By Trae Bodge
Do you find traveling with kids to be daunting? Keep clicking for a list of helpful hints, essential items and fun games to keep everyone entertained.
Once your kids are old enough to do so, allow them to pack their own toys. Limit the toys to what the bag will hold so they don’t go overboard.
My 4-year-old daughter loves her fuzzy backpack with wheels from APinkPrincess.com ($38). Packing her own toys makes her feel involved in the process and insures that her favorite toys will be with her on the trip.
Note: If you are bringing books, make sure most of them are paperbacks. You’d be shocked by how much weight hardcover books can add.
SNACKS, SNACKS, SNACKS
For kids of any age, snacks are essential for any trip. Having snacks on hand can work wonders for a restless child. It also prevents unnecessary stops in the car or expensive purchases at the airport.
Transporting snacks can be a challenge, especially if space is limited. I really like the Easy Lunch Boxes system ($13.95 for 4 containers and a cooler bag for $7.95). The containers stack and have three compartments (one large, two small). The plastic is BPA- and phthalate-free and safe for the dishwasher, freezer and microwave. Their Cooler Bag holds three containers so you can pack enough snacks or travel meals for the whole family.
If you don’t have time to pack snacks, Go Picnic makes a variety of Mighty Munch meals ($3.99) that are yummy and ready-to-eat. The meals contain no trans fats, no high-fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors/colors. They require no heating or refrigeration so they are great for travel.
For water, I love the Vapur “Anti-Bottle” bottle ($8.95). When it has water in it, it stands like a bottle. When empty, it lays flat and can be folded or rolled to take up minimal space in your carry-on bag. It comes equipped with a carabiner for carrying and a space where you can write your name. BPA-free, freezable and top rack dishwasher safe. Available in pink, green, purple, blue and smoke.
Travel DVD players and music players can be a huge help in keeping kids entertained on the road. Make sure to bring plenty of batteries and a variety of movies and/or music.
Although you may want your kids to “plug in” right away, my advice would be to encourage them to play games, read books and enjoy the scenery first. It’s important to teach them how to actively entertain themselves and be engaged in the journey so they can see how fun traveling can be. Then use the DVD or music player when everybody needs to tune out for a while.
For children too young to pop their own ears, make sure they are eating or drinking during takeoff and landing. The chewing/swallowing allows them to naturally relieve the pressure in their ears.
If you have a child in diapers, make sure you bring extra. You don’t want to get caught without if you have an unexpected delay (this happened to us in Costa Rica and we had to beg some off of a fellow passenger). For those new to potty training, visits to the potty before you board and disembark should be a priority.
Carry a travel potty for the kids so you are prepared between rest stops. I carry a Potette Plus 2-in-1 Travel Potty seat ($14.99) with me in the car at all times. It’s a foldable seat that is used with plastic bags you can purchase from Potette (garbage bags in the small size work just as well).
Kids of all ages (the younger ones might need a little help!)
- Road Trip Bingo ($8)– Knock Knock has a great travel bingo game for the car that definitely beats singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. Players look out the window for items and scenarios that you’ll pass by on your journey.
- Candyland, Twister, Simon, Scrabble, Connect 4, Operation and more are all available in travel size carabiners ($7.60) that latch on to any bag. These tiny games are portable and fun. Minimusbiz.com has lots of other fun travel-sized games, like Boggle and Etch-a-Sketch, so be sure to check it out.
- The My Busy Kits ($19.95) are for kids 3 and up and contain all sorts of fun goodies to keep kids busy, including: linkable shapes, washable markers, coloring book, toy tape measure, etc. Boys, Girls and gender-neutral options are available. My Busy Kits also offer a complimentary iPhone app called My Little Suitcase, which allows kids to pack their own suitcase and choose their destination.
- If you’ve got a budding artist on your hands, why not give them their own blank book so they can document their trip? Blank Board Books are available in two sizes ($3.50 small, $5 for large) and are bound to keep your creative ones engrossed throughout the journey.
Ages 6 and up
- The 52 Fun Things To Do on a Plane cards ($6.95) are great to take along on a long trip. It’s especially tough to keep the kids engaged and entertained in the confines of an airplane and this deck of cards is packed with clever game ideas. Other versions like 52 Boredom Busters are also available.
- Melissa & Doug make a variety of fun travel games. One that was recommended to me recently was the License Plate Game ($13.89). It was a big hit for two kids who were 8 and 10 on a long road trip.
- Loaded Questions Junior ($11.99) is a travel-sized game with hundreds of fun questions like, “If you were a pro wrestler, what would your ring name be?” Guaranteed to keep everyone in the family entertained.
Before you leave, be sure to check out what apps are available that might be fun for travelling. Here is a quick rundown of good travel apps:
- Gateguru: This app helps you navigate airports.
- Mom Maps: helps you find kid friendly restaurants, parks, indoor play areas, etc.
- Tales2Go: A bunch of great kids stories and audio books.
- A Day's Outing: Helps parents discover fun kids' activities on the fly.
Sleeping in an unfamiliar place can be scary for kids. Especially with younger kids, make sure you bring along something familiar like a favorite pillow, plush toy or blanket to help them feel at home.
If your child is afraid of the dark, there are lots of wonderful, portable nightlights that you can take along on your journey. Target.com has a large selection (prices vary).
For those other fears, i.e. monsters, I’d recommend a Scare-Me-Not toy ($24.99). They are scary looking plush toys that promise to out-scare any ghoul lurking in the night. They hang by their tails on doorknobs, strollers, between mattresses, etc. and while they easily scare monsters at home, they can be brought along to give comfort on the road.
My daughter’s favorite is Protector Patty.
Shari Mezrah, the “Sleep Mom,” gives these travel sleeping tips:
- Try to plan travel time around naptime if possible.
- If you are traveling across one time zone, stay on your current feeding and sleep schedule, but if you are going for an extended stay across multiple time zones, get on track to the current local time, and be consistent with bedtimes.
Visit Sharimezrah.com for more great sleep advice.