Anyone who has ever been on a trip with children knows that it can turn from a fun time to a frazzled mess on a dime. Let’s face it — kids have a lot of needs, and it’s not their fault. But for parents, trying to fulfill those needs while they’re on the road can be a pretty rough job.
However, when you do travel, there are going to be challenges in store when you have little people with you. Going on a road trip? The kids will need to be fed and entertained during the long hours in the car. You also need to be prepared for unexpected bathroom emergencies. Taking a flight instead? There are a host of other challenges there, including getting little ones through security checkpoints and keeping track of them in a crowded airport.
Trying to balance entertainment, snacks, drinks, bathroom needs, fights, and sometimes downright panic are some of the events that require special preparations. Thankfully, the internet has a lot of resources for all the best, tried-and-true ways to take the stress out of traveling with your kids, or if not all of it, at least most. Here are 10 ways to improve traveling with kids.
1. Embrace the electronics.
Most parents try to be conscientious when it comes to their children’s media consumption. You want to make sure your kids’ brains are stimulated through toys, games, reading, and music, not just endless reruns of “Sesame Street” and “Paw Patrol.” But let’s face it — when it comes to traveling, all bets are off. It won’t damage your children to have a day or two of lots of cartoons, especially if it keeps everyone entertained and as stress-free as possible during your trip.
However, it’s not always easy to hold a phone or tablet for long periods of time, especially if you have a toddler who loves to push buttons. Thankfully, it’s easy to set up a DIY tablet mount. Just use a sheet protector with perforations and some shoelaces or yarn. Slip the tablet into the sheet protector and tie to the seat for easy viewing.
2. Choose the best way to carry kids.
Toddlers and babies obviously need to be carried in public places like airports. But there are lots of ways to do this more efficiently. There’s no need to pack a stroller and add yet another piece of luggage to tote around. Instead, try investing in a baby backpack or sling. These are designed to distribute the weight of your child and make carrying easier while leaving your arms free. Slings are also a great way to keep your babies calm in crowded, unfamiliar places. They can snuggle up next to mom or dad and even take a nap.
3. Make a plan for helping kids sleep.
Every parent knows that a quick way to a meltdown is an overtired kid. But trying to sleep in a car or airplane can be uncomfortable, especially with so much activity going on. Plan to have a comfortable space for your child to sleep. If you are heading out on a road trip, keep an inflatable mattress on hand that will fit into your back seat. It’s an easy way to help kids get comfortable and catch some rest in the car.
4. Remember kids need to sleep on airplanes, too.
Obviously, inflatable mattresses aren’t an option for commercial airlines. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. You can still make sure your kids get some good rest even while you’re in the sky. Before your trip, consider investing in a bed box. These handy purchases fit snugly into airplane seats, making it possible for your child to lie down and sleep just as if they were snuggled in their bed at home. There’s even a way to buckle their seatbelt so that they stay safe during the flight.
5. Find ways to locate one another.
One of the most nerve-wracking things about traveling with children is the thought of losing track of one another in a busy public place. There are plenty of precautions you can take. Of course, it’s always important to teach kids to approach authorities when they’re lost and know their parents’ names. But another great way to keep track of one another is to use temporary tattoos. These print on your child’s hand with your name and phone number. They can be especially helpful for children who are very young or who have special needs that might have difficulty asking adults for help if they get lost.
6. Take the pressure off of carrying kids.
If you have a child who is too old for a sling or baby carrier but still too young to walk on their own through a busy airport, there are lots of options for carriers. You can even find one that helps kids sit comfortably on your shoulders without the risk of them toppling off. As a bonus, your child will probably love being high enough to look around.
7. Use a car table for easy entertainment.
Most kids love to color and draw, but that’s not an easy source of entertainment for the car. A car table is a great way to provide kids with a flat, stable surface even while you’re on the road. It fits around their car seat and has plenty of pockets for all the toys or entertainment they need. This table also makes it a little easier to eat in the car, avoiding major messes that usually happen.
8. Bring a shower curtain along.
Do you have kids who prefer wading to swimming or aren’t ready for the ocean? Bring a shower curtain along to make a wading pool at the beach. Just dig a hole in the sand, pop the shower curtain in, and fill it with water. Kids can splash and play without worrying about toys washing away or getting knocked over by waves.
9. Make a plan for pain relief.
Kids can be especially sensitive to ears plugging up from pressure changes on planes. Make sure you plan ahead for this and bring something to help them relax and find some relief. Some people swear by essential oils while others chew gum, use earplugs, or take a decongestant. If you use essential oils, do some research since not all of them are safe for children.
10. If all else fails, make a no-talking barrier.
Let’s face it — having siblings cooped up together in a car for long periods is a recipe for a fight. If your kids are getting grouchy and can’t dial it back, have these handy “quiet” barriers ready. It’ll be a way to help them take a breath and calm down … and hopefully cut back on the cries of, “Mom, he’s looking at me again!”
Traveling with kids isn’t easy. But with these handy hacks, it doesn’t have to be a disaster.
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