What are your best tips for traveling with kids?

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22  Answers

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My best tip? Be prepared! Have a bag of toys and books ready for them to play with in the car and don't be afraid to bring out that dvd player! My son knows that the dvd player only comes out on long trips and enjoys having that on those special occasion.

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First and foremost: just go! Don’t be afraid of traveling with children. Easier said than done, of course, but children benefit from exploring new places and cultures as much as adults. And if you overthink it, you’ll never go!

That said, my second tip is to be prepared. You don’t need to plan for every contingency, but packing snacks and supplies (diapers, changes of clothes, entertainment) to get you through key legs of travel will make your trip more enjoyable. Identify the places you want to be sure to see each day with realistic expectations of your kids’ endurance.

We’ve found that apartment-style accommodations work best for us as we travel with small children. That way we’re afforded the flexibility of preparing meals in a timely fashion, in addition to being able to hang out in a living area while the kids go to sleep at an early enough hour to keep us all sane.

I also encourage parents to alternate afternoons of childcare duty so that you’re each allowed time to explore a new place without the distraction of your children. This is also a great way to sneak in that museum trip that your partner is dreading. Spending the time apart gives you fodder for great conversation at the end of the day, too!

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Tips for traveling with kids:
1. Have a bag of snacks and drinks in the car
2. Pack each kid a bag with items that would be interesting to them: books, crayons, paper, cards. etc.
3. Give each child a map with your destination on it and them follow along the map
4. Make the trip an adventure. Like a scavenger hunt in the car. Give the kids a list of things to search for and the first one to spot all the items gets a special prize.

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Patience is a true virtue. Trips that normally take 6 hours can turn into 8 hours when traveling with children and you just have to learn to accept that. Frequent stops, lots of snacks, and hours of entertainment will do wonders for everyone!

My biggest tip? Plan the trip around nap time or bed time if possible :)

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-Keep a bag-of-tricks in the car-- fill it with crayons, paper, small toys, ect.
-A portable DVD Player can be a life-saver.
-Leave your hotel early in the morning and drive straight until lunchtime. Stop at McDonalds (or any place that has a play land) and let the kids run out their energy, even if they don't eat, they can eat later in the car. This will hold them over for a couple more hours of driving time. A friend gave me that tip and it saved my sanity while driving from Alaska to Oklahoma.

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Surviving vacations and/or car trips is an art form and particularly if you are doing it alone. As a military wife, I am often “flying solo” and refuse to let life pass us by or not go on trips until my husband is home (we could be waiting for months). Having said this, I don’t go away without some planning and prep time to ensure everyone’s survival. It is this planning that often saves my sanity and allows my kids to see their next birthday!

My basic must brings: snacks, wetnaps, klennex, books, map (for them to use), pencils, markers, paper, neck pillows, tic tacs (play game of seeing who can make theirs last the longest), change (in case of toll booths), IDs and travel permissions, bottles of water, first aid kit, emergency car kit, blanket, stories on CD, music, fruit/veggies (not always easy or cheap along the way), chargers, flashlight, games, plastic bags, extra pair of shoes and socks, box of ziplock bags and camera.

When my husband is away I also make a habit of having the kids take pictures of silly things along the way. When we are on a trip we often get the big moments but they aren’t always the most memorable so by taking silly things along the way we can connect with their Dad in a fun way too. When we are going on long trips we also take a poster board size picture of Dad and insert him into our pictures for fun. It is another silly way of us keeping him a little closer.

I am also not a parent that loves to constantly just turn on a movie or have them play with their gaming systems for hours on end. I remember car trips with my family as a time that we would talk, argue, laugh and discover different things about each other and the world (by actually looking out the window). When I do give in the “electronic pleas” from the back seat I give a time limit or say that they can do it until we reach a certain point. It doesn’t stop them from asking for more time but this is when I pull out the travel bingo. It is the one game we can all agree on. It gets them looking out the window, laughing, talking and time flies by. Now that they are older they make their own cards too. If car bingo doesn’t work then just find something your family can agree on and have fun with it. The idea is really to find things to do to make time pass that don’t always include electronics.

Until I was a parent and military wife, I never knew how exhausting going on a vacation could be! It is always worth it in the end and the memories we create are priceless but the preparation and planning are what ultimately saves me and my children!

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Relax. If you're stressed out, your kids will react (badly) to your stress and then you'll react badly to their misbehavior.

A crying or yelling child always sounds louder to the parents (just quiet them as soon as you can). Please keep your child from kicking or banging the tray table up and down during an airplane flight (take it from my 19-year old self that had to deal with it during a 7 hour flight!)

I always had special travel toys that only came out during trips. I found age-appropriate interactive toys that were not too loud, blocks, beads, play figures (cars, people, animals), coloring/activity books, and books that were age appropriate. Because my kids only got to play with these toys when we traveled, it was a treat for them. Also, whenever you can (and it's appropriate), make your kids run and jump around before you get in the car or on the plane. Try to tire them out as much as you can. It's worth an extra 10 minutes at the rest stop or walking around the airport to have a calmer child when you must sit down.

