10 Tips for Traveling with Kids

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Summer is upon us! Yahooooo! Life slows down a bit for our family and it is a welcome change from the chaotic school year schedule.

Summer in our house also means traveling with our kids to see family, friends and new places.

Traveling with kids can be exhausting for children and parents alike. We all need an extra dose of patience!

When our kids were under five years old, traveling with them was hard. No doubt about it. They had short attention spans and couldn’t sit still for very long. Plus who wants to face the rear seat in a restrictive car seat for hours?

Our boys are in elementary school now and although it is easier to travel with them due to their longer attention spans, it is more difficult to plan travel due to school schedules.

My advice? Don’t wait until they are ‘old enough to remember’ to travel. If you have the time and energy, do it now! Traveling opens your child’s mind to a whole new world.

Here are a few tricks we’ve used over the years to make traveling easier on us all. Some of the tips are best for older kids, but many of them can be used with any age:

10 Tips for Traveling with Kids

1. Bring new (to them) books

Find old books at your house that your kids haven’t seen in awhile. Or go to your local library and check out some books.

Kids love to be read to and since you have more time than usual when traveling in a car or plane, linger on each page and talk about what your child sees in the picture. If they are old enough to talk, ask them what they like most about each picture. This can spark a whole different conversation!

2. Pack a surprise bag

Kids love to be surprised. We’ll find old toys that have been forgotten about or go to the dollar section at our local store and buy a few new gadgets or toys. We’ve found buying a few new items to add to the existing ones goes a long way in keeping their attention.

Take these items out one-by-one for them to use. We would take out a new gadget once every 45 min to an hour. Don’t give them the whole goody bag at once. You want to streeeeetch out your surprises for as long as possible!

3. Take healthy snacks

Who doesn’t love food? Have plenty of snacks on-hand. Preferably snacks that aren’t too messy, require a lot of clean up and aren’t full of sugar.

Dry cereal, fruit, cut-up veggies, graham crackers, goldfish, squeezable applesauce, granola bars, trail mix, bagels and string cheese work well.

4. Let them help pack

We let the kids help pack what goes in their rucksacks for travel, but we get final say. They each get their own small bag to fill. Be careful to monitor what goes into the bags though. One of our sons packed so many heavy books he could hardly carry the bag! We ask them to put a variety of items in the bag.

5. Pack activity books

We’ve taken coloring books, activity books, word searches, notebooks, colors, markers, etc. on our travels. It’s been easier for each child to take their own baggie of colors and markers otherwise they have to pass them back and forth and they are bound to get lost in the seats.

The kids recently got Boogie Boards and they are a great gadget for travel. A Boogie Board is a small, eWriter tablet that lets kids draw and then with a push of a button erases it all. It eliminates the need for paper, pens or pencils. They love to play Hang-man and make mazes for each other.

6. Check out a Playaway from your local library

If you haven’t heard of a Playaway, then let me educate you! The boys and I discovered these treasures a few years ago and they are our go-to’s for travel.

A Playaway is a pre-recorded audiobook about the size of a deck of playing cards. You plug your own set of headphones into the Playaway and, voila, you have an audiobook the kids can listen to on their own. Since each child can choose their own stories, no one needs to fight over what story they want to hear. Plus it can store up to 80 hours of audio which means they’ll be occupied for hours!

7. Play car games

Get the whole family involved with good ‘ol fashioned car games. A few of our favorites include:

  • I Spy
  • Alphabet Game
  • Find all 50 states on license plates
  • 20 Questions

8. Let them use age-appropriate technology

We try to limit the amount of screen time for our kids day-to-day, but on trips they get more screen time than usual. We bring along plenty of movies for the DVD player in our car or they can watch movies on a laptop or iPad.

They are several educational apps to practice math or reading…or let them play a few mindless games.  

9. Take your time

Plan on it taking longer to get to your destination if traveling by car with kids. There will be more pit stops and if you plan for this upfront, it’ll mean less stress for everyone. Kids love to explore and what a better time than on a road trip!

10. Wipes. Lots of wipes.

Need I say more? Kids are messy. Pack wipes, hand sanitizer or a rag. I’ll often put a dry rag in a baggie and then use a little water on it when the need arises. Which it does every time!

Also pack an extra set of clothes if you are traveling by plane. If your child spills on themselves, they won’t want to sit in wet clothes. You’ll all be happier if you pack an extra set for the plan ride.

The key to traveling with kids is to lower your expectations, bring an extra dose of patience and pack a sense of humor! After all, our kids won’t want to travel with us forever. Enjoy this time together!

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