Generally, sometime after (or maybe during) the first trip with young children, most parents long nostalgically for their days of traveling alone or as a couple. It’s not that they’ve suddenly grown to hate being a parent. It’s just that traveling with kids takes an already exhausting experience and makes it harder. A whining toddler or a bored third grader can make missed connections tougher or even complicate the beverage service on an airplane.
Here are the top travel tips from the Innovative Dad to smooth out your travel woes.
Supplies to Pack When Traveling with Kids
Food, Glorious Food!
Yes, make sure to pack lots of snacks. Airport concession stands are expensive and getting stuck on a line can wreak havoc on your schedule. Take your child with you to the grocery store before a trip to pick out his favorites. Make sure to put every package in a Ziploc bag to keep it from exploding all of your carry-ons. Stay away from anything that will melt if left in the sun too long, like chocolate bars. Bonus tip: With a little string, the kids can create Cheerio or Fruit Loop necklaces and then munch on them.
Carabiners Aren’t Just for Mountain Climbers
Having a bunch of these self-closing clips are invaluable. Snag a big one for larger bags and a handful of smaller ones for small bags. You can clip backpacks to suitcases as you move around or even use it as a handhold for a child to walk alongside a rolling suitcase.
Create Tinkering Kits
Use these suggestions to build collections of themed activities to engage your children’s creativity as you travel.
Don’t Forget the Art Supplies
Longer travel tips can be great times for creating new art pieces, but be careful what you pack. Stick to colored pencils and stickers rather than crayons (they might melt) or markers (do you really want to worry about what they drew on). Wikisticks, Play-dough, pipe cleaners, and washi tape also travel well and are easy to clean-up. Put some wet wipes in your bag to clean up afterward. Bonus tip: Watercolors like these are also great to have because of the minimal mess.
Stuff for Older Kids
Ways to Stay Occupied When Traveling with Kids
It’s Trivia Night
Grab the cards from an old set of trivial pursuit and turn the trip into a trivia contest. I’m also a big fan of the Brain Quest series which can keep a variety of different aged kids occupied.
Create Your Own Version of Hedbanz
Ever played Hedbanz? You can create your own version on the road. Bring a pen and a stack of post-it notes with you. Have everyone write down three people (famous or family) and put them into a hat. Then, have someone pick a post-it and stick on their forehead without looking and ask the other players about the person using yes or no questions until they guess. You can do this with other categories, too, like household objects or geographic places.
It can be hard to travel and using some mindful relaxation can go a long way toward calming our kids’ agitation (and our own).
Close Your Eyes and Listen
There are so many wonderful podcasts and audiobooks that you can enjoy. Be sure to pack kid headphones and headphone splitters. You can check out some of my favorites or download your own.
Curl Up with a Good Book
You can read Kindle books on pretty much any device and most libraries now offer Overdrive or a similar service. You can check out one set of books for the trip to your destination and another set for the way back.
Other Tips and Tricks
Invest in the Element of Surprise
Keep a new book or toy in your bag to pull out when things are getting rough.
Everyone Carries Their Own Carry-Ons
Yes, even the littlest of children can schlep their own backpack of toys and activities. It might give you one more thing to keep track of (we count bags every time we move in an airport), but it’s a great way to provide some responsibility and to minimize what you are carrying.
Get Out the Map!
Pick up a map from AAA or order one online. Have your kids trace the path and look for landmarks as you drive.
Visit the Dollar Store
Discount stores like Dollar Tree and Five Below often have cheap activities, toys, and games to fill out your bag when traveling with kids. The dollar bins at Target or AC Moore are also great places to find things that you won’t care about if they don’t make the return trip.
You’ll notice that I haven’t really mentioned screentime (and I don’t count reading a book on a Kindle as screentime). Yes, it’s bound to happen on a plane or long car ride and there is nothing wrong with it. In fact, these trips can be great times to explore new apps or expose your child to potential new favorite shows and movies. Be careful about deviating too far from your normal screen consumption, though, because the trip will come to end.
Have your own travel tip? Share it in the comments below.