Pack lots (twice as much as you think you need) of non-messy snacks like crackers and granola bars. Carry several bottles of water. That way you're prepared no matter how long you're stuck in traffic or how long you're delayed in the airport.

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Zip Lock Bags, and lots of 'em.

You may think I am recommending Zip Lock Bags for parents to keep fruit snacks, Goldfish crackers and Crayons organized and tidy. Or, conversely, you may think I'm recommending Zip Lock Bags for those times while traveling with the kids when you just want to put a bag over your head to end the misery.

But then, you'd be wrong. The simple reason I always make sure I've got gallon-sized Zip Lock Bags with me when I travel with the kids is fairly simple -- Bodily Functions.

Yep. Each and every one of my kids have presented my husband and I with a bodily function crisis at one time or another during travel.

Our youngest is a puker, whose record for the shortest time between getting in the minivan and upchucking from car sickness is seven minutes. (This record was set only a couple weeks ago on a particularly long leg of our PCS move to Rhode Island.)

My oldest is now 18, but when he was young, he had an uncanny ability to "hold it" until we were in the most inconvenient location, before alerting us that he needed to go, NOW. A reasonable alternative to Zip Lock Bags in this instance are empty family sized Cool Whip tubs, something we learned while on a long car trip to Grammy's house.

And like other middle children, my middle child is totally unpredictable -- her bodily functions are not to be trusted. Frankly, after having three large babies, neither are mine. So take it from me, a 20-year Navy wife who has moved nine times, two times overseas: keep a few Zip Lock Bags tucked away in your purse or the glove compartment.

Oh, and a bottle of wine in the hotel room at night wouldn't hurt either.

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All kids are different, so it's hard to give tips. With my kids, we completely explain the process, from how many flights, the length of flights, drive time, etc. They are also allowed to buy and pack special toys or books that they aren't allowed to play with until the trip. That way, they have something fun to look forward too. If possible, try to break up the trip. If driving, stop to see or do things. Sure it will take you longer to reach your destination, but everyone will be happier.

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We took our daughter on her first road trip when she was just two months old and my two biggest tips are to be patient (babies are unpredictable, so allow ample extra time to deal with feedings and diaper changes) and go with the flow (an over-booked schedule will become very stressful in a hurry, so keep plans open and build in some extra fluff time).

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Okay, no laughing. Pack outfits in ziploc bags!!! When we travel, whether it's home for the holidays or to Boston for the 4th of July, we write down names and dates on each bag, then stuff them with outfits, down to socks and undies. That way during the morning rush, it's toss a boy a bag, and they're dressed! It's especially helpful when we think of the random events they might have planned, so it's already bagged, and we don't forget anything for the trip. Plus, the bags are great to throw back in any dirty item!

If we're road-tripping, then we love to pre-pack sugar-free snacks, and keep water bottles with their names on them. We avoid sugar at all costs when the boys are strapped into car seats for miles at a time! This policy also applies to airplanes. We feed our boys protein, good fats, minimal carbs and sugar. After all, a hyped-up four year-old is difficult at 30,000 feet! And we're always sure to pack that special "lovey" or blanket for the trip!

Keep Calm and Travel On. ;)

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PATIENCE!!! For us, each kid packs their own backpack full of toys, coloring books, books or whatever else they can put in it. If it does not fit in it, it does not go! The first time we did it, it was a bit hard on our 18 hour road trip because they did not think through what they packed but after that trip, they sit down together and see what the other one is packing and make sure they do not overlap or if one has more room in their bag, they tag team and use each the extra space.

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BE PREPARED!! We have made many cross country road trips during our time as a military family...nearly all of them with my son in tow...and let me tell you, something ALWAYS seems to go wrong!! Rather it be car trouble, weather issues, illness, or just a downright cranky baby...it can be tough. So be prepared...pack plenty of extra clothes, diapers, etc and make sure to keep these things easily available. If you're traveling in the winter, be sure to pack plenty of blankets and coats. Snacks are a must...of course you can buy these along the way if needed as well, but our experience has been that it is much cheaper to prepare beforehand. Take frequent breaks...even if just to get out for a few minutes to walk around and use the bathroom. We always had a very limited time to split between two families a couple of hours apart, so we tried to get the traveling done quick...even still, those frequent shorter breaks made a huge difference in all of our moods. Portable DVD players/iPads/portable gaming systems, etc are your friends!! If you don't already have one of the above, I highly recommend them if you intend to travel a lot...it will truly save your sanity and keep the little ones occupied. And don't forget the car chargers!! Books, coloring books and crayons, other small activities etc are also good to have on hand if you're little one is interested in them at all...my little guy isn't much for coloring, but we will still sometimes pack them just in case... anything to curb the boredom. But this number one best tip for traveling with little ones: remember the light at the end of the tunnel. The trip may be difficult, but for us, the destination was usually worth it, and though it may seem otherwise at times, you WILL make it there eventually!!

