52 Tips for Traveling with Children
The key to enjoying the journey to your destination as well as the vacation is planning. Use these imaginative and interesting options to keep your little one busy and content during your travels, so the entire trip from start to finish is one you will all remember fondly. Happy travels!
1. Once the family trip has been planned, choose a bag that can fit under the seat in a plane, train, or on floor of the car. When deciding what to pack in the travel bag, remember you know your child best.
2. If your child has projects he/she spends extended periods of time on at home and it is easy to pack you should bring it as well as several other items.
3. Pack the bag without your child’s help, so that every item in the bag will be a fun new experience when presented to your child. The parents travel bag, should be a well thought out tool to be used to entertain your child for long periods of time. Don’t go overboard on any one item, variety is the key to keeping a child amused.
4. If your child is old enough, let him pack an additional small backpack to bring on the trip; he can choose his own special items for this bag.
5. Once you have pulled away from your driveway or have found your seats on the airplane keep the bag zipped! Do not pull one item out of the travel bag until it is needed. If you have worked through the whole bag before the plane takes off or you have reached the entrance for the freeway, you might have a very long trip ahead of you.
6. Let the excitement of the trip entertain your children for as long as possible. Talking about what is to come, where you are going, who you will visit and what you will do when you arrive can be a wonderfully reassuring experience for children.
7. When it is time to start bringing out the different items from your travel bag, choose one at a time. Let the child play with each particular item for as long as they are willing and don’t pull out more items if the child is content.
8. Library Books. New books are always fun for children of all ages, but can be quite expensive, so take advantage of your local library and pick up a stack of 10 or 15 books.
Children will enjoy looking through the books several times. Choose books that are small and softbound to keep your bag light. Most libraries allow you to check out books for three weeks.
9. Art Project. Fill a shallow box, a sealable plastic bag or zipper pack with paper clips, index cards, stickers, hole punch, dots, markers, pens, crayons, pencils, scissors (check airline regulations), tape, glue stick, pencil sharpener and post it notes.
Add a few pads of paper or a clipboard with paper. It is creativity in a box…..just wait for their imagination to flow. For extra fun, choose a marker, pencil or crayon they haven’t used before.
10. Beading. A bag of beads and buttons with string or pipe cleaners is a fun project. Pipe cleaners are easier for younger hands to handle. Choose beads and buttons with appropriate size holes based on your child’s age and patience level.
11. Doodle Pad or Etch-a-sketch. Both come in a small travel size. They are simple, fun and easy to pack.
12. Stamps and Pad. Choose a theme like dinosaurs, flowers or insects. Bring a plastic bag to store stamps after use, so the ink does not mark up your bag or other items.
13. Grab Bag. Bag with odd items such as: clothes pins, pipe cleaners, string, buttons, paper clips, and any other interesting items. A mix of different objects is fun and fascinating for children. A lot of these items move and can be clipped together.
14. Music w/headphones. Choose a few fun music cd’s and a few relaxing cd’s. Music is a wonderful option for passing time.
15. Books on Tape. For those old enough a few books on tape can occupy their imagination for who knows how long!
16. Games. I Spy a cow. I spy a cloud. This is a fun game that keeps children’s attention. It is fun to find all the new and different objects on a plane or who can “spy” objects first while driving.
17. Clay. Molding clay is an entertaining item. It comes in several colors and is easier to store than playdough and keeps it shape better. It needs to be warmed up by holding it, before it is easily pliable. Bring a plastic sealable bag for storage after use.
18. Food. Special snacks, favorite foods or anything new and different. Fill several re-sealable bags with foods that will not spoil such as pretzels, crackers, nuts, seeds, granola bars, etc. Bring several drinks and even a few treats. Fruit sweetened lollipops, jelly beans or fruit leathers are all fun foods that are great to keep in a zipped pocket of the bag for a special treat.
19. Take a Break. If you’re traveling by car, plan to stop at a park or rest stop for lunch. Take a blanket and plan for a picnic lunch. Take a ball or Frisbee; let the kids run around. If there are two adults on the trip, take turns sitting in the backseat; a perfect time to play I Spy!
20. If traveling by plane make a point of getting up every now and then to walk up and down the aisle. Long trips by plane can be confining for a child. A quick lap or two around the plane will break up the flight and give your child a chance to stretch his legs.
21. Time Zone Changes. If traveling to a different time zone do your best to assure some sleep on the plane. Once you have arrived at your destination, if it is early enough at the current local time, let your child nap if they need to.
The most important way for your child as well as the whole family to adjust to the new time zone is to wait to fall asleep for the night until at least 7pm local time. Don’t give in to sleeping at 4pm, because chances are you will all be up at 2am to start your day, and this will prolong adjusting to the new time.
This can be tricky with little ones, so expect that it will take a few days for them to adjust their sleeping patterns completely.
22. Additional Helpful Items for Travel Bag: Wipes, no matter what age your children are these always come in handy. Calms Forte by Hylands or Calming herbs such as Quiet Time by WishGarden (to help relax or calm children naturally) Extra set of clothes for children Diapers, pull-ups or extra underwear and Extra re-sealable plastic bags
23. Essential Items to Pack: Wipes, Sunscreen, Band-Aids, and first aid ointment, Medicine or Homeopathy for the common cold, flu, diarrhea
Umbrella Stroller (or small stroller), Car Seat (unless renting one with rental car), Backpack, sling or baby carrier if child is small enough
Hat, Insect Repellant, Extra books and pads of paper
24. If traveling to far-off destinations, a few extra snacks are helpful to have on hand.
25. Gum. Sounds simple but it is great for their ears on airplanes and if your kids are the right age, it is also a really big deal!
26. Lollipops. Most health food stores have vitamin C lollipops. Taste good to kids and offers a boost to their immune system.
Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.