We travel, a lot, and I mean a whole lot. Over the years we have come up with some tried and true tips for traveling with kids. I’m not saying I have all the answers, but I do have a lot of experience. I hope you will find something great to try on this list.
I have three grown children and three grandchildren, which doesn’t make me an expert on parenting, but it has provided me with some ideas about traveling with children. When my kids were young, we moved every three to nine months because of my husband’s job, sometimes by car and sometimes by plane, depending on where we were moving. We have lived in several countries and a lot of the States and of course, we’ve been on vacations to other areas. It’s been fun.
We have traveled by car, plane, boat and train, but the secret to happy kids is the same no matter what. Get them involved and keep them busy. Oh, and lots of snacks. Here are some ideas that I have used for my kids. Hopefully you can find a few that will help you survive.
If you are visiting or moving to a new place, let the kids help you decide what you will do and see when you get there. There are loads of travel books in the library and bookstores. There are also thousands of websites detailing every corner of the earth. I personally like the Lonely Planet books better than the websites. Plus, then you can write notes and take the books with you. I have a big box of them.
Visiting another country? Please, please, please educate your kids ahead of time about the culture you are going to experience. You really don’t want to offend someone. For example, in Estonia it is considered rude to show the bottom of your feet or shoes to someone. In some cultures you only shake hands with your right hand. If you’re visiting a palace in some countries you can’t go in certain areas of the grounds. (Yes, we know this first hand. They will chase you down.)
Be sure to have lots of snacks, but not ones filled with sugar. Also, nothing too sticky. Some of our favorites are grapes, cheese sticks, carrot sticks, celery sticks, jerky, crackers, pretzels, Chex Mix, nuts (if your kids are a little older), raisins and animal crackers (not the frosted ones).
Ensure everyone has enough water to drink. For some reason traveling is dehydrating. This may or may not be a scientific fact, but it is my observation. Keep sugar drinks to a minimum. You don’t need them bouncing off the walls.
Take breaks to stretch your legs and let the kids run out some of their energy. If you are traveling by car, you could take a picnic lunch and stop at a park. Then the kids can be fed something good for them and run around in the same stop.
This might seem odd, but believe me, it’s a good idea. Take a roll of toilet paper in your car. You never know when you won’t be able to find a bathroom and have a kid that can’t wait. (Yes, this has happened to us before.)
Make sure you have wipes, lots of wipes. A roll of paper towels if you’re traveling by car is a good idea too. With the possible bathroom break and all of the snacks, you will use them.
Here’s a story about the paper towels for you. It’s a good one, so don’t skip it. When my youngest daughter was 3 years old, we were driving from Quebec, Canada to Idaho. If you Map quest it, that is a 42 hour drive. We were pulling a trailer, so it was a little longer. One of the days we were traveling, we were driving through Nebraska. Well, it happened to be football season and we couldn’t find a hotel for miles and miles. The people of Nebraska are serious football fans. I mean it, we ended up being in the car for 18 hours that day. It was terrible. Well, my then three year old daughter was coming unglued. We just couldn’t console her. I handed her a paper towel to wipe her nose with and she proceeded to tear that paper towel up into probably 5000 tiny pieces. We handed her another one and she did it again. I guess the repetition was calming to her. We had quite the mess, but we really didn’t care at that point.
When traveling by car for more than one day, try to stop at a hotel with a pool at night. Then you can let your kids get some of their energy out before you need them to sleep. Plus, it’s fun for them.
Have a lot of activities that your kids like to keep them occupied. We had magnetic boards with pieces that went with them, like cars, animals and dolls. It’s a great time for them to practice their reading, so be sure they bring books. Coloring books and colored pencils are a great time filler. Don’t bring crayons, they melt in the car. Towards the end of our moving around they came out with the portable DVD players with screens to watch movies. Those are a great thing. Hand held video games are good. Books on tape can be fun. Talking in the car is great too. You have a captive audience. Find out what they like or want to be when they grow up or see if they can think of a topic.
If you have a particularly long trip, before the trip go to the dollar store and buy a bunch of things your kids will like, such a cars, army men, dinosaurs, dolls, books, pencils, or treats. Then wrap them individually in wrapping paper. When the kids start to get restless, give them a present to unwrap. You don’t have to have one an hour, but several works great. Then they have something new to occupy themselves.
When traveling by plane, be sure to take an extra set of clothes for each child in your carry-on. You never know when someone will get sick, spill something on their self or have an accident.
When you’re packing the luggage, put one set of clothes for each person in each piece of luggage so if a bag is lost, one person isn’t out all of their clothes. When we moved to Estonia, somehow my bags went to Paris and Belgium. Luckily I had packed so that no one was completely without clothes because it took a few days for the bags to find me. I have to admit, I was a little envious of those bags.
If you are traveling by plane, your kid’s ears will hurt during take off and landing. It’s the pressure of the air that does it. Have a little one? Give her a bottle, pacifier or nurse her during take off and landing. If the kids are a little older, chewing gum or a gummy fruit snack will do the trick of keeping their ears unplugged. It’s painful for them, so help them avoid it.
What About You
Take your kids where ever you can. They really need to see the world and experience other cultures, even in their own country. It makes them more empathetic towards other people and gives them a broader outlook on the world. This is so important at this time in history.
Do you travel with your kids? What are some of your tried and true tips for traveling with kids?
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