All Aboard: Tips for Any Type of Travel with Children

While waiting in the O’Hare airport, an elderly woman looked over, eyes sparkling, a comforting smile on her face. “You have a beautiful family,” she said. Before I could even finish my reply of “Thank you” and whatever else we were going to discuss, my husband shouted “Oh my, ughhh” as he realized our one-year-old had a poop explosion all over the chair he was sitting on. About the very same time, our four-year-old rammed his pretend airplane into the side of the face of our six-year-old.

Life sure didn’t feel beautiful at that moment.

We boarded the next plane, only to sit on the runway with a screaming baby for a solid 20 minutes. I was certain we would be escorted off the plane at any moment, but instead, we were offered assistance by the stewardess multiple times and not given one dirty look or nasty comment…at least not directly.

Traveling can be stressful and traveling with children may not always be beautiful, but it is always worth the beautiful memories made.

I had planned this post to offer tips on things to bring along while traveling with children, but quickly realized after our most recent travel experience, that there are more vital things to “bring.” While I still think the importance of bringing a change of clothes, plenty of snacks, and lots of activities for each child runs high on the priority list, there are three others that are even more valuable:

Sleep.

I am so terrible with the concept of sleep. I live for late-night hours when the house is quiet and still to get my best work done…and a whole lot of laundry. I find that the nights before travel are my worst nights of sleep as I stay up way too late getting things ready and get up way too early to be sure the packing is perfected. Having a good night’s rest the night before a big travel day truly does offer so much benefit. (Carry on to the next point to see why.)
 

Patience.

Mentally prepare yourself to have as much patience as possible — more than you could ever imagine. Typically the more sleep you get prior to travel, the more patience you can offer. Flights get delayed, cancelled even. Layovers get long. People become rude. Children misbehave. I refer to flying as we did on our last trip, but this applies to driving and other types of travel too. Traffic jams, car accidents blocking traffic, wrong turns, construction sites for miles, etc. Whatever your woe may be, pack patience — lots and lots of it. Try to be extra understanding of your children being put into strange environments around strange people on strange schedules and understand this may affect their behavior and attitudes. This understanding will allow you to offer more patience when they are crying more, clinging more, whining more, fighting more. I try to remind myself of this frequently when traveling, although I need to work on this even more. For now, I laugh awkwardly to prevent the tears of frustration when things go awry.
 

Backpacks or babypacks.

If you’re traveling with itty bitties, I highly recommend a baby carrier to allow for free hands to help carry everything else. If you’re traveling with toddlers or older, I highly recommend individual backpacks (size the backpack based on the person’s size). Backpacks for adults are super helpful too! Keeping your hands free of bags helps to hold a tiny hand while weaving through the crowds, carry a wandering child, or take food on the go. Backpacks also make for easy access and help keep from having to dig through a giant bag looking for snacks and activities when you can pack these things into individual backpacks. The backpacks also help give each child some responsibility and gives them the opportunity to help, like many young children long to do.

I wish you all safe and easy travels as you do end-of-summer travel or soon-to-be holiday travel! What are your favorite tricks to make travel go more smoothly? Be sure to add them to the comments below!

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