It’s finally here. The vacation you have been waiting for all year. You can already feel the warm sun on your face and smell the ocean. Then the realization hits, you have not started getting things ready like you said you would a week ago. And, not only do you have to pack for yourself, but also for your little monsters. Then anxiety starts creeping in and it has a root —traveling with kids.
By the time my daughter was 9 months old, she had been on 10 flights. It took a lot of trial and error to get it “right.” Now, a few years later, with another kid added to the mix and lots more traveling, I have somewhat gotten in my groove. Whether its flying or driving, these are my top 10 tips to try to relieve some of the stress when traveling with young children.
1. Make lists.
Most of the time I tell myself I’m going to pack and get things ready in advance. But if you’re anything like me, you're a procrastinator and it never works out that way. What I CAN manage to do is make a list. Its quick and I can do it anywhere when I remember. The mom brain is real. I put everything on the list for what I need. From toothbrushes, chargers, underwear and pajamas. I’ll even put the Xanax on the list (or lavender essential oil if that’s your preference), but who is going to forget that?! Even if you think you won’t forget these things, you might. Once my list of all of our essentials is done, it makes packing a thousand times easier. Just tell yourself, as long as all the items on the list are packed, it doesn’t matter. You'll be set with what you have—don’t sweat the small things you forget.
2. Bring electronics.
I know, I know.. not electronics! I was against them too. I swore up and down my kids wouldn't have iPads or Game Boys and all those things. The truth is, they can be a lifesaver on a long drive or flight. The Kindle Fires for kids have been amazing for us. To avoid boredom, I suggest waiting as long as possible to hand them over, and for the love of God—don’t forget to charge them.
3. Snacks on snacks on snacks.
I can’t even tell you how many times I have been asked for snacks on a car ride to the store, let alone a long ride in a car or flight. I have learned to pack every snack known to man that I can manage through security so I can avoid as many complaints as I can from my beloved snack monsters. It came to the point I had an entire bag designated to snacks! I filled it with 10 different packages of “yummies”. One day I came up with the idea to fill a bead box with a bunch of different snacks so I didn't have to lug so many bags around. You can find something better plastic wise I’m sure, but in a bind it was perfection. Not only did it give them all of their options at once, it also kept them busy for at least 30-40 minutes. They had their snacks, and I got out of being snack b**** the whole ride, #momwin.
4. Bring an extra outfit.
There have been many times I have overestimated the capability of a diaper and I’m sure I’m not alone in this.Your child takes their routine poop, so you think you're in the clear for a few hours. Not once, but twice, (you’d think I’d learn after the first time), have I had to carry my naked toddler out of an airplane bathroom after an intense poop explosion, and had to keep them that way until we landed because I forgot an extra outfit. Whether it be an epic bowel movement or a spill -- pack that extra outfit even if you think you won’t need it.
5. Don’t over pack.
I know I just said to pack an extra outfit, but overall don’t overpack. I am still perfecting this tip; I am a woman who loves to have options and pretends like I change my underwear 5 times while on vacation. In reality, we all wear the same few items the entire week and then we just have a massive storm of clothes to repack that we never even thought of wearing. If you can manage to fit everything into ONE suitcase - yes, i said one..try not to freak out - then do it. Nothing is worse than having numerous suitcases and only so many hands.
6. Pack basic medications in a small carry on.
I always make sure to grab all the basic medications like Benadryl and Motrin for emergency purposes, along with important daily medications. If you have an infant I also suggest bringing teething and gas medications. You never know when a fever, hives or pain will come on and it is better to be prepared.
7. Travel as early as possible.
I have traveled at many different times with my kids and have come to the conclusion that leaving earlier is easiest. When it comes to bed time, instead of dressing them in pajamas, I put them in their clothes for traveling the next day. This cuts time out of our morning, and we can simply just move them to the car and they are all set for the rest of the day. When they wake up super early, kids will usually fall asleep on the plane and that is a win for everyone.
8. Stroller vs. Carrier
This is a personal preference, especially depending on where your destination is. For my family, we bring both. Yes, the stroller is HUGE, but we use it to help carry all our carry on’s and the carseats. I strap a child on my husband or myself in a Tula, Ergo or something similar, and throw all the extra things to hold in the stroller. If you are bringing car seats, it’s a huge help since gate checking is preferred because checking car seats at ticketing can lead to unknown damage to the seat.
9. Bring little presents along to keep kids occupied.
I really try to think of ideas to keep the kids entertained. Once boredom hits, Mr. Hyde comes out, am I right? One of my favorite things to do is to bring little wrapped gifts along. This is where my Target obsession comes in clutch. I go to the dollar bins and pick up a bunch of different small toys and activities. I wrap them and then stick them in the carry on bag. The kids will get one small gift for every hour on the plane. This always works great for us, and it keeps my kids settled and happy.
10. Leave with plenty of time and expect things to go wrong.
This tip is probably the most important. You’re familiar with Murphy’s law, right? Anything that can go wrong, will. I like to remind myself of that, simply because it leads to less disappointment, and forces me to be well prepared. Wake up early, get to the airport with ample time, and slow down. It’s hard to remember to slow down sometimes since with kids it seems like chaos most of the time. However, I have found the less chaotic trips are when I slow down and expect things to go wrong.
I hope some of these tips can be useful to you! Laugh at the screw ups, and remember that everyone was a baby and young child at some point. Put on a smile, and remember that there is a destination and end to the traveling. Even though it can be the most grueling part, it also can make some of the best memories. Slow down so you don’t miss them.