Tis the season for holiday travel. In fact, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the day before Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are the busiest times for long distance travel in the U.S. We want to be with our loved ones for the holidays so we pack up our clans and hit the road or venture into the skies. Ugh, but traveling can be a headache even without little ones so what’s a mama to do? I hope these tips for traveling with little ones will help smooth your journeys this holiday season.
1. Pull Out the Favorites: Why is travel so hard on kids? It takes them out of their cozy homes and predictable routines. Comfort and distraction will go a long way in helping them cope. Lots of moms suggest special travel toys like sticker books audio stories like Adventures in Odyssey or Frog and Toad are Friends, and portable DVD players to entertain older kids while traveling. When driving long distances with my 16 month old, I always have an arsenal of toys and board books with me in the front seat that I can pass back to him when he gets antsy.
I flew with my son when we was 6 weeks old, 9 months old, and 11 months old. I always brought my breastfeeding pillow so he had his favorite place to place to sit, nap, and nurse. I packed some of his favorite soft toys (hard toys on the airplane tray table can be a headache in the making.) Once he was eating solids I also brought snack bags full of his favorite, Cheerios or freeze-dried strawberries. My friend had a brilliant idea of attaching links to her baby’s toys while one the plane so they wouldn’t fall on the yucky airplane floors.
2. Be Prepared: Things can get interesting when traveling so this is the time to think ahead bring extras…. extra diapers, extra clothes, extra snacks, a first aid kit, etc. You know what your little one likes and needs so make your list and check it twice! I highly recommend using a diaper cover when traveling, even if you are using disposables. Let’s face it, traveling sometimes messes with one’s tummy and spoises do not contain enthusiastic poos. Put a cover over your babe’s diaper, better to be safe than sorry!
Also think about the environment where you’ll be in transit. Many airlines do not have changing tables big enough for babies past the newborn stage, so footed pajamas with snaps or zippers make a great baby traveling suit. Anything that facilitates swallowing on take off and landing is key when flying with little ones. When flying I also prefer to use a carrier over the stroller. Being close gives both of us a sense of security and it’s less fuss at the boarding gate. It’s must easier for adults to cope with the stress of travel so try to cater your child’s needs as much as possible. The good news is even if you forget something there’s often a kind fellow traveler willing to lend a helping hand or extra wet wipe.
3. Timing is Everything Try to find a good time window for your travels. Is it easier on your kiddos to drive overnight because they’ll sleep for most of the trip? Do it! Does your little one have a hard time napping in public? Try to travel when they’re awake and be ready to play the distraction game. As much as possible try to set your little ones up for success. My boy has an easier time traveling earlier in the day before he’s overtired.
4. Roll with It I’m a bit of a travel nut and one thing I’ve learned hoping many planes, countries, and continents is that travel is much more enjoyable if you take it on as an adventure and not a chore. If things go wrong well it’ll be an exciting story to tell later. Yes, travel can be hard on kids, but kids are resilient. Remember our little ones take their cues from us so a positive attitude will go a long way in helping everyone have smooth travels.
Be smart, be safe, and have fun this holiday travel season!
Wife, work at home mom, and bassoonist, Laura Ankrum lives in Iowa City, Iowa. Prior to the arrival of her two children Laura taught elementary music and band in the Boston area. Now her home is her classroom and music studio. Laura is passionate about education, encouraging other moms, and eco-friendly living. She is the social media coordinator at Thirsties Inc.