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SNACKS. OMG SNACKS. (It's harder to whine when your mouth is stuffed full of Oreo minis.) And an iPad loaded with apps and things your child has never seen before helps too. If that's not an option, a run to the Dollar Tree for new and exciting toys can usually buy you some time. Be sure to sit next to other people with kids on the plane, if possible. They will either sympathize with you when yours act out, or their kids will make yours look like little angels (while also providing quality entertainment for your own children). Also, you really can't have too many baby wipes. (That's more of a life lesson there, than just a tip for travel. Just thought I would impart some of my hard-learned wisdom!)

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My kids have never been on a plane. We do all our traveling on the road in our mini van. My best tip is to travel during bed or nap times. But that isn't always convenient, so... I make sure we have plenty of snacks, everyone has their own water bottle, and they can "earn" juice and chocolate milk with good behavior. We went for years without a DVD player, so my kids got used to coloring and doing activity books. They also enjoy blank paper to draw their own stuff. Music is always fun too. I think the most important thing is to not stress out too much. When I get anxious and frustrated and want to hang my head out the van window and close it... my kids can sense that, and it makes them that way too. Most of our traveling is without Dad. It can be hard especially if someone needs a potty stop. I have to get all 3 boys out and myself and into a gas station where they beg and plead for all the treats they see. But I stay calm and remind them what is waiting for them back in the van. Traveling can be fun... like I said above, attitude is EVERYTHING! If I make it pleasant with my positive attitude things go SO MUCH smoother!

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I really hate traveling long distances with kids. My best advise would be to plan as much as you can, as early as you can.
My kids have done really well with a portable DVD player and a bag of snacks. The key is to keep them as busy and entertained as possible. A new book or toy also works well for a little while.
I've also learned to pack twice as much of anything that I think I'll need. Diapers, wipes, snacks.

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My best advice to be very organized & have everything they need in arms reach. Create busy bags and put them in a basket next to their car-seat. I like putting various books, toys & little snacks in ziplock bags and every time my son whines, I just hand a new one over. You don't even have to spend money to find new things to put in the bags. Lost toys that have been forgotten in their room, will become new again.

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Plan for the worst and expect the best. I always keep a little first aid kit on me and snacks.
When I was young and we would go on trips as a family my mom would take us to the store the week before and we could pick out little trinkets and coloring books. Then, she would put them up in eye sight where we couldn't get to them. We watched them longingly for the whole week and then rejoiced on the day of the trip, because of all our new goodies. My mom said we traveled, great and I have continued this tradition with our daughter and she is the easiest kid in a car!

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BE PREPARED!! Haha! When we travel with our kids I make a list usually a week in advance of what all I need to pack and what all I need to do before we leave. I always buy a ton of snacks (usually somewhat healthy ones with a few fun ones thrown in the mix). I also pack an activity bag with a few new books and small toys for each child. Sometimes I even wrap them to make it extra fun. We also try and stop every 2-3 hours so the kids can get out and stretch their legs. And if worse comes to worse, we pop a dvd in the car's dvd player and that usually entertains them for awhile! Just go into trips with low expectations, a lot of patience, and maybe some wine to open when you get there! :)

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Make lists, buy special new activities and snacks for just the trip, but most importantly; be flexible.

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Pack things in your car or bag to keep them entertained. New small toys (or toys they haven't seen in forever) are always great, regardless of age. Snacks are a huge survival technique as well! For Matthew, that's just milk right now (and maybe a few finger foods, mostly for entertainment more than feeding purposes), but snacks are remarkably entertaining. Honestly, traveling with little ones (we moved two states over when Matthew was 9 days old!) goes along with the last question: you just have to roll with the punches, even if those punches are coming from miniature fists.

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Be Prepared.
We take a 28 hour (round trip) road trip almost every summer and I often do it alone with the kids. We've flown around the world with the kids. To say I have been there and done that would be an understatement.
First, get each child his/her own backpack for the road. Each of our boys has his own knapsack for the car or airplane and, after a certain age, each child is responsible for packing it with whatever will occupy his time during travel. We bought our boys ipods long before we would normally have done had we not been looking at a 14 hour plane trip. The Ipods definitely helped to keep the boys entertained and I do not regret the purchase.
For the preschool set, I always get a new supply of coloring books, stickers, playdoh, legos, and more. The youngest of the kids gets first pick of dvds in the car. Keeping the peace is very important. Taking turns works, but starting with the youngest goes a long way toward having a smooth trip.
When we traveled by air when the kids were younger, I always dressed them alike. Our kids are well behaved but it never hurts to have them looking their cutest in case things go awry. I can't tell you how many dirty looks we got, boarding a trans Pacific flight with 4 young boys, but we had equally as many smiles and complimentary comments as we deplaned because we prepared the boys for what to expect and how to behave. You have to do whatever it takes to keep a baby or toddler happy on a plane with hundreds of other passengers. To the extent you can afford it, don't spare expenses. Buy the dvd player, buy the Nintendo DS, buy 10 boxes of bandaids for the toddler to open and stick all over you.
Plan for any eventuality, from clothing changes to snacks to activities, put it all in easy to get to bags and you'll give yourself the best chance at a successful, smooth trip.

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