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Hi Positively Oakes mamas! It’s Susie from Once Upon a Lilac House. I hope your New Year is off to a great start! I’m so excited to be sharing my travel tips with you today. After a year of lying low and “staycationing” due to pregnancy and having a newborn, our family is looking forward to taking a couple of trips this year. The biggest adventure we’re looking forward to is a family trip to Hawaii. We usually take several road trips throughout the year, but an 8+ hour trip on a plane with two little ones (they will be 4 and 1) sends this (sometimes OCD) mama into a bit of a tailspin!
Traveling with little ones can be is stressful. The spontaneity and whimsy that were associated with vacationing BC (before children) have been replaced with anxiety and maybe even a little dread. On the other hand, the excitement that comes along with exploring a new place through the eyes of your children is purely priceless, because of course, their joy, is our joy. I hope these tips will help you make the most out of your traveling experience!
A week or so before your trip start a to-do list of what you need to accomplish before you leave and what you want to pack for everyone. Give each family member their own list (even the dogs!) I do it in the notes section of my iPhone so that as things pop into my head I can easily add them. I especially find this essential to do for my infant since I use so many gadgets for her every day. When you start thinking this far ahead, you’re less likely to forget anything.
Whether you’re flying or driving, your packing space is limited and precious, so be wise! It can be easy to over pack for kids, so review your list and mark off anything non essential. In my carry on (or front seat bag when we’re road tripping) I pack in gallon Ziplock baggies. They’re great because you can fit a lot in them and can practically vacuum seal them so they take up very little space. Each kiddo gets a labeled baggie with a full change of clothes; also a bag with snacks and a bag with first aid basics like sanitizer, Boogie Wipes, medicine, thermometer etc.
Put Time on Your Side.
There is nothing worse than the stress of running late with your kids in tow. (I know because I’m the queen of it.) Give yourself ample time to get where you’re going. Kids are unpredictable; so schedule potty breaks, accidents, spills, tantrums, etc into your travel timeline. If possible, factor important times like nap time, meal times, etc when planning your flight or deciding when to leave on a road trip. If you schedule an early departure time, be sure they get good sleep the night before and a hearty breakfast the morning of. For afternoon departures, make time for a healthy lunch, and try wearing them out so they’re good and ready for a nap upon take-off.
Snacks, Snacks, and More Snacks.
Always over pack the snacks! I don’t know if its boredom or the extra calories burned from bouncing off the walls with excitement about the trip, but my son is a bottomless pit when we’re on the road! Hearty snacks are essential. A good friend of mine taught me to pack snacks that don’t come in a million tiny pieces. Spills are inevitable, so the bigger and fewer the pieces, the less clean up for you. Some family favorites are string cheese, apple slices, baby carrots, granola bars, applesauce in the pouch, and my son’s favorite guilty pleasure, fruit snacks.
The One Mom Circus Act.
Entertaining is by far one of the hardest parts of traveling with little ones, especially toddlers! With attention spans not much bigger than their little bodies, you’ll need to have plenty to pull from your mom bag of tricks. Here are some of my favorite ideas to keep your little ones from singing the “Are we there yet?” blues.
- Pass out different toys every 30 minutes to an hour (include some favorites and some brand new things that will spark their interest). This doesn’t mean you have to lug the toy box with you; it can be small things such as books, crayons (the chubby triangular crayons are great because they’re less likely to roll)/coloring book, magna-doodle, sticker-books, rubric’s cube, etc. (Target Dollar-Spot or Dollar Tree have some great options)
- If you’re feeling really creative and have extra time on your hands, you could even package the toys up in simple brown lunch bags labeled “goody bags.” Being able to “unwrap” something may be an extra way to entice good behavior.
- Kids love scavenger hunts. Pinterest has a plethora of free printable travel scavenger hunts, or you could create your own. I love this one for road tripping that has pictures. Here’s a fun one for an airport you could have on hand for possible delays.
- Give them their own kid-friendly camera. It’s so interesting to see what they’ll choose to take pictures of…sometimes it’s the small things we adults would never stop to appreciate! Later they can put their pictures in a journal and you can help them caption their memories. This would make a great keepsake.
- And of course I can’t forget everyone’s favorite standby, technology. While kids love tablets, dvd players, iPods, etc, they can still get bored with them, so it’s a good idea to rotate them out with other toys or use them as a reward for good behavior.
Download several new apps especially for the trip. The novelty of apps they’ve never seen before can help keep them engaged longer. My cousin recently turned me on to Common Sense Media. It’s a non-profit organization that provides education and advocacy to families to promote safe technology and media for children. This is where I go to look for new, educational, and fun apps (and movies, books, etc) for my son. Some of his favorites are the Monkey Preschool Learning apps.
If You’re Leaving on a Jet Plane.
Make sure you have some pre-emptive strategies up your sleeve for starving off meltdowns. Little things can be lifesavers, such as making sure all devices are fully charged and working, being prepared to nurse or give a bottle at take off (or letting your older kids have some gummy snacks at take off in place of gum), having earplugs on hand, and making sure they have an item of comfort to ease any fears. (If you bring a “Lovey” or special toy along, be sure to mark it with your cell phone number in case it gets lost.)
Don’t Forget to Have Fun!
Yes, taking your babes on a trip can be an overwhelming task, but try not to stress about things that don’t go exactly as planned. Start your trip with the mindset that you’ll roll with the punches and vow to relax and enjoy making memories with your family by living in the moment. It’s so worth it!