5Tips for traveling with young kids

With the summer upon us, it is that time of year when families start traveling.  Whether by car, train, or airplane, traveling with young kids can be a challenge.  Are you overpacking? Under-packing? What did you forget?  To try an help you out, here are 5 tips for traveling with young kids.

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1. Plan ahead and pack smart.

Plan ahead and pack smart: Make a list of everything you need and pack accordingly. Sorry, Mom, this usually means you.  Who else knows to pack at least 3 back up outfits? To stash clothes in cubbies in case of an accident? To make sure you have an entire outfit change, including underwear, socks, and shoes readily accessible (for all parties included)? Include snacks (LOTS of snacks – should probably look like you gave a 10 year old $50 to spend on snacks at a convenience store), toys (if you want your sanity, find toys that are not too loud and without flashing lights), and extra clothes (always with the extra clothes-nobody wants to walk around with throw up, pee, or poop on them). Also, if you are potty training, make sure to at least bring a toddler seat, if not a toddler potty. It makes it much easier to pull to the side of the road and pee. If you are flying, the toddler seat helps not make a mess everywhere in an already cramped space. Book kid-friendly accommodations: Look for hotels or vacation rentals that offer amenities like a pool, playground, or activities for kids. If these things are not available on the property, research the nearest parks and kid attractions.  Just know that kids are KIDS and they need to PLAY.

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2. Be Flexible

Be flexible: Kids can be unpredictable, so be prepared to change your plans if needed. It never fails that a kid gets sick or hurt right before a vacation.  Sometimes this means delaying it a day or two and sometimes you just roll with the punches. Be prepared and look up what pediatrician in the area will accept your insurance. Take time to locate the closest hospital (pediatric if possible).  Just make sure that you come prepared with possible medicines needed and a first-aid kit.  Just be prepared for any possibility.  Kids won’t sleep in a new environment? Either wear them out with play or there is always melatonin.  Kid gets an ear infection before the beach? Make sure you take their prescribed medication with you and buy some ear plugs. Kid takes a tumble in the parking lot you stopped in for a potty break? It is amazing what some Paw Patrol or Mickey Mouse bandaids can accomplish.  Kid regresses with potty training? Just stay calm and stick to your routine.  Accidents will happen – that’s why you packed 3 extra pair of clothes right? Note: All of this goes to say, that if your kid ends up in the hospital with a high fever, RSV, emergency surgery, or whatever the case may be, you stay home for your kid.  That’s why you can buy travel insurance (so you don’t loose all of your money from the flight/hotel/etcetera).

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3. Bring Entertainment.

Bring entertainment: Keep your kids entertained with books, games, or movies during long flights or car rides. Sometimes this applies to meals, too.  Make sure you always have some sort of entertainment for the kids.  This can be as simple as their favorite stuffed animal, to as controversial as an iPad/iPhone. You do you as a parent. Your rules. Games are great fun for toddlers (3+). They require attention and family time, so the kid can calm down and focus on only one thing, instead of all the new things surrounding them. This includes board games and digital games. I learned the hard way, that forgetting my child’s favorite night time book made it hard to go to sleep the first night. I thank God daily for Target and Amazon for the things I forget.

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4. Make Time for Breaks

Make time for breaks: Take frequent breaks to allow kids to stretch their legs and burn off energy. Remember, kid’s attentions spans are typically their age minus 1. So if you have a 4 year old, his/her attention span should be 3 minutes of focus.  It’s not much, but it helps you prepare.  Take potty breaks.  Take snack breaks. Play a game of “I Spy” to get through the attention deficit.  Kids are kids remember? They need to PLAY. So maybe the pit stop you make at McDonald’s to pee also involves 15 minutes on the playground.  That 15 minutes of play can be the difference between a smooth rest of the journey and a disastrous (think temper tantrum/antsy/possible accident) rest of the journey.

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5. Enjoy the Journey!

Enjoy the journey: Remember that traveling with kids can be an adventure, so embrace the experience and enjoy the journey. Don’t get stuck to a schedule. Don’t try to beat the time on Waze. Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow, and that is ok. It is all a journey.  You will get there at some point.  You will be ok. Your child will be ok. Who knows what you may discover at one of your many pit stops/breaks? Maybe something your child sees sparks an interest.  Maybe you make some new friends.  Maybe you learn some patience (if you find where they sell it, please let me know). Either way, the important thing is that you are with family and experiencing it all together.

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