Maintaining your sanity when travelling with kids requires a good deal of preparation. If you’re driving, you need to concentrate on the road while keeping everyone safe and content. If you’re flying, you need to listen for announcements and keep an eye on the flight crew and the people around you, as well as see to your family’s needs. Children of different ages have different requirements when it comes to satisfying their needs en route, but there are a few essentials to have within reach that will help keep everyone in your family happy and comfortable – including you!
First things first: Invest in a good carry-on bag, one with plenty of pockets to help you stay organized, but not so many that you can’t find anything. If it can fit under the seat in front of you on the plane, all the better.
1. The many uses of baby wipes
You can never have too many wipes, even if your child is out of diapers. Diaper wipes clean faces, sticky hands, icky public bathrooms (don’t flush them!) and questionable eating surfaces. They also work remarkably well as clothing spot-removers. Don’t just grab a little travel pack, either. Make sure you have a solid supply of wipes that will last the duration of your journey and beyond. You’ll never regret having too many wipes, only not having enough.
2. Prepare for snack attacks
This may seem obvious, but surely you’ve heard the horror stories of people trapped on the tarmac for hours on end, either before or after a flight? If you don’t fly frequently, you may not realize that finding appropriate and nutritious snacks for kids can be difficult. And if you’re driving, hoping the GPS will tell you when the next restaurant is close doesn’t always work out. Try to pack at least twice the amount of food you think you’ll need. Delays happen. Being prepared with extra snacks on hand means you don’t have to sweat those delays. If you include a couple of favourite treats, you’re pretty much guaranteed some co-operation when you need it.
3. Toys to go
You need to keep kids busy on the plane and in the car, but there is no need to spend an enormous amount on brand-new stuff that may get broken or lost along the way. Hide old favourites for a few weeks before your trip and your kids will be happy to see them again. Dollar stores are good sources for trinkets that will occupy children for little expense. Don’t forget a few books as well. On flights, seat-back entertainment can be fantastic when it is available, but tablets and portable DVD players can help distract kids when it isn’t.
4. Be ready for boo-boos with a first-aid kit
Because you never know when a fever will strike or your child will get hurt, you should always have a small first-aid kit on hand. In a makeup bag or pencil case pack children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen, a bottle of children’s antihistamines, a thermometer, plastic bandages, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes, and extra diaper rash cream, if necessary. These items are also helpful to have on hand so you won’t have to scramble for a drugstore once you arrive at your destination. In case your child's illness or injury is more than you can soothe with a kiss and a bandage, be prepared with travel insurance, which will protect you from unexpected medical expenses while you're out of the country, or even out of your home province.
5. Pack patience
Sometimes travel can be stressful. Kids pick up on your moods, so if you’re in a foul one because the gate agent was snippy or you forgot to pack socks, your child will pick up on it and (mis)behave accordingly. Cautiously optimistic is a good way to approach a travel day. If you expect everything to go completely smoothly all the time, you’ll be disappointed. If it actually does go smoothly, it’s a bonus!
If you make like a Boy Scout and “be prepared,” you’ll be ready to face anything that might come your way when you’re starting your vacation, and be able to end it on a relaxed note as well when you’re on your way home.
Corinne McDermott blogs about the joys and challenges of travelling with children in Have Baby Will Travel.