Thanks for covering for me while I was on vacation. I enjoyed your posts, but missed chatting with you! I particularly enjoyed your note about encouragement. I think we could all use a little encouragement from other mothers, so thanks for spreading the love.
So back to vacation. I know some people think I am crazy, but I travel with my family of five as often as I can. First of all, my extended family and my husband’s family all live far from us (always at least one flight away — sometimes two!). Second, I want my kids to feel comfortable and truly enjoy traveling because I do! Finally, I want my kids to experience cultures, people and places that they cannot at home.
I have been flying with my kids for 6 years. I started when Little Man was only a couple months old. I’ve learned a lot along the way so I thought I should share some of my tips and tricks for travel.
TEN TIPS FOR TRAVELING WITH KIDS
1. Take a big breath and gather all your patience. You and your kids will need it.
2. Pack lots of snacks. Really, you can never have too many. I sometimes take my kids to the store with me to pick out a special ‘travel’ snack (one I don’t usually allow at home). Pick small prepackaged things, or pack favorites in snack sized baggies. Perhaps even bring a special treat like a lollipop. I’m not big on giving my kids too many sweets, but to save yourself from a meltdown a lollipop might just work. Oh, and bring an extra bib!
3. Bring your own water bottles or sippy cups. The flight attendants will fill them with your child’s choice of beverage. This way you don’t have to ask for refills and you don’t have to hover over their cups to ensure they don’t spill.
4. Pack some activities. I always check out the dollar bins at craft stores or Target for cheap airplane activities. You can sometimes find games, coloring books, activity packs, etc. These make great entertainment ideas on the plane. Even small toys that are new can be a great way to distract and entertain the kids. Just be sure to pack enough in your luggage to have a fresh supply for the ride home!
5. A deck of cards…so many possibilities! I almost always have a deck of cards in my bag. There a lot of kid friendly options: find the matching numbers, find the matching shapes, a game of top this (war), a game of memory, practice counting, simple math problems, go fish, crazy eights, slap jack…I’m sure there are more!
6. Backpacks! Not only can the kids help shoulder the load, they are great fun for the kids while on vacation. I have my kids help me pick what goes in their back pack from home. I usually have them carry a favorite lovey or blanket, water bottle (empty), a couple of books, small bag of snacks that they can have whenever (this is a treat for them to pick when to eat) and maybe a favorite toy. Of course, if you are bringing an iPad or something they can also carry their headphones (or ‘ears’ as my Little Man likes to say). Oh, and bring an extra pair of clothes. Spills and accidents happen.
7. Bathroom breaks. Be sure to leave enough time to stop and go to the bathroom with your little ones before boarding. Also, before landing — sometimes it takes a long time to get off the airplane, so that last pit stop can be very important. Kids love the bathroom and they want to see how things work. If the natives are restless, take a walk to the bathroom and check out where the flight attendants sit.
8. Don’t board early. Some airlines give families the option to get on the plane early and this is awesome if you need overhead space. But with kids, you likely need to access everything you have so let them run around for as long as possible. Some times it pays to be in last place. If you have more than one adult, perhaps send one person ahead, to claim that overhead space you might require.
9. Feed the baby on take-off and landing. This tried and true method is a lifesaver and not just for babies. Give your kids a sippy, passy, boob or bottle whenever you notice your ears adjusting. It helps, tremendously!
10. Don’t forget your spirit of adventure. A long car ride or a trip to the airport is quite the experience for a little one. If you have time, stop to explain how things work, or show them some signs along the way. It is all very exciting for them.
I was going to stop at ten, but here is a bonus:
11. Seat back pocket. There are some great possibilities with the items in the seat back pocket. Barf bag puppets or barf bag ‘balloons.’ Babies love to tear paper, so give them the magazine and use the barb bag for trash (they also like taking things out and putting things in — another barf bag option!). Have an older child, flip the magazine and tell them to find a picture of an airplane or review the map to show where you are going on your trip (or point out other places you have been). The sky mall magazine is great for selecting ‘presents’ for loved ones or make it a game that they get to ‘buy’ one thing from each page.
I hope this helps if you have any summer travel plans…maybe a trip out east? I know you miss New York City! 🙂