10 Tips For Traveling With Your Kids This Summer

By June 5, 2013General

( Note from Kat: Today’s post is from my friend, and monthly contributor, Liz Griffin )

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I don’t know about you, but summertime is synonymous with travel in my family. When my daughter Sophie was 8 months old, we took her on a month-long trip through Europe & North Africa.

I know, right? What were we thinking? Well, we were new parents and totally clueless about the stress of traveling with kids. That was the first of many trips with my offspring.

Planes, trains or automobiles… I am sharing with you a few tips I have learned along the way!

1. Be realistic. Let’s be honest, this trip is not going to go smoothly. Tires will go flat, flights will be delayed and at some point your iPad will run out of batteries while the kids are watching a movie.

Traveling is not the time to potty-train, wean from a pacifier or drop a nap. Trust me, I have tried it. Just focus on getting there in one piece, okay?image

2. Ask for the bulkhead. If you check in early enough, you can ask to be moved to a bulkhead seat. These are seats behind one of the airplane walls. Airlines reserve them for passengers with physical disabilities.

When you check in, ask to be moved to the bulkhead seats if they are still available (they usually are). This offers much more room for your kids to play. Also, on an international flight they have bassinets that attach to the bulkhead wall. Your baby now has a place to sleep and play. Win, win.

3. Give kids clear expectations. Walk your kids through what your travel experience will be like. Let them know when they can expect to get a snack. Tell them what you need them to do at airport security or how long they are going to sit in the car without getting out. I have found that my kids are much more manageable on trips if they know what is expected of them beforehand.

4. Bring tape. A friend of mine gave me this tip. Masking tape or scotch tape…it doesn’t really matter. Toddlers are fascinated by the way it clings to their fingers and older kids are oddly preoccupied with how they can stick things together. Just trust me on this one. It will buy you some time.

5. Schedule around naps. Schedule your trip around your kids sleep schedule if possible. Arrange it so the long portions of your drive or flight are when your kiddos will be sleeping. Few things are more tiring than getting your child to sit still when they are rested and full of energy.image

6. Keep it simple. The more things you bring, the more things you have to juggle. Only bring their favorite toys or items that can be played with in a variety of ways. If you have multiple kids, pack toys that will entertain them each to some degree. Sharing toys will prevent boredom and shorten your packing list. The less clutter you have in tow, the better.

7. Bribe them. On a recent road trip one of my children brought me to the edge of insanity with an “Are we there yet?” every two minutes. Now we give them each a bag of quarters and they have to pay us every time they ask that question. The kids are excited about their shiny coins and we are excited about not having to answer the same question 500 times.

8. Choose snacks wisely. You don’t want your kids to be high on sugar while strapped into their car seat. Pick food that will fill them up and not make them spastic. Also, choose things that will take them a while to eat.

In case of emergency, I always pack suckers. They are a sweet treat that takes my kids ages to devour. Lick, lick, lick… If you are desperate for 30 minutes of peace and quiet then pull out the lollipops.

9. Schedule regular play stops. Your kids will have more pleasant memories of your trip if they are allowed to explore the territory you are crossing. Schedule 30 minute play slots for your kids to get their energy out and make some fun memories as a family. Speed isn’t always better.

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10. Give yourself a break. Show yourself some grace while traveling. It’s okay if your kid has a stain on his shirt, eats more junk food than normally allowed or is rocked to sleep for that much-needed nap. The world will go back to normal when you get home, I promise. Just enjoy the time with your littles.

Do you have any great travel tips to share? We would love to hear them! Click here to join the discussion!

20130218-193106.jpgElizabeth is a church planter, speaker, writer and naptime abolitionist. She lives in Texas with her husband & two little kids. Her other hobbies include wasting time on social media, trying to remember where she parked her car, and browsing Pinterest for DIY projects she will never actually make. You can visit her over at Lark & Bloom or on twitter @larkandbloom.

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23 Comments

  • Avatar Dawn says:

    I think my biggest “tip” is that parents also need to take a look at their own expectations about the trip and adjust them needbe. If your kids are with, don’t expect the trip to a be a really relaxing “vacation.” It can’t be, because you don’t get to stop being a mom just because you’re off traveling. Acknowledging and accepting that fact ahead of time will make for much smoother trips for all involved. 😉

    Also, enjoy the adventure of traveling with kids – it can be crazy, but that’s all part of it!

  • Avatar Michelle says:

    Would love to hear more traveling ideas! We are about to embark on an 18 hr drive with our 3 kids. I don’t even think they would enjoy their electronics for that long. 🙂

    One idea I have done in the past and it worked great is to hit the dollar store and stock up on cheap and fun little toys. I put them in brown lunch bags and every 100 miles they get to open a new one. Keeps them entertained for about 30-60 minutes and before we know it it’s time for a new one!

    I love the tape idea! Definitely adding that to the list.

  • Avatar Renee says:

    I agree with all the suggestions, but I also used a book called “The Penny Whistle Traveling With Kids Book” by Meredith Brokaw and Annie Gilbar. It’s a secular book. My 4 kids are all teenagers now, but we started traveling with them when our first was only 2 weeks old. They’ve seen 37 states by car. I had them keep a journal as soon as they could write. So, around 5-6 years old. Before that age, I did a cassette recorder journal. They had “car only” toys, and each of them had their own special “car only” box. I also usually had at least one surprise gift for the trip for them to play with. I was big into make it always a learning adventure, and I’m very crafty, but you don’t have to be to still make it a memory 🙂

    • Avatar Elizabeth says:

      My daughter would love to journal. I will have her do that in a few weeks when we head out on our next trip. Thanks for sharing the tip!

