Traveling with Kids

22 Jun

All summer long, parents will be traveling with their kids.  Automotive or air travel can bring a family closer together and be a really positive, fun experience with kids, or it can be a complete and total drag (we’ve all been trapped somewhere with a screaming kid at some point- NOT fun!)

Every year, our family takes a road trip to the coast, which entails being in a car upwards of twelve hours (with plenty of breaks along the way!)  On the trip this year, I turned around and flew with my youngest to Austin for a 24-hour period to watch my Godson complete his First Communion.  Overall, it was a very pleasant experience and I’ll tell you what worked for me.

Any travel takes planning.  The more I plan, the more I feel prepared.  This time around I made a ton of lists (I know, I know, I’ve already broken one of my resolutions for the new year, but I just didn’t see any way around it).  I made lists for what I needed to do to prepare for the trip as well as a running list of what I needed to pack as well and what would need to be purchased.

I organized the way the car was loaded.  I made sure the kids had snacks and drinks that were accessible to them at all times.  For the older two kids, I filled baskets with things to keep them busy on the long trip.  For my 5 year old, I packed activity books with markers, sticker books (Usborne makes some awesome ones), regular books for reading, her school work, an MP3 player with headphones, and a book of mazes.  For my three- year old, I packed tons of little trinkets she could play with (a mini lunch box filled with dinosaur figurines, mermaids, etc,), a mini etch a sketch, dry erase activity books, lift the flap books, and a TAG pen with books (and ear buds to attach).  For the baby, I loaded the seat back pocket nearest him with baby toys, a scarf, touch and feel books, etc.

When the going got tough and I needed some quiet time, I would pop in a DVD movie.  (In fact, a friend of mine very generously loaned me a complete system that attaches to the backs of the headrests).  It was a life saver on the way home!

I also purchased a few decks from Usborne books, one of which is called 50 Travel Games and Activities.  The kids enjoyed taking turns drawing from that deck and playing new games together as a family.

As far as traveling with my youngest (11 months), I had to get creative at times.  He had a blast for almost an hour playing with an empty water bottle!  When we were at the airport, I made sure he walked/crawled around as much as possible before we would get on the plane.  I packed a carry on with a small inflatable ball, which I blew up while waiting in the terminal, and we would literally play “fetch” with it.  I packed lots of clean healthy snacks (like dried fruit) in the no spill snack cups that he could reach in and help feed himself with.  I made sure he had a sippy cup with water in it (just in case), but he ended up nursing both times on take off and landing, so we did not end up having any trouble with his ears popping.

On the actual plane, I used the mystery box toy Jen had made.  It completely entertained him for an hour.  He would pull one toy out; discover it for a few minutes, then move on to something else.  There was a scarf inside, which was a big hit too, because we could play peek a boo and hide the other toys with it as well.  Because I had worn him out so well in the terminal, he slept the entire leg of one flight.

In the carry on I also had lift the flap & touch and feel books, as well as a travel pouch of tissues (I figured if I got really desperate, I would let him pull them out one by one and/or tear them to shreds), a glowing spinny toy we got at the circus, a Cheerios board book (it’s really cute- there are cut outs in the book where you put actual Cheerios and the baby can eat them while you read) and a few baby toys he hadn’t seen in a long time.  (I tried to think ahead and put away things he really liked for about a month before we traveled, so he’d be really excited to see them).

In the past, I have exchanged books and toys with friends of mine (meaning I would lend them things to take on their trip that would be “new” to their kids and they have done the same for me).  That’s nice because then you don’t have to go out and buy anything and typically other moms have a ton of things that your kids love to play with.  Jen also has a really cool Hang Man puzzle by Melissa and Doug whereby the letters and hangman pieces are tethered to the board with bands.  It would be great for road trips.  I’ll be looking for one in the near future!

Feel free to share what works for you!

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