Planes, trains & automobiles
Most parents will tell you that getting to your destination is half the battle. “The most important thing I tell families is to be prepared,” explains Family Travel Expert Sara Warren, an Ontario-based boy mom whose Instagram account travelswithtots provides great info, product recommendations and videos regarding everything about traveling with kids. Warren’s goal as a travel expert is to make parents’ lives easier and more efficient when they travel. “Your time with your kids is precious and fleeting. Bring them when you travel and make memories that will last forever.” She recommends bringing plenty of snacks in no-spill containers and if flying, to split up everyone’s clothes in more than one bag in case of any luggage mishaps. Lauryn L., a Video Editor and mom of two girls from the Baltimore area, suggests introducing the element of surprise. “I pack a backpack for each girl, and they can’t open it until we are in the car or on the plane. Usually it contains some new art supplies, books and some special occasion junk food snacks. The girls get so excited to open their surprise bags and it keeps them occupied for a long time.” When flying, she also recommends “getting to know the people sitting around you and killing them with kindness.” This is especially helpful if your kids tend to make multiple bathroom trips or you are with a fussy baby. “In my experience, most people have been there before and understand, but it doesn’t hurt to try to be extra polite.” When it comes to long car rides, being prepared for car sickness is key, especially if your kids have struggled in the past. “My kids and husband laugh, but I have a “fall-out bag”, explains Jenny B., a photographer, teacher and mom of 2 boys (and one more on the way). “It contains medical grade vomit bags, bottles of Gatorade, deodorizer, a full set of wipes, hand sanitizer, small disinfectant spray, changes of clothes with a few resealable bags for soiled clothes, and a wee wee pad to put under the kids when they are sick so it saves the car seat and floor.” This is preparation to the max and simply genius.
Be organized. Be organized. Be organized.
From packing to plane to pulling up to the hotel, organization and preparation is everything. Warren suggests making a master checklist at least a week before you actually pack. This eliminates running to multiple stores the night before you leave trying to find a travel stroller, portable charger or kid-friendly headphones while scrambling to pack 3 suitcases. She also advises crossing off items from your list as you go to avoid overpacking. Jenny B. counts on resealable bags to keep her family organized. “I have designated ones for snacks, changes of clothes, electronics and for essentials like tissues, wipes, band-aids and children’s pain-reliever. The fact that the bags are clear makes it easy to access what I need in a pinch.” For Lauryn L., being over-prepared, eliminates lots of stress, “I always found it worth it to pay for extra luggage than try and fit it all in a carry-on.” She laughs then adds, “One bag? Impossible!”
Creativity is king
Banishing boredom in the car, hotel room or at another family dinner can be kept at bay with some simple creativity. Naturally, long flights and lengthy dinners are hard for many younger kids to sit through and sometimes electronic devices run out of battery or just won’t cut it. “I save plastic Easter eggs and fill them with toys like the girl’s tiny figures, some stickers and even candy,” explains Lauryn L., “they love opening up the “surprise” eggs and the contents inside keep them occupied for nice stretches of time.” Jenny B. is a big fan of classic family car games like “I Spy” or the license plate game. “These are great for secretly teaching them about imagery and geography and it gets the whole family talking, not lost in their devices,” she explains. Both moms also make sure to have blank paper and crayons on hand at all times. In lieu of paper, “paper menus make great canvases,” Jenny adds.
Reality vs. fantasy
First and foremost, before you set off on your trip, it is important to have realistic expectations. Sara Warren offers poignant words of advice, “Do not expect to have the kind of vacation you have without your kids with them.” This will only lead to disappointment and frustration. Expect that there will be hiccups, bumps and the occasional meltdown, especially when traveling with younger children. By staying organized and calm and keeping a sense of humor, most of these tough moments can be diffused. Lauryn L. tries hard to look at the big picture, “If 75% of my trip goes without a hitch, then I consider it a win. Almost all the time, when I look back at my pictures or pull up the memories, I only remember the good stuff.” The ability to travel with your kids, getting them excited about exploring their world is a gift for everyone involved. Go ahead and get going.