With a couple trips coming up this year, I’m already thinking ahead to the endless list of possibilities that traveling with kids can bring. I’m going to recruit your knowledge as well… now that the holiday season has come to an end I want to hear all about your travel stories! We could all learn from them.
I’m going to open by posing the question, what makes traveling with kids so tough?
From my experience and all of the blogging, web surfing, contemplating, and traveling I’ve done, there are some conclusions I’ve drawn. Travel with kids is going to be tougher than traveling alone, no doubt about it! But it doesn’t have to mean all the stress and exhaustion some people say. It’s not all about bribing them to keep quiet, wearing them out, and fighting them to sleep! Traveling with kids can be magical and exciting for everyone! You get to see the world (even the rest areas, which become cool nature hikes) through the eyes of your little one!
I’ve been on 2-day car trips with a 4-month-old, driven 14 hours alone with my newborn and 17 month old, flown to the coast a few times with those same kids… all by myself. There were moments when I prayed for help, and the only help I got, more than once, was both kids crying themselves to sleep in our hotel room. But sleep is an answered prayer in my book! There were also way more moments when I saw magic in sights I’ve seen a hundred times; my children turned it into something new for me! It won’t all be butterflies and rainbows but it doesn’t have to be hell, either.
I’ve come up with some guidelines that have helped me in traveling with my kids.
- Being rigid with your time is NOT smart traveling. Make sure you have plenty of time getting to the airport, bus station, etc. Your kids will not appreciate or enjoy you telling them 700 times to hurry up! (And neither will the people around you). There will always be a diaper emergency, wet pants, and a breastfeeding break when you least want it. That happens at home for us, so why wouldn’t it happen on the road? (Or in the middle of SLC airport right before you get on the monorail!).
- Adaptation is success. Adapt to a new schedule, change of plans, 4 diaper changes, and possibly the smell of apple juice on your favorite shirt. If you are with your spouse, you may have to let him stay with the kids while you take a hike or enjoy an activity, and vice versa. I always give my kids a heads up of our plans for the day so they know the schedule, but if deviation occurs, then so be it!
- Travel with leak proof cups! I don’t even need to say why. Just do it.
- Snacks will save you. Even if the kids aren’t hungry, snacks can distract. You may be the mom the flight attendants remember because you brought Cheerios for your 11-month-old to crush, mush, and throw in your seat and in everyone’s’ seats around you, but Cheerios are so diverting! Raisins, fruit leathers, cheese sticks are great travel snacks. They aren’t too messy and they take kids a little while to eat. When I travel airlines with the kids, I bring some good Montana caramels to leave on the seats for the mess I made and a thank you for the 3 cups of apple juice my kids drank on the flight. I give a couple to all the wonderful people who compliment my parenting, help with our luggage, and offer encouragement and praise instead of snarls and criticisms that I brought my kids out of my house with me… This isn’t necessary for every mom, but I want to change people’s perspectives about traveling with kids. We don’t do it to inconvenience people. It’s just part of my master plan to show my kids the whole world.
- Find toys along the way. We always travel with the tablet, my smart phone, and coloring basics. But that’s usually it. We proceed to make toys out of stuff we find along the way. We stuff trash into a plastic water bottle and see how well it shakes or see how full it gets… We sing every song about spiders, Johnny Appleseed, the Alphabet and then we make some up! Check out Pinterest for some fun travel ideas!
- The right gear…The only things I travel with are lots of clothes, snacks, a stroller or backpack to carry the wee ones (back pack is best in my experience), water/juice, and an easy location for all the paperwork! Being able to reach your license and tickets while flying or having your directions and itinerary close at hand are lifesaving.
Without sounding rude, traveling well with kids is a lot about parenting and less about all the right gear, using bribery, or waterfalls of tears. Keeping a bright perspective, being flexible, and allowing your kids to explore with in boundaries will make the trip exciting and memorable for them. Setting boundaries about public behavior, discipline, and attitudes BEFORE HAND will make the trip better for you!
Traveling for me as a kid was always memorable and I attribute that to the way my parents made it magical for me.
Love you and thank you for wanting to share the world with your kids! They are very lucky kids!