Traveling with Curious Kids

Road trip

This time of year many of us travel by planes, trains and automobiles to be with family. Let’s face it, traveling with small children can be tough. When you have small babies, they require so much equipment: strollers, car seats, pack n plays, bottles, etc. Toddlers and preschoolers are tough to keep occupied on long road trips or plane rides. To make travel a little bit easier, here are a few travel trips I’ve collected over the years in no particular order.

  • I live and die by lists. I have lists of what to pack in the suitcase and the carry on bag. It makes it so much easier when I don’t have to try to remember everything each time. Over the years, I’ve modified the lists as the boys have outgrown the Baby Bjorns, sippy cups, and bibs and have required toys and books. You can find packing lists online, for example, FamilyFun has a weekend getaway list….here.
  • I keep a box of travel toys stashed where the boys can’t play with them, so they are new and exciting when I pull them out. Generally it includes some favorite McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, Hot Wheels cars, die-cast airplanes, felt books and a few LEGOs (I like the DK Brickmaster kits, which boxed in an 8 1/2 x 11 format and are perfect for travel). I also pack small puzzles, magazines that include activities (like Highlights or Wild Animal Baby), sticker books, and Color Wonder coloring pads (so they can’t write on the airplane seats or hotel room furniture), as well as a few favorite books and toys.
  • I keep a copy of the packing list in my suitcase, along with a nightlight, flashlight, clothespin (for keeping curtains closed) and a pack of outlet covers. When I pull my suitcase out, I’m ready to go.
  • If you are traveling with a lap baby, always bring your car seat with you to the gate. If there is an extra seat, flight attendants are often willing to accommodate you, and you won’t have to hold the baby the whole flight. Plus, you’d hate to check your car seat and have the airline lose it in route.
  • If you have room, bring a change of clothes for the kids, toothbrushes, and a clean shirt and underwear for yourself, in your carry on bag. I have at least two friends who have had toddlers throw up on them during a flight, so the extra shirt is a must. Plus, if you get bumped from a flight and have to stay in a hotel, it’s nice to have something clean to put on in the morning.
  • We always try to book two adjoining hotel rooms or a suite. Sometimes, this is cost prohibitive, but when possible, it pays dividends in extra sleep. It also ensures that no adult (me) has to hunker down in the bathroom or near the nightlight to read a book after the kiddos are in bed.
  • One of the hardest parts of staying in a hotel room is trying to keep the kids entertained first thing in the morning, since we have early risers and a lot of attractions don’t open until 10 a.m. We try to choose hotels that include a breakfast, so one adult can take the children down to eat while the other gets a few extra minutes of sleep. It’s also helpful to locate a nearby park to burn off some energy if the children are getting antsy in the hotel room.
  • If we are going on a road trip, we try to pick a hotel with a mini fridge (or kitchenette) and pack some food. Eating out can get really expensive, and let’s just say sitting down in a restaurant is not always a fun experience with a cranky toddler. Sometimes it’s easier to eat out for lunch and enjoy a PB&J in the hotel room. I pack things like instant oatmeal; bagels and cream cheese; juice boxes and milk; fruit like apples, bananas, oranges; coffee; bread; peanut butter and jelly; Goldfish crackers; cereal bars; granola bars; dried fruit; yogurt tubes. I also pack a thermal lunch bag, sturdy plastic knife; ziplock bags; a travel bottle of dish detergent and a couple of plastic plates for eating in the hotel room.
  • Since our three-year-old still naps, we try to plan our longest drives around nap time, so he can do some sleeping in a car. So, for example, we might plan a side trip that’s an hour or 90 minutes away for first thing in the morning. Then we eat lunch there and drive back to the city at nap time, hoping for a nap in the car.
  • Give the kids a camera and let them snap some shots of things they find interesting on your travels.
  • Don’t forget to learn a few good road trip games.
  • Also, scavenger hunts can make sightseeing more fun and educational.
  • Have fun and enjoy the holiday season!

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