourself too with the below parental travel hacks that worked for me.
Advice from Natalie of Cosmos Mariners: Destination Unknown blog
As someone who travels often with my young children, I’ve learned the hard way what works and what doesn’t.
Advice from Shelley of The Four Explore blog
When my husband and I decided to travel full time with our children the questions poured in, but mainly their inquiries were based on international flights.
Quite frankly, before we left I had a ton of fears / questions / concerns about our international flights that were going to be over two hours in length.
Two hours is a long time to do anything, let alone sit down in a set and face forward or to the side. Add children in the mix and things can definitely get a little complicated.
Despite my fears and doubts we did it. We successfully boarded 16 flights, rode on 11 different trains, took countless taxi cabs, took three boat rides and rented three cars all over the span of six months abroad.
How did we do it? Quite simply, we just did.
The first international flight we took, I was a wreck. Though I meticulously planned out every hour of the flight, I didn’t pack nearly enough snacks. But thankfully, the kids had enough toys to play with.
I quickly learned that having any expectation at all is a recipe for failure. You need a ton of snacks and most certainly need to ally with fellow family travelers and gather in solidarity when times get tough (or when snacks run out).
There are three “S rules” I abide to religiously to this day. Here is how I stay sane traveling with my young children:
On long flights let your kids sleep when they want to sleep. Our children are 4 and 1 although our youngest was 9 months when we started traveling.
Initially I wanted to abide by their normal wake / eat / sleep schedules as best as possible and quickly learned that only caused anxiety for me.
Soon after our first international flight I decided to go with the flow. I kept the kids up before long flights as long as I could and then forced myself to sleep when they slept which was an ominous reminder of the newborn years.
We try to select a seat for our four-year-old by the window. Since he needs more room to stretch out it helps to give him the space to put his head on our lap and feet by the window.
We learned on the first flight that feet in the isle = no good. Not only was it inconvenient for the flight attendants (who you want to make your BEST FRIENDS) but his feet were knocked by fellow passengers who wanted to stretch their legs.
Trains are no exception. Wear the kids out before a long train ride and enjoy walking the halls because sometimes that is what has to happen to (1) get the kids to sleep or (2) keep them entertained!
I cannot emphasize the importance of snacks enough. Crackers, cheese, fruit bars, peanut butter, baguettes, chocolate treats for good behavior, dried fruit, cereal and trail mix are all incredibly helpful snacks that make for a happy belly which equals a happy child.
In Europe there were a lot of cafes or convenient style stores that had a ton of affordable, healthy snacks but you aren’t always guaranteed to get the same kind of treatment.
Instead of buying meals on trains or planes we almost always packed sandwiches, snacks and extra drinks for ourselves.
Personally I prefer a nice glass of pinot noir mid-flight, but understandably juice boxes are almost always the preferred beverage for a 1 and 4-year-old 🙂
Please, please remember YOU are a big piece of this puzzle, too. As a parent your happiness should be ranked just as high as your child’s. After all, you are the one planning and executing your travels.
Don’t forget about you! Take the time to get a magazine you love (and don’t have to share) or pack a special snack for yourself to regain some sense of sanity and serenity.
Have adult conversations with the flight attendants, your spouse or fellow travelers to ground you and make you feel a little more human for the time being.
At the end of the day I wouldn’t trade a second of the time we have spent traveling. Some of my worst nightmares came true (puke included) but now months later it makes for a really great story.
Traveling is truly a gift and I am so glad we have made the decision to go all in for our family. Bon Voyage!
Advice from Christie of Soul Treks blog
I’ve been full-time traveling with my kids since 2011 and I swear by these tips.
- Bring your own snacks and a water bottle for each child.
- Bring a small backpack with a few favorite toys. I also like to put a few new toys that the kids haven’t seen before.
- A towel folded over the top of doors prevents pinched fingers.
- Designer duct tape stuck on everyone’s bags makes keeping all your belongings together easier. I also use the same duct tape to tape up the straps behind the car seat.
- Roll diapers tightly and secure with a mini hair elastic. Put them in a ziplock plastic bag and squeeze out all the air.
- Our folding wagon has been amazing. I can put the car seat, our bags and everything in this and easily pull it with one hand.
- I have a bag that it fits in when folded. I keep this under the pad in the bottom when it’s open. I gate check the wagon. It folds smaller than a playpen.
- Keep diapers/changing sheets/wipes handy in a baby bag that you always carry on you.
- Keep a few of your child’s favorite toys with you always.
- If you are traveling with an infant, do not forget to pack at least one rattle. It keeps him distracted and avoids constant crying.
- Brightly colored toys also can do the trick. Distraction is your best friend.
- Carry appropriate clothing for your kids according to the weather at the destination. Do your research before starting.
The below toys are my personal go to toys for my kids when we travel. My toddler girl loves to have her Minnie mouse with her. Once we lost it on a trip and bought a replacement immediately!
These tips are guaranteed to make traveling with kids the enjoyable experience it should be 🙂
Wish you wonderful trips with your children. Do you have any favorite parental travel hacks?
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