  • Avatar Jenny says:

    Music! Especially for kids who love to dance! When our 3yr old daughter starts getting anxious to get out of the car and move we crank up the radio and she dances away in her carseat. Give them pieces of clothes or Kleenex as props to use while dancing too. Since songs change frequently this usually entertains her for an hour or more sometimes. Add more fun for those kids who like to put on a show and video them from the front passenger seat. It is a great way to get the sillies out and give everyone good entertainment.

  • Avatar June says:

    Any special tips for traveling with a 3.75 year old and a 17 month old (boy) internationally where you have to be on a plane for 22 hours straight? There’s a stopover, but no layover…

    • Avatar Grace in London, UK says:

      We gave ours antihistamine (the drowsy formula) in juice/milk as we take off. This will help them sleep during your first leg before the stop over. It will also help with their ears. And depending on where your stop over is, if you can, pack a set of spare clean clothes in your carry on (which you should anyways) and go to the lounge and grab a shower (you will have to pay but anyone can go) for you all. This will refresh you and get your circulation going. With the 3.75yr old, let him watch TV and eat snacks. With a flight that long, tiredness will eventually take over and will then sleep till your stop over. One word on the antihistamine, try it out before you fly. 1 in however many has the opposit effect!

      • Avatar Elizabeth says:

        I agree with Grace, try and see if the airline will let you off. Even letting your kids run around at the gate for 15 minutes will help. Also, put the 17 year old in two diapers at once.

        If you need to change his diaper, but can’t leave the seat for some reason ( turbulence, meal service…) you can simply slide the dirty diaper off and there is a clean one immediately underneath. Makes changing diapers SO much easier on a plane.

        Good luck with your trip!

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      I’m no expert on international travel, but we did just move to Thailand from the US with our 2 kids (2.5 and almost 4 at the time of the combined 30 hours of travel). Some tips I would offer are to, if you are traveling with 2 parents, to tag-team with the kids. We “took shifts” (this helped because of our seating arrangement – we got 3 seats together and then 1 across the aisle). One parent took care of the kids while the other parent could rest, regroup, etc. and then we would switch. This was really helpful. Also, we would let the kids watch as many movies as they wanted and would have them drink often because the air is so dry on the plane (yes, this means more trips to the potty or more diaper changes, but I think it helps with the jet-lag on the other side of things, based on what I’ve read). Also, let them be up and get active every few hours (unless they are totally content in what they’re currently doing) or so – this is a good tip for you as well.

      We simulated our normal bedtime when they would usually go to bed (in America) – got pjs on, etc. and that seemed to help signal “bedtime” for them. Also, my motto that entire time was, “I can do anything for 30 hours, right?” 😉

      If you already made this trip, yeah – you did it! If not, God bless you as you embark on the adventure (seriously – looking at it as an adventure was super helpful for me rather than just dreading it. Our kids did amazing!)!!

  • Avatar Grace in London, UK says:

    We just had our mid-term holiday week here in the UK as our kids don’t break out for Summer holidays till Jul. And in 8 days, with our 4 yo and 6yo we camped at 3 locations and hit a creamery (cheese maker), a follies theme park, a water fall, climbed 2 natural rock formations, visited an archlogical dig, a Roman museum, walked a World Heritage site, dug fossils on a beach and had family get together with a tree-top adventure!
    It’s was NOT restful holiday. Certainly not the holiday that I was inneed of and it took me a couple of days to unwind and go with the flow. But in the end, with the encouragement of an ever patient husband, we decided to go all out cos we figured that we were not ‘on vacation’ but building memories so they will have happy stories to tell in years to come! A steep learning curve!

  • Avatar April says:

    My kids are now 19, 17, and 14. We used to go to Florida every summer with my family for two weeks. When they were little we almost moved every summer we packed so much. The road trips were hard. It was easier if we left really early in the morning, like 5am, so they slept most of the way. The TVs in cars now has to be a huge help, but even if we had them when mine were little it might not have helped because they would all 3 get car sick. I hated giving them Dramamine and knocking them out, but it did make the ride a little easier!

  • Suckers and tape = brilliant! I would also add bringing special snacks for mom and dad. 🙂 I also try to preach “blessed are the flexible” to myself. Hourly.

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  • Avatar Loren says:

    I do agree with all the ideas you have presented for
    your post. They are really convincing and can
    definitely work. Still, the posts are very quick for starters.
    May just you please lengthen them a little
    from next time? Thank you for the post.

  • Avatar Duncan Faber says:

    For me, the secret to traveling with my little girl is to always pack an extra pair of leggings in my carry on. That way if she spills something on her pants, or gets cold, it’s easy for her to slip them on. Plus, they pack really small! My daughter’s favorite brand is http://www.twirlygirlshop.com/girls-capri-leggings but obviously there are lots of places to get them.

  • Avatar Collette says:

    That is why it is important to know the age of the child.
    Searching for best Kids Toys like remote control, not only to wear them out,
    but to learn something. Puppets can be used for pouring
    water or sand, collecting cherry tomatoes
    from the garden, wearing as a hat or spinning on the floor for
    them to play.