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