Travelling with children can be a large undertaking. Here are a few tips that I have found useful over the past 6 years of holidays with little ones.
Routine: Children like routine. As much as travel can be exciting, it can also be difficult for some. If your children are old enough, talk to them before you leave to know what questions or concerns they may have. If your children are very young and will be sleeping in a play yard for the first time, you may want to let them sleep in it at home for a few nights before you leave. Take extra sheets and sleep sacs with you in case of sickness or a diaper blow out. When you arrive, try to keep the evening routine and environment as consistent as possible. Take your children’s usual bedtime storybooks, pack their nighttime water cups, and let them bring their favorite blankets and stuffed animals along. If your children sleep with white noise or music at home bring that with you or find a white noise app such as Noise Box that you can use instead.
Toiletries: If possible, bring your children’s usual hair and body wash, dental floss, toothpaste, and toothbrush. When packing toiletries think beyond the “everyday” items as well. If space permits, you may wish to bring nail clippers, nasal spray, essentials oils, a diffuser, bug spray, sunscreen, and any medication that you may need.
Food: Snacks are always a great idea for kids. A bento style box allows for a variety of several small snacks or even a meal. If space is limited you can use reusable snack bags such as the ones from Bumkins or Stasher bags. When you arrive at your destination, head to a grocery store to pick up healthy snacks that are ready to eat such as whole grain crackers, almonds, yogurt, Babybel cheese, apples, grapes, baby carrots, baby tomatoes, snap peas, etc. If you don’t have access to a fridge, then investing in a “plugin” cooler is a great idea. We have one that we use in the car and in places, we stay as part of a road trip. If you do invest in one of these, you can do more grocery shopping at home, which saves money if you are heading to a pricey cottage/tourist town. This also provides an option to transport any perishable specialty/allergy friendly items that you need. For efficient grocery shopping, try making up a plan for meals you will be cooking, and think through all the ingredients you will need. Bring any that you can from home and ensure that you can find the rest at a local grocery store. If you are serving meals every day, try making extra every other night to allow for leftovers on some days which makes it feel more like a holiday from everyday routine.
Clothes: To save on the volume of clothes you are packing, see if there are laundry facilities at your destination. If so, plan to do one load of light-colored laundry and one of dark halfway through your holiday. Don’t forget to take a bit of your own laundry detergent so that you use one that you know won’t cause a reaction on your children’s skin. I recommend rolling clothing as this tends to take up less space. If you are travelling to a different climate than the one where you live, think about anything your child may need for that weather: sunhat, bathing suit, winter hat, scarf, mittens, etc.
Road Trip Tips
When preparing for a road trip remember to bring a lot of snacks. I like to either pack a variety of options in a bento box or offer several small containers starting with fresh fruits and veggies that will spoil sooner and then non-perishable items for later in the trip. Also, it’s great to have a list of games and conversations that promote your children looking out the window. This helps to prevent car sickness and keeps their minds distracted from how long the trip is taking. You can ask them to choose a color and set a timer for 5 minutes. Then see how many cars they see in their chosen color before the timer goes off. Another great one is The Alphabet Game in which they find the letters of the alphabet on signs or license plates taking turns from A to Z. Your children will have so much fun that they won’t even realize how much they are learning. Audiobooks from your local library can come in handy as well and allow your child to really use their imagination while listening. If they don’t have any issues with motion sickness then offering books to look at or boogie boards to write or draw on can be wonderful options to help pass the time.
Air Travel Tips
Travelling on a plane is about more than just the actual plane ride. Depending on where you live, you have a road trip first to get to the airport…see above tips to help with that. Then once you are at the airport things will run smoothly if you have planned ahead. Here are 5 tips that have worked well for me:
- Pack all your liquids in small bags together in a larger bag so that you only have to open one bag at security.
- Use a stroller or carrier if possible. If you are travelling with a stroller you can keep your children and small bags in it. A carrier is great for hands-free carrying. Once you are at your gate and are waiting for the flight, try to get your children to move around as much as possible before they have to sit on the plane. Some ideas are to have them stand and watch out the window as the planes land and take off, play Simon Says, or if you are travelling with another adult take turns walking the airport hallways.
- Pack a small bag or backpack for each child as their “personal item”. In each one have an empty water bottle that you can fill once you are through security, snacks, a few small toys, a book to read, and an activity book. These are all useful for any seated waiting times, especially while waiting for take-off.
- Pack a small bag within your luggage with small wrapped toys (from your own toy collection or the dollar store) that you can pull out every 20 minutes or so on the plane. Your child will take a few minutes to open it, then enjoy the novelty of it for a while, and when they become bored with it you can pull another out. If you have several children you can let them take turns opening and playing.
- Be ready for the unexpected. If you are flying with checked luggage, pack one full change of clothing, underwear/diaper/pull up, and socks for each child in a plastic zipper bag or reusable plastic bag in your carry-on bag. This makes for an easy grab if your child has an accident and you have an emergent need to escape to the washroom for a quick change. I would also suggest keeping one pair of pajamas with you in case of unexpected delays. These items will also come in handy if your checked luggage is lost.
Always remember, if things don’t go as planned, it truly is okay. These unplanned times provide opportunities to teach your children about patience, resilience, and problem solving. And last, but not least, you are making memories that will last a lifetime, so remember to take lots of photos! These will capture your special moments to look back on someday!
Noelle is a mom of 6 year old twin boys and a 3 year old son. She is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for nutrition, fitness, and all things related to motherhood. Almost three years ago Noelle started her Instagram feed to give moms ideas of ways to make healthy choices for themselves and their little ones. Now in addition to sharing delicious and healthy recipes she talks about aspects of motherhood. From the early days of breastfeeding to grocery shopping with toddlers to making school lunches and everything in between! motherhoodandmeals.com
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