Traveling with kids is not for the faint of heart. Being as we are a baseball family and also raising our children in a different state than where our families live, traveling is a familiar part of our lives. This means a few things- first, our cars are almost always a hot mess of various toys, drawing utensils, trash and crushed snacks. Second, there are typically a multitude of bags laying around the house and in the trunk of the car for various trips; and during baseball season, the trunk of the car is a jigsaw puzzle of equipment. Third, being a somewhat seasoned traveler means that we’ve had enough failed and disastrous experiences to learn from our mistakes and pass them on.
So without further ado, here are some of my best tips for traveling with kids:
- Think about your space…
Taking the car? There may be a better layout for a long trip than what works for your daily activities. Maybe the car seats should be next to each other so kids can share snacks, crayons and games. Or maybe the bickering could be minimized by moving seats as far away from each other as possible.
Taking a plane? My first instinct when flying with kids was to try to get as close to the front as possible so that we wouldn’t have to wait for everyone else to deplane before getting off at our destination. My second instinct was to sit my family of five in the same row, stretched out across the aisle.
A recent flight to Michigan with a full flight meant we couldn’t try for either one of these. We ended up walking the entire length of the plane and on a whim we took three seats in the last row and two seats directly in front of those. This scenario ended up being nothing short of amazing. With a toddler who wanted to open and close his window and seat table 534 times throughout the course of the flight, sticking him in the back corner of the plane with a wall behind him and his sister in front of him meant he was only annoying to his family members, rather than multiple strangers.
If you are flying an airline that assigns seats when you book your flight, take a look at the airplane layout and choose wisely. Consider that for longer flights that allow time to get up and move, having an aisle seat means not having to bother strangers when your toddler wants to get up and move. This nifty site allows you to enter your flight info and access a map of your plane so that you can check out ahead of time where your seats are located.
- Got a kid who gets motion sick?
My daughter began to get car sick before she was even old enough to let us know what was about to happen. We initially assumed it was a stomach bug and I’m a little embarrassed at how long it took for me to realize that she was probably getting car sick. I’m also in awe at how we become parents and never again think twice about catching puke with our bare hands.
My daughter is old enough now to verbalize when she’s going to get sick and I’m much more seasoned at helping her. I got these motion sickness bracelets in kids sizes and I use this homeopathic oil (it goes behind the ears).
While I’m sure it’s different for everyone, I also recognized that for my daughter, the sickness was worse in the morning and almost guaranteed to happen if she had eaten breakfast prior to leaving. This meant trying to travel later in the day, if possible. It also meant trying to hold off on breakfast if we did need to travel in the morning; or only having something dry and starchy rather than foods like dairy or fruit.
FYI, McDonald's paper drive-through bags do not contain puke in any efficient manner. So if all tricks of the trade fail- be prepared with these bags as they are easy for kiddos to hold; or for mamas to hold as we fling our bodies to the backseat in our desperate attempts to avoid a massive clean up.
For plane travel, here is some great information and suggestions for helping avoid painful ear issues. Personally, I’ve found that encouraging jaw movement has been the most effective. For my older child, that has meant gum and for the younger I’ve found that gummy bears or lollipops work best. Having traveled when they were infants as well, breast-feeding is always a great solution during take-off and landing.
- Prep ‘em…
Prior to my son’s first plane ride when he was two, we talked about our trip, how much fun we would have with our family and how awesome it was going to be to go on a plane. He was so excited he could barely contain himself; yet one step onto the plane and he completely lost his sh!$. My husband and I had to carry him to our seats and then contain him in that small space while he was kicking, screaming, freaking out, and basically acting like he was possessed by an airplane demon. He eventually passed out on me; but as my husband and I looked at each other with relief in our eyes and sweat dripping down our faces, I realized that perhaps I should have talked to him about how the plane would look on the inside. I had never explained that there would be a lot of people in a small space or that we would have to wait while passengers loaded or the plane taxied.
Talk about and explain how the travel will look, sound, even feel. Explain that a long car drive means driving from when we wake up to when we go to bed. Describe how the inside of a plane looks or how there will be a lot of people is a small space. Show this video to give a glimpse into how it will look to take off and be in the air. Explain how long the trip will last by comparing the length to something more concrete to little minds. Explain how we have to stay in our seats with our seat belts on and that kicking the seat in front of us may bother the person sitting there.
- Pack it up…
Perhaps the first thing we think about when preparing for a trip with our little ones is how the heck are we going to entertain them for multiple hours of sitting still? I wish there was a better answer for this question; just as I sometimes wish I hadn’t spent so much money on toys when my babies only wanted to play with the packaging they came in… or various household items… or pretty much anything BUT the expensive toys.
Alas, I don’t have the answers to these important life questions. However, I love these suggestions, particularly the cute ideas for travel bags that young children can handle on their own. I also LOVE this comprehensive list of screen-free ideas that is broken down into age groups. Although I’m definitely not against tablets, movies, and electronic games, we will often try to exhaust all other options before pulling out our “last desperate attempt” bag of electronic tricks.
- Be mentally prepared…
Remember that saying, “hope for the best but expect the worst?” Yeah, that’s what I mean here. We all want the best to happen but we also know that kids are a crap-shoot and we just never know what we’re going to get. Be prepared for things to break-down, regardless of how well-prepared we feel we are. Be prepared to play games, draw, engage, and read along with them- because lets face it, our days of relaxed travel ended the second that child came into our world.
When all else fails… be prepared to accept it for what it is, knowing that the memories you are creating with your travel are going to be worth it.
And be prepared to get a big ole drink when you get to where you’re going!
Photo by Angelo Abear on Unsplash