Welcome back to our Top 5 Series. This month’s post will pivot a bit from our series into a new subset of topics. This will be our first post within our “Top 5 Home Learning Series”. Previously, we were covering topics within our “Top 5 Parenting Series”. The posts in that subseries include ‘Top 5 Rainy Day Ideas for Parents’, ‘Top 5 Tips for Creating Better Sleep for Your Child’, ‘Top 5 Tips for Raising Independent Children’, ‘Top 5 Tips for Improving Picky Eating’, ‘Top 5 Tips for Building Family Bonds’, and “Top 5 Tips for Balancing Technology in Your Home”.
Planning a family trip with children can be both exciting and challenging. As parents, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience for everyone in the family is crucial. In this blog post, we will share our top five tips for traveling with children that will help you navigate through the ups and downs of the journey. So, whether you're embarking on a road trip or taking a flight to a new destination, these tips will help you create lasting memories and make the most of your adventure with your little ones.
Tip #1: Pack a couple of new toys
New toys can help the time pass quickly and quietly when traveling with a little one.
Our top helpful tip when traveling with children is to bring a couple of new toys for each child. These toys can serve as a source of excitement and distraction, making the travel experience more enjoyable for both you and your little ones. Additionally, introducing new toys can help alleviate boredom and reduce restlessness during long flights or car rides. As an article on CNN’s website states “…bring a game or toy they’ve never used before, which might hold their attention longer.”1
These toys don’t have to break the budget! I often will venture to the Dollar Store or the Target Dollar Bin to find some fun ideas. In the past I have bought things like textured stickers and a new notebook, small slinkies, bandages, or small figurines. These items work incredibly well at keep toddlers distracted. And a bonus idea- consider wrapping these small toys! The wrapping paper adds a new level of excitement to the adventure and adds time they are distracted while they unwrap the gift.
Tip #2: Bring plenty of snacks
Snack can help keep bad moods at bay and give your child something to do while traveling.
Our next top tip for traveling with kids is to bring plenty of snacks. Snacks not only help to keep hunger at bay but also serve as a great distraction during long travels. Pack a variety of healthy snacks such as fruit, granola bars, and crackers to ensure that your children have something to munch on when they get hungry. This isn’t the time to explore new foods. Traveling can be stressful enough without adding new food anxiety to the agenda. I recommend picking out old favorites when traveling. Additionally, involving your children in the process of selecting snacks before the trip can make them feel included and excited about the journey. Depending on your child, you may also want to consider using a divided container (think like a fishing tackle box or a crafting bead box) to include a large variety of snacks for your child to choose from. Dried fruit, nuts, pretzels, and small crackers work well in boxes like this. An article on U.S. News and World Report’s website refers to this setup as a “’snackle’ box” and says that it can “add excitement to the trip”.2
If you think that idea isn’t the right idea for your child, consider wrapping small baggies of their favorite foods. What’s more exciting than a baggie of goldfish to a toddler? A WRAPPED baggie of goldfish!
Tip #3: Be thoughtful about what is in your carry on
Remember to pack frequently used items in easy to reach places while traveling with children.
One important aspect of traveling with children is being thoughtful about what is in your carry-on. Having the right items readily accessible can make all the difference between a good trip or a bad trip. When packing your carry-on bag, make sure to include items that will keep your children entertained and engaged throughout the journey. This can include books, coloring books, puzzles, or electronic devices with age-appropriate games or movies as well as new toys and snacks as mentioned in Tips 1 and 2. But don’t stop there, also consider packing a change of clothes, diapers or pull ups if appropriate, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and a water bottle. These are all items that no matter if you are flying or driving, your child will likely need during travel.
When my girls were 4 and under, I kept a running list of items needed in their carry on. This made the next round of packing easier and it allowed me to see what we were and were not using during travel. We had to travel long distances when they were small, and being prepared made a world of difference for me as I would sometimes have to travel solo with them. I always had the mindset that if I forgot something in my checked luggage or the luggage in the back of the car, I could go buy it at our destination. But if I didn’t have something we needed during travel, there often times isn’t an option to obtain it. Therefore, items in our carry-on bags always took priority for me.
Tip #4: Consider leaving a free day in your schedule
Traveling can be exciting but also exhausting. Consider leaving a free day in your travel plans to allow everyone the chance to rest and relax.
Now that you have some tips to keep your children engaged and entertained during the journey, let's talk about another important aspect of traveling with kids. Tip number 4: consider leaving a free day in your trip. This day will give your family the chance to relax, unwind, and explore the destination at your own pace without feeling rushed or overwhelmed. Whether it's a day at the beach, a visit to a local museum, or simply enjoying a picnic in the park, having a free day will allow everyone to recharge and make the most of the vacation.
Part of what can make traveling with kids so challenging is that everyone is exhausted and run down. Trying to sightsee or explore all the places with an overtired toddler can be outright tough. Consider leaving free time to sleep in, rest and recharge, or just be instead of jamming in another stop. As much as you want to maximize your time in a new location, having downtime will allow the moments of exploration to be more enjoyable for everyone.
Tip #5: Talk to your kids about the process, schedule, and expectations
Having conversations with your children prior to traveling can help set expections and ease travel anxiety.
When traveling with children, it is important to communicate with them about the process, schedule, and expectations of the journey. Take the time to sit down and have a conversation with your kids before you start your trip. Explain to them what to expect, how long the journey will take, and any specific activities or stops along the way. By involving them in the planning process and setting clear expectations, you can help them feel more prepared and engaged throughout the journey as well as reduce any anxiety or resistance they may have. Take the time to explain the travel logistics, such as check-in procedures, security measures, and the duration of the journey.
If you have read any of our previous posts, you know I am an advocate of communicating and setting expectations for your kids. We spend time going through the logistics of the trip so that they know what to expect but also what is expected from them. I want them to completely understand the type of behavior that I expect from them. I find this sets all of us up to enjoy the journey with each other.
Are there any travel tips we missed? We’d love to hear how you and your family travel with children!