I am not a fan of travel with the under five set.
While I love being at our destination I find the getting there exhausting and often stressful.
When will they have teleportation figured out?
I think I have now flown trans-Atlanticly four times round trip with young kids and have done another half dozen or so flights ranging from 25 minutes to five hours. Each time I’ve learned a new trick to making travel easier on the family (and other passengers).
Our latest was our easiest so far and the most compliment filled: people love to tell you how awesome your kids are when they slept, ate or watched movies the entire time and never made a peep.
Here are a few of my tips for making travel with young kids easier. Please share yours in the comments!
Sitting for hours is unnatural. Adults are used to it, most of us sit at desks or in front of the television for a good portion of the day.
However, young children are not yet indoctrinated into the culture of sitting for long stretches. Lucky them.
With this in mind I have found it best to relax my rules for media consumption while we travel.
Once our oldest was about two and a half he would happily sit and watch cartoons on long flights. Of course I would prefer he was playing in a park or running outside but until they build airplanes with playgrounds in them, or they get that teleportation thing figured out, it’s easiest on everyone if we allow him to watch several episodes of The Backyardigans.
Of course, we also engage with him, talk to him and read books but a little television can be a wonderful thing when you’re stuck on an airplane.
Other tip: we take red-eye flights. Sleep is the easiest way to get through a long flight.
Look for entertainment in small packages.
We filled a one hour day time flight with a box of raisins, reading a small book a few times and looking out the plane window. 50 raisins eaten one by one, mini clementines that take a few minutes for small hands to peel, string cheese. Well worth it to plan snacks for their engagement value.
Pack for most-likely, not disaster scenarios.
It’s always easier to travel with one less bag.
On a recent flight I saw parents puling down a large rolling suitcase filled with things for their infant. They spent a lot of time finding space to open the suitcase and then sorting through the piles of clothes and diapers to find what they were looking for. Rookie mistake in my opinion.
With two children and myself to look after I brought a backpack, small cross body hand bag that holds my purse and our passports and my older child wore a very small backpack. Two changes for the baby, diapers, two receiving blankets, water bottles, snacks, a coloring/sticker book and my Kindle were in the backpack. My son’s small backpack had two small books and a few toys.
If we all got massive amounts of projectile spit-up on us I was not prepared. Likelihood of that happening: 0.5%.
There was however a 50% chance the baby would soil his footie pajamas at least once over 18 hours of travel.
And our potty-trained oldest son who often gives little warning about urgent bathroom needs? I took the easy way out and put him in a pull-up for the journey. Rather a pull-up than two to three sets of extra clothes to carry around.
Let your kids run. A friend that does a lot of long haul flying told me as soon as they are off the plane she lets her kids find some space to run around. Helps them burn off the energy from sitting still for hours on end.
Give your family lots of time on layovers. We always hit the bathrooms after coming off of a flight and let our oldest run for a bit. Why bother rushing to baggage claim just to stare at an empty carousel for twenty minutes.
Be creative. We were loaned a box of toys on a recent trip and used the infant car seat from our rental vehicle as a seat/bouncer. We hung one of the infant toys off the car seat handle and it made a fun mobile for Wil to watch and swat at.
So much easier just to make do with less while away than lug the contents of your living room around with you.
What do you do to make travel with young children easier?