While everyone loves making memories with their families, usually the journey to making those memories is a tough one! The memories we tend to want to forget are those that include flying on a plane or sitting in a car. Traveling with kids, and especially traveling with toddlers, is typically not easy or fun. It is often all of the words OPPOSITE of easy and fun. So here are some tips to try and make traveling as painless as possible.
1. Plan around sleep schedules
This is a biggy. If your child is good at falling asleep in the car or in your arms on a plane, then plan your trips to mesh with her nap time. Try to have the trip start BEFORE she is exhausted though. No one likes packing up the car or waiting in a terminal with a cranky kid since they can’t go to sleep just yet. But if you plan it right, your little boy or girl could be asleep for most of the trip! That is always my preference!
2. Pack snacks and entertainment
I’m not usually one to entertain kids with food, but a moms gotta do, what a moms gotta do. If my son starts flipping out a half hour before I’m stopping somewhere, you betcha I’m going to pull out the fruit snacks! I like to suggest bringing an assortment of snacks/mini meals that are both healthy and….less healthy. Unless your son LOVES carrot sticks, they probably won’t stop a meltdown from taking place like chocolate could (chocolate works on keeping my meltdowns from taking place at least :P) Don’t make this the norm of course since you don’t want to get in the habit of rewarding bad behaviors. But let’s be real: it is NOT normal for a toddler to sit confined for hours on end. The least we can do as parents is reward them for lasting so long in the first place!
Along with food, bring some favorite small toys or books to help hold their interest. Like I mentioned in a previous post about what to pack for toddlers, I highly suggest a magnetic doodleboard. They limit the need for paper and can’t make a mess. Win win!
I would also pack a DVD player with DVDs. I suggest this over an iPad, to be honest. A lot of the time with driving and flying, you won’t have access to wifi or data. There could literally be nothing worse than having your child’s episode of Daniel Tiger interrupted because of a loss of connection. Not that I know from experience…
Not only that, but there are some airlines that advertise wifi, but it is so NOT fast enough to stream Netflix. Granted, there is a download option for some shows now, but having a DVD player that isn’t affected by those sorts of things is a lot safer of an option. Just be sure to not leave your bag of your son’s DVDs in the back seat pocket on a plane. You will never get them back…
3. Wear comfortable clothes
If you are anything like me, you travel in comfy tops and leggings, or at least a soft pair of jeans. You may also wear a light shirt and bring a jacket in case things get cold on the trip. The same should go for your kids!
Traveling is not the time to have your toddler boy wear the super trendy (yet cute!) skinny jeans if he is going to be stuck in a seat all day. Layer your kids in lightweight, soft materials. I even forgo bows for my little girl (which is practically a crime in my house 😉 ). My son is very sensitive to certain types of clothing so I always have to be careful, but traveling is an especially important time to give it some thought. Also, don’t worry if they are taking off their shoes and socks. I promise you that if I’m the mom sitting next to you, there will be ZERO judgment. Pick your battles.
4. Pack for worse case scenario
While driving, this isn’t a huge issue since your suitcases are usually just in the trunk of the car. But flying is a WHOLE OTHER STORY. I remember barely getting on the plane with my son, who was about 6 months at the time, and then he had a total blow out! Since I was still a relatively new mom, I was mentally freaking out, but thankfully, I was still new enough to OVERPACK. Boy was I grateful I did! Whether you have 1 kid or 5, it’s always good to have an extra outfit plus lots of diapers and wipes on hand. Hopefully you don’t need them, but you definitely don’t want to be without them.
An additional tip here is to bring a pacifier, bottle, sippy cup, or plan on nursing with pressure changes. Nothing hurts those sweet kiddos’ ears more than pressure changes, and the sucking/swallowing motion helps to keep their ears clear. Make sure to have them on hand for take off, and especially landing (while flying), as well as for road trips where you will have changes in elevation. Otherwise, there will be lots of screaming. No bueno. Check out my previous post about what to pack for toddlers so you are sure not to miss anything!
5. Take frequent stops
While this isn’t very plausible while flying, if you are driving it is definitely possible to stop frequently to let your child get out and stretch their legs. My family can usually go about 2 hours before my kids have just had it. Our stops are typically about 30-40 minutes, but it’s worth it to know that my kids were able to regain a little sanity before moving on.
Also, after a recent 9 hour (turned 12 hour) trip to Utah, I found (actually, my husband found) our true saving grace: fast food play places. Seriously though. All of our stops lasted longer than we wanted, but they went wayyyy more smoothly until we decided to stop at a gas station/fast food combo place. With play places, our kids had a specific place to burn energy, while at the gas station, our kids went NUTS. Pulling things off shelves, running away, falling off chairs—it was awful. Play places. That’s where it’s at.
But honestly, back to flying, you can totally walk up and down the aisle while the seatbelt sign is off. Don’t worry—your “annoyance” of walking up and down won’t compare to the screaming that could ensue while your daughter is strapped in a seat for hours. (Again, no judgment from me though!)
6. Be flexible
This is a major one, and I cannot stress it enough. KIDS ARE UNPREDICTABLE. Shock, I know. Traveling with toddlers can be sooooo stressful, and it is awful when you are traveling and end up being LATE. Plan ahead. Give yourself an extra hour or two AT LEAST. Toddlers will already be grumpy, and you don’t want to add your own stress on top of that when trying to get somewhere. Sometimes your little boy will take 15 minutes in the bathroom at the rest stop instead of 3, so just plan on it! Seriously. You will be a million times happier than if you are rushing and doing everything last minute.
I hope these 6 tips help to make the journey of traveling with toddlers and kids so much easier! If you are prepared, plan ahead, and stay positive, almost any trip can be manageable, and even…fun! Now check out my post on What You NEED to Pack While Traveling with Toddlers so you can make sure to never forget a thing!
Get your FREE packing list!
Subscribe to get your free toddler packing list!