Highlights of simple tips for travelling with babies & toddlers.
- Pack well ahead of time using a list
- Pack light and get extras you need for traveling with kids at your destination
- Plan meals and snacks ahead of time
- Maintain your routine as much as possible when traveling with your kids.
- Bring a few new toys and books to keep kids entertained when traveling
- Make it your kids sleeping space dark when traveling
- Take a deep breath and reset your expectations when traveling with kids
Know that things will go wrong when traveling with babies & toddlers.
There's a good reason why family travel is ideal fodder for slapstick comedy. The unpredictable nature of kids, which escalates when they're bored, mingled with their parents' idealized expectations, is a reliable recipe for calamity.
If your childhood road trip memories are of bickering with your siblings in a stuffy car smelling vaguely of feet, vomit, and fermenting fruit, you're not alone. Sitting still, strapped to a seat with few diversions, is simply not how most kids prefer to spend their day.
If you're a first-time parent or a family with a new addition, the anxiety and fear that comes with organizing that first trip are natural. We're not strangers to traveling with kids. Much of Joana's family lives in the United Kingdom, while Lauren travels to Montana twice a year for several months with her family.
So, this week we're sharing our tips for planning a family vacation that creates lifelong memories and just a few chuckles about the inevitable bumps in the road. Here are our tried and tested tips for making traveling with kids a little easier.
Planning, planning & more planning are the key to success when traveling with kids.
When you become a parent, the days of spontaneously hitting the road with little planning are over. Also, gone is powering through a twelve-hour drive with only a few stops.
Hungry, bored kids are simply no fun. So, plan as much as you can ahead of time. Consider choosing more interesting routes rather than the quickest. Your kids aren't in a hurry and will be happier if you aren't either.
Plan frequent stops that are fun or educational. Familiarize yourself with parks, historical sites, waterfalls, lakes, playgrounds, and picnic areas along the way where your kids can run and play.
Map your route and potential breaks in a GPS app, like Waze, before you leave so you're prepared for unexpected stops. Figure out the best potty stops!
Most importantly, remember that with kids, everything is going to take longer than expected. That’s all part of the adventure :)
Pack ahead of time and use a list when traveling with kids to reduce stress.
Arriving at your destination only to discover you forgot your child's favorite sleep buddy, snack, toy, or diapers is super stressful. So, we start packing at least a week beforehand for any trip longer than a weekend.
Make a list and check things off as they go in the bag, and share the responsibility with your partner.
Pack clothes a week before your trip to ensure they're clean when you're ready to go. We like to keep a toiletry travel bag packed and ready to go all the time so we can simply throw it in the bag. Just be sure to refresh any used items before you put the bag away at the end of your trip!
When packing for family travel, ask yourself, do we really need it?
Aside from the irreplaceable lovey, your little ones don't need many toys on a trip. The wonders of a new place, house, or hotel will provide lots of entertainment. On our recent beach trip, a shelf of plastic cups, bowls, and plates were the most coveted toys.
We give our little ones a special small backpack just for travel. We bring it out only for trips and then let them pick out a few toys to take with them. As a bonus, they'll usually want to carry it themselves on the journey!
We also like to minimize the amount of clothing we bring. A few items of each type of clothing, for instance, four t-shirts, four pairs of shorts and so on, should be plenty if you are staying somewhere with access to a washing machine. Only bring enough bulky supplies like diapers and wipes to last a couple of days, then stock up at a local store or plan an online delivery to your vacation address.
Plan meals & snacks ahead of time when you are traveling with kids.
Hangry kids will change a trip from fun to miserable in minutes. Keep simple, mess-free, transportable snacks on hand and plan feeding breaks for babies.
Keep in mind that babies have terrible table manners, and eating while strapped in a car seat is a choking hazard, especially when the baby is rear-facing.
So it's best to plan your meal breaks before you leave. Note kid-friendly restaurants en route in your GPS or hit a grocery store deli near a playground and let your kids burn energy.
Keep in mind everyone will be happier if you accept that frequent stops are essential parts of the journey.
Of course, Littlemore puffs are perfect snacks for families on the go!
Maintain your kid's routine as much as possible while traveling.
Finding creative ways to maintain your usual routines as much as possible while traveling makes the experience more enjoyable for your little ones.
Remember that sleeping children equals bliss for parents who get a rare opportunity to enjoy an uninterrupted conversation. However, if your baby or toddler sleeps for hours in the car, you may find yourself up all night in a hotel.
An ideal solution is to drive at night. Do your bedtime routine as usual, but instead of putting them in their crib, pop them in their car seat. You can bring a portable white noise machine, or use the white noise of the highway to lull them to sleep, or both.
Plan entertainment & pack new toys for your kids when you are traveling.
New toys or books are more likely to grab your little one's attention and keep them entertained for hours.
For babies, keep it simple. Our tried and true favorite is a push-button dimple toy. We love Fat Brain Toys.
For toddlers, let them make a necklace with a shoelace and O cereal pieces. Or try a mess-free coloring book from Melissa and Doug.
For longer journeys, we bring an iPad and headphones. Saving screen time for travel may make your children look forward to it. Be sure to download shows or games before you go because WiFi isn't always available on the road.
Tell your kids about the trip before you go.
Kids sometimes get uncomfortable when there are too many new things happening at once. Talking to them about what to expect beforehand will ease their discomfort.
Outline your itinerary in detail and tell them what they can expect to happen along the way. This is also an excellent opportunity to outline what your expectations are for their behavior throughout the trip.
Make it dark when your traveling kids are sleeping.
Good sleep is an essential ingredient for stress-free travel. We always pack a Slumberpod. This breathable, blackout tent fits nicely over a travel crib and creates a pitch-black room for your little one. No more hiding out on the hotel balcony waiting for them to fall asleep or stumbling around in the dark because you don't want to turn on the light.
We recommend getting your baby used to this at home before you go and before they are a year old. We learned the hard way that using it for the first time in a hotel room with a toddler results in a bit of resistance.
You can also find disposable black-out blinds on Amazon that can be cut to fit most windows. These are perfect for kids who are no longer use a travel crib.
Reset expectations when traveling with kids and enjoy the ride.
Let go of your expectations of travel with kids because it can be completely unpredictable. Know that things will go wrong. Plan for the worst and hope for the best!
Take a deep breath, give yourself and your children grace, and remember that the most important thing is a safe arrival at your destination. Travel is an adventure, and even if it has a few speed bumps, the experience you're giving your kids is irreplaceable.
We hope these tips make your next vacation with your wee ones a little simpler. Enjoy making those memories!
From our families to yours,
Joana + Lauren