As a mom-preneur, who has been traveling with a kid near and far for years now, I have some experience traveling with kids and tips to make it a little less stressful for parents.
Whether your little ones are anxious or pretty chill, when it comes to traveling, they will be on high alert and their energy is going to increase. If you are prepped and ready, getting there can be half the fun — by plane, train or automobile!
1. Plan ahead
You must determine what works best for your child based on their age and temperament, then plan your flight times accordingly. For example, if your kid sleeps well in the car, use a car seat on the plane with you. Plan a direct flight that starts around nap time (we fly out as early as possible).
If you have older children who are less likely to nap, maybe multi-leg trips will allow for movement between flights. It will take a little longer to get there but sometimes you get off the plane at just the right time before you or your kid flips out. Pack some of their favorite gadgets, movies, music or books to help keep them occupied. Of course, you’ll be at the mercy of the airlines, but you’ll still need to do your part.
2. Check your passports
If you are traveling with kids internationally, you’ll want to check that their passports are still within the expiration date and valid 6 months after the period of travel. Children’s passports only last five years and they have a habit of running out when you least expect them to. Allow at least six weeks to renew one.
Using an expedited service to get a rushed passport can be costly and although they claim to be able to get you a passport in 24 hours or less, they aren’t always able to come through.
You can get an expedited passport on your own in many major cities at a regional passport agency. Trust me when I tell you! My passport had expired while planning a trip to Anguilla. Fortunately, I worked two blocks from the Washington Passport Agency in DC. I was able to make an appointment and had a new passport within a week. Keep a reminder in your calendar 6-8 months before your passports are due to expire.
3. Pack light
You will want to put some thought into what you bring. Think through each step of your trip to prepare yourself. Write it down or lay everything out if that helps. Consider the length of your trip, start with a small bag, use packing cubes and only bring the essentials. We can travel with just our carry-ons. It makes traveling a breeze, not to mention, cost effective and we’ve never lost a bag.
4. Be Ready, so You Don’t Have to Get Ready
There are a few things you will definitely want to bring with you. Start off with a travel size of antiseptic and/or baby wipes. In the day of COVID-19, you will want to wipe down your seats, arm rests, seat back tray and tv. Make sure the kids wipe their hands off well once settled.
Still potty-training? You’ll want to pack a few pull-up diapers in your personal bag. My dad always said: “Be Ready, So You Don’t Have to Get Ready!” You can use them as travel pants for your little one after explaining that they are still expected to go on a toilet, but these are just in case. Funny how they’ll have to go right when the fasten seat belt sign gets turned on. They can also be used to clean up spills or vomit.
Speaking of which, if you are traveling with young children, ALWAYS bring an extra pair of clothing for everyone. A flight covered in vomit or wet pants full of a messed diaper is no fun for anyone. Have a change of clothes available so you can change as soon as possible.
You’ll want to keep allergy medication and/or an EpiPen on hand in case your location doesn’t have children’s medicine, or you need it when the store is closed. It may be a good idea to keep your medication in your personal bag as well.
Once everyone is settled, you’ll want to break out the snacks. It will lessen their anxiety and in turn reduce yours. Bring more than you think they’ll eat on the plane, after all there’s always the plane ride back and times in between meals during your trip that having a snack on hand is helpful.
5. Give yourself extra time
Have you ever noticed EVERYTHING takes longer with a kid?
O H … M Y … G O O D N E S S!!!!!!
I don’t think I need to say anymore. Just listen to what I tell you, there are lines, there is security, there are bathroom breaks, there are snack breaks, they will be more bathroom breaks … there are a million and one questions being asked. Factor all of that in!!
6. Now let’s talk safety
Car seats are cumbersome, I won’t lie to you there, but they are recommended by safety experts. While airlines’ lap policy for children under age 2 does save you money, infants and toddlers should have their own airline seat with their car seat installed.
If the child is still in an infant car seat carrier, you can bring just the carrier and install it on the plane and in the car at your destination without the base. We recommend bringing along a blanket to roll up and put at the foot of the base to help keep it at the proper angle.
For toddlers who are in convertible car seats, leave the heavy, bulky, expensive one at home. Look at getting a lightweight, inexpensive, child restraint for travel. Since all car seats have to meet the same crash test standards, your travel car seat will have passed the same safety standards yet be easier to carry.
7. And then there was … Pre-Check ™
Navigating airport security can be tough as is! But TSA Pre-Check ™ does make it easier now that we don’t have to take off our shoes. We line up one parent at the front and one taking up the rear. We are all ready to fill tubs, walk and guide the kid through. On the other side we do it backwards. Grab our belongings out of the tubs and herd the kid out of the way.
8. Make memories
While some parents will say, not to sit and wait for the airplane, I disagree. This is a great time to check in with your kid and see how they’re managing. Take pictures, we are making memories here. Make this a fun, learning moment. TEACH THEM TRAVEL ETIQUETTE EARLY!! Your kids are going to be stuck in an airplane seat for a while. Let them get the wiggles out before getting on the plane by walking or finding a place for them to play. Some airports even have play rooms now.
9. Now where did they go
I’m not a fan of leashes for children but let’s be realistic, sometimes they get away from us. Anyone remember Home Alone 2? An ID Bracelet that connects to information like how to contact a parent can be a life saver. Let’s hope you never need it but just in case, teach your child your cell phone number and how to find an employee, an officer or another mom (those are easy to spot) and ask for help.
10. Stay calm
Perhaps the best advice though is stay calm. Kids are resilient but they can pick up on your vibe. Everyone expects kids to be busy, but it is a pat on the back when a parent or flight attendant compliments our son’s behavior. If you are stressed, your children will likely be also. If you’re relaxed, they will likely be stress-free too.
Writing, this piece, I was going to separate it into different means of traveling, but you know … this would apply to a road trip (bring the car seat) just as easily. Maybe next time I will share our 14-hour MO-DC road trip with you. That’s been our longest trip to date. UGH … we will not being doing that again anytime soon.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR TRAVELING WITH KIDS? SHARE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW.
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