Traveling with kids is no mean feat.
But you dived anyway.
But after celebrating you’re being courageous, we have to face reality. If you want to have a fun trip with the family, you better plan ahead. Easier said than done. But we’ve got you covered. Here are the seven commandments of travel preparation with children.
1. Leave Plenty Of Time
Spontaneous travel is only fun for friends, couples, and singles. For families? Not so much!
The number of things you must do is near-endless – from sorting important documents, taking the family to a travel doctor, briefing kids on what will happen during the trip, to researching destinations and activities so the itinerary suits everyone.
Plus plenty more in between!
So if you want to take the kids and everyone else to new places, make sure you have plenty of time to prepare.
Planning weeks or even months (if you’re going overseas) ahead of the target date also means you don’t have to rush. This way, you’re less likely to make mistakes.
2. Involve The Little Tots
You don’t have to take on the task of preparing for the trip alone.
Why not get all hands on deck!?
Getting the children involved will not only build up anticipation and excitement. But it can also teach them valuable life skills.
Here are some suggestions:
- Have kids listen to your travel planning process. Speak out loud as you decide where to eat or stay and which route to take. Relaying your thinking process helps kids understand how to use filters when making decisions.
- Have family members research the destination and pick three activities they’d like to do. When creating an itinerary, choose one from each person’s list. Doing so is a good way to teach kids about prioritization, and not everything they want can fit into the trip.
- Encourage kids to save up for souvenirs. The kids learn a bit more about money and frugality, while your wallet gets a bit of breathing room. A win-win!
3. Bring The Car Seat
We want the entire family to have an awesome time traveling. But more than anything, we want everyone to stay safe and unharmed, especially the little ones.
So I have a simple rule:
If we can’t bring the car seat, we don’t go.
The best models have safety and security features that are too good to pass up – from 5-point safety harnesses, thicker head, and side padding, with straps that reduce impact. Not to mention every car seat in the market have undergone rigorous tests and passed federal safety standards.
On the road, car safety seats can reduce fatal injuries during an accident by:
- 71% for infants
- 54% for toddlers ages one to four
- 45% for children ages four to eight
“But even FAA-approved car seats won’t help during a plane crash, would they?”
But a crash isn’t your only safety concern when on an airplane. Turbulence, aborted takeoffs, and ground collisions can fling even an adult forward. Imagine what such incidents can do to an unrestrained little child.
One last reminder:
Make sure the car seat isn’t too old. If the unit is rusty or has lost some parts, don’t take second chances and get a new one.
4. Bring A Tablet Or An iPad
The argument for leaving toys behind are many.
For starters, toys may get lost or broken during the trip. And the next thing you know? Your child is weeping and screaming. If you have more than one kid, you can bet that they’ll fight over playthings. Now you have, not one, but two tearful children yelling at each other!
The most compelling perhaps:
Toys also use a lot of space.
And if you’re traveling with a big family, maximizing every inch is in your best interests. Exceptions exist of course. Sure, bring a drawing book and half-a-dozen colored markers. But Teddy has to stay home!
The most space-efficient alternative, however, is to bring an iPad or a tablet.
Whether your child wants to:
- Color their favorite cartoon characters
- Create works of art with everyday objects
- Pretend-play as a farmer
- Run through a temple
- Or learn to handwrite new words, and math
You can bet “there’s an app for that.”
Hours of tablet gaming and watching might be alright when traveling, but not at home. If you limit screen time at home (like I do), tell the kids the lifting of the limit is only temporary – just to set their expectations.
5. Learn Some Space-Saving Folding Hacks
We touched upon the importance of space efficiency earlier. Now let’s take things a step further and look into a handful of folding and packing hacks.
Let’s start with packing for the grown-ups:
- Cotton tops and shirts – Cotton is a wrinkle-resistant fabric. Meaning you can roll them instead of folding, saving more space.
- Jeans – Condense them as much as you can by folding lengthwise four times.
- Shoes – Three should do: a sandal, a sneaker, and an evening shoe. Use the space inside the shoes by stuffing them with electronics, chargers, and sunglasses.
- Socks – Take up as little space as possible by “army folding” them, rolling pairs into a dumpling. Or, you can fold them four times to prevent the cuff from overstretching.
- Liquids – If you need to bring lotion, shampoo, or sunscreen, store them in small empty bottles (fill each to ¾) instead of carrying the entire bottle.
For your baby’s stuff, put small playthings into empty sippy cups and bottles. Pack diapers into waterproof ziplock bags. Pick the clothes (pants, tops, and socks), arrange them into outfits, and roll them. And voila! You still have space for a few more items.
6. Dress For Comfort Not Style
The airport isn’t the place to showcase your Burberry trench coat. Security will ask you to remove them anyway.
If you need to bring big coats, pack them in your checked luggage – so you and the kids have one less layer of clothing to worry about.
Lace-up shoes and boots must also go into the check-in bag. Like bulky coats and jackets, you will have to remove them during screening. So stick to footwear that’s easy to slide on and off.
The same advice goes for:
- Belt – You will have to unbuckle it and run it through the scanner.
- Jewelry – A few pieces might be OK, but none is almost always the best.
- Anything metal – Trigger the metal detector, and a pat-down is almost sure to follow.
But do wear socks.
Not only will they keep the feet warm. Socks also help keep those toes germ-free when boarding.
7. And Don’t Forget The Milk And Juice
Formula and breast milk, as well as juice, are now exempt from TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule, and moms don’t need to fly with their child to bring milk in carry-on bags.
Of course, you should only bring as much milk as your little one will need during the flight. But so long as the quantity is reasonable, you need not worry.
You will need to separate milk and juice from other liquids you’re carrying, including those covered by TSA’s restrictions. Also, let the security personnel know what you’re taking on board when you get to the checkpoint.
And while they’re exempt from the 3-1-1 rule, milk and juice still have to go through additional screening via the x-ray machine.
Candice Whitlock is the mom and blogger behind BabyLic, a blog that reviews and curates the best products and resources for babies and their families.