We’re leaving today for Florida – our annual spring break trip to Grandma & Grandpa’s. Excited to see our family and friends for a few days! We love to travel, so when the kids showed up we decided to just pack them up and bring them along, easy-peasy. And it was. Our boys have been in airports since they were each 8 weeks old. They know how to get through the security line like pro’s. They know not to kick the seats in front of them on planes and they know how to pop their ears when landing. They’re excellent little travelers and we look forward to many more adventures with them.
I know traveling with kids can be anxiety ridden for parents. I’m often asked about car seats, snacks, or distractions for them and here’s what I have to say about it. First of all, this goes back to parenting without fear: don’t be afraid to travel with your children. You’ve paid for your tickets, you have the same (non) benefits the rest of us do on that plane/train/bus/boat/whatever. You have to pay for your extra baggage too! (But your car seat flies free).
- Speaking of car seats: we never took our actual seat on the plane for the boys. I held them in my lap (to save the money) until they were about 18 months old – then they were too squirmy and heavy to sit on me for extended periods of time. Once they were old enough to have their own seats, we just put them in there, my kids can fall asleep anywhere in any position so they didn’t need the seat for familiarity or restraint. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take yours on the plane, if it works for you then by all means to it. It was just easier for us to not have to lug it around the airport – you can also chalk that up to being lazy about it too.
- Snacks: yes, you should pack snacks – my kids are older now so they get to make their own snack bags for their trips. Today they have chips, granola bars, cookies, fruit chews and apple sauce. I also bring their empty water bottles and fill them at the convenient filling stations in the airport. Snacks are a good distraction and you can parse them out to make them last the entire trip.
- Screens/Games: we bring iPads, loaded up with games and movies and let them go to town. They have headphones and rarely make a sound if they’re interested in the content. We also bring small action figures, cars, and travel checkers to keep them amused. Whatever works!
- Ear popping: so if you’re traveling with an infant, what worked for me was to have a bottle or pacifier handy during take off and landing. I don’t know if it scientifically works, but I would give it to him at takeoff and upon landing because I read somewhere that the sucking motion helps with the ear popping. My kids never had a problem with it, so I guess it worked. These days they chew gum or fake yawn and it seems to help.
- Books: we bring an assortment of books for them to read or color in. Activity books are fun and keep them interested for a good amount of time – my kids play tick tack toe and little games like that to pass the time.
- Sleep: for some reason, my boys (including my husband) can sleep anywhere – so a lot of the time, they just crash on the plane and are only awake for a small part of the trip…me on the other hand, I have a hard time sleeping in general, so I can be found fake sleeping or reading. Mostly reading on flights.
- Strollers: I’m a big fan of having the travel stroller on trips especially if they’re under 3 years old. I rolled mine right up to the gate and checked it there. It was great! An extra pair of hands really – a container for kids and all the crap – I miss the stroller on trips these days!
That’s it – that’s all I can think of as far as gear goes. Make sure you leave enough time to get through the lines if you’re going on a heavily trafficked day, this way you can camp out at the gate comfortably. Don’t worry if your kid is bothering other people, I’ve been traveling with kids for over 10 years and no one has ever had a mean word to say about it, even when they’re jumping from chair to chair in the waiting areas. Try to keep them as contained to your area as possible and you’ll be fine. Kids follow your lead so if you’re anxious and nervous they will be too – so try to keep it together even if you’re freaking out on the inside, it’ll make it easier in the long run. And finally, we always give the kids our timeline of the day and remind them at each leg what’s going to happen next, this way they feel like they know what’s up and are ready for the next step – prepare them for what’s coming so they don’t melt down at some point.
Enjoy it!! In a few years they’re gonna to want to travel without us and then what will we do?! Happy traveling to you wherever you’re heading!