How to Travel with Your Kids (And Make It Home in One Piece)

As a parent, it can be frustrating planning a vacation or trip out of town while keeping your kid’s needs in mind. After all, sometimes the never-ending job of parenting seems like the thing we need a vacation from the most! But the fact of the matter is that traveling is often a family affair, with the kids along for the ride. Keeping your children occupied and happy will keep them out of your hair so you can get through the hassles of traveling and enjoy some much-needed relaxation time.  Here are five ways you can plan your trip to minimize whining, keep your children safe, and get home alive.

Be Prepared for Snack Attacks

Children don’t operate on the same dietary schedule as us grown folks, so you should be prepared for them to feel suddenly famished even if lunch was half an hour ago. Bringing healthy snacks helps keep kids from getting too restless or grumpy, and keeps the experience of traveling exciting without sacrificing the comforts of home. Just watch out for sugars and caffeine, as these could have your children bouncing off the walls. And sealed is ideal: make sure you have kid-proof containers for food and beverage, or you could end up with a mess on your hands.

Keep Their Hands Full

You know what they say about idle hands? Well, that old adage applies twofold for traveling with children. Older kids can sometimes get lost in a book, but younger children need visually and tactically stimulating toys to keep them quiet and occupied, or they’ll find their own distractions and you’d rather have your child playing with a stuffed pony than a stranger’s ponytail. Make sure you opt for toys without too many different parts, so nothing gets left behind, and definitely don’t pick anything that’s loud or flashy. If it’s in your budget, mounted television screens in a car can keep many kids quiet for the length of a movie or television episode. Pair that with headphones, and you won’t have to hear the dialogue from “Frozen” for the umpteenth time.

Sleep Is Key

Nothing sounds better to an exhausted parent’s ears than a chorus of snores emanating from the back of a minivan. Similarly, a sleeping baby on a plane is far preferable to a screaming one. Letting your kids sleep while traveling decreases the risk of them acting up and gives you some much-needed peace and quiet plus they won’t be irritable and overtired once you reach your destination. Playing relaxing music and having pillows in place can speed up the process. Once they’re out cold, keep the volume low and let them rest, and if you’re not driving (and you dare,) get some shut-eye yourself.

Set Expectations

Especially with young children, we can’t assume common sense will cover the basics of traveling. That’s why it’s worth it to take time before departing to let your kids know what they should expect, and how you expect them to behave. Body basics, like keeping your hands to yourself and talking at an appropriate volume, become much more important in situations like a cramped airplane or bus. And rules about sticking together are especially important in unfamiliar cities or crowded theme parks. Before traveling, take a moment to brief your children on how you expect them to behave in the car, on the plane, or at your destination- and stick to your rules once you set them.

Pack For The Worst

If your child takes medications regularly, or has an emergency medical aid like an inhaler, you should definitely bring these items along. But you should also be prepared for other injuries along the way. Kids are accident prone as it is- with the distractions of a new city, they’ll spend even less time watching where they step, and a few boo-boos are nearly inevitable. Pack a first-aid kit for bandaging up scrapes and you’ll keep your kids safe and happy.

Striking a balance between keeping your kids entertained and traveling efficiently can be like navigating a stormy sea. But by incorporating some of these suggestions, you can turn a rough voyage into smooth sailing for the whole family.