Traveling with kids is a lot like a box of chocolates. Well, you know how that saying goes. Much like adults, kids can also get stressed while away from home. Their everyday routines get upended, the resort’s mac ‘n’ cheese might not taste like yours, and your perfectly planned red-eye may turn into one long screaming fit from coast to coast. You can’t always control if your child will be sweet or sour while you’re away, but you don’t have to leave your sanity (and the sanity of your fellow travel mates) to fate.
If you’ll be traveling with your kids, here are a few tips for a calmer, sweeter, saner experience for all.
(Photo courtesy of TheSummerLad)
A hungry child is a cranky child. ‘Nuff said.
Pack baggies with snack-size portions of your kids’ favorite eats so you don’t have to parcel anything out while in transit. According to the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine website, some healthy options (that are yummy, too) include hummus with pita chips, graham crackers dipped in applesauce, chunks of avocado or cooked sweet potato, and Cheerios.
Boredom is pretty much on par with hunger. You don’t want to go there. Keep your kids entertained with lightweight toys that won’t take up too much space. Consider a deck of cards, a travel-sized Etch-A-Sketch, and interactive books. You can also play games like “I Spy,” sing songs (quietly), and start a good old-fashioned thumb war. And when all else fails, make it movie time on your laptop.
The What to Expect website offers small tips that’ll make a big difference while you’re in the air. For example, book an aisle seat so you don’t have to crawl over anyone every time your little one has to go to the bathroom or run off some extra energy. (You can use TripIt Pro‘s Seat Tracker to set alerts for when the seat you want become available.) Also, bring lollipops or a bottle to ease their ears during takeoff and landing.
A Set Schedule
If you’re planning to leave naps and bedtimes at home while you travel, then proceed at your own peril. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, newborns require sixteen to eighteen hours of sleep each day, and preschoolers need eleven to twelve hours a day. The numbers continue to gradually decrease as kids grow older. Schedule your daily activities around your child’s regular sleep schedule to keep everyone happy.
Bed Time Cozies
Settling into sleep can be hard for some kids, especially in a new environment. Pack familiar items, like their pillowcase or favorite blanket, a special doll, and favorite bedtime stories and music. Also, stick to their normal nap and bedtime routines. If your child is used to getting a bath and two stories before curling up into bed at home, do the same while you’re away.
There’s nothing like a screaming toddler to bring down the energy of a whole plane full of passengers. Though it doesn’t always work out perfectly, try to coordinate when you’ll be in transit with when your child usually sleeps. Your fellow passengers will thank you for it.
Talk to your kids about your upcoming travels and set some expectations. Now is the time to practice everyone’s quiet “plane voice” and to explain why running by the pool isn’t allowed. What if your child has an epic meltdown despite your planning? The National Association of School Psychologists recommends taking your child to a quiet place (perhaps the restroom or back of the plane if you’re in transit), distracting your child, or holding them until they calm down.
Schedules change, delays happen, and children’s “ins and outs” sometimes deviate from their norms. Don’t get caught without essentials, especially if you’re traveling with a baby. Pack your diaper bag with extra diapers and bottles. To play it safe, also have at least one extra outfit, hand sanitizer, wipes, and plastic bags easily accessible.
When you have children, having an extra set of hands is helpful. Ask your nanny or a favorite babysitter to come along to help with the kids if you can. And remember to give your helper some alone time. You’ll want them to join you on your next trip if all goes well.
Changing your kids’ outfits to accommodate different weather conditions is tricky in transit. Dress your kids in layers so they’ll be comfortable no matter what the weather is like at your final destination. And if you’re heading to a crowded venue, consider dressing your kids in the same (or at least the same color) shirt so you can quickly spot them.
Post written by Emily Klein