5 Tidbits for Traveling with Small Children

For the past 7 years I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing life as mother! Cue the horns and throw the confetti! I have three children currently, a seven year old, two under the age of five, and one on the way. You do the math! Coming off a career as a flight attendant, and dabbling a little in the wonderful world of education, I realized quickly when it comes to small children that you must plan ahead. Well thank goodness I’ve always been a planner, (except for timing in between children, that would be the result of really, really good wine!)

My husband and I both worked in heavily traveled careers, and were used to packing up and going whenever we needed. So when we had our first child, we didn’t stop our show! We packed him right up, along with every item we thought we needed, and kept the train going! After our second, we did the same, tweaking the necessities, and even sending some items ahead. By our third we realized, whatever we forgot or didn’t have, we could get upon arrival. Except for that one time on the Disney Cruise…. But that’s a whole different blog.

Over the years we’ve learned how to keep them all entertained, comfortable, and prepared for our travels. This blog is definitely for those of you who are traveling with any amount of small children and are in need of 5 tidbits to make the travel experience a little easier.   

First things first, choose travel arrangements and departure times best suitable for your child’s temperament and do this far in advance. Most kids are at their best in the morning. Some are better right after nap, while others may be best traveling going into nap time. Sleeping on the moving plane, train, or automobile might be very relaxing for you and them! Choose what fits best for your littles and yourself and make adjustments if necessary.

When it comes to flying, our favorite airline to fly on is Southwest. One reason we love them is because of the ease of switching days and times with no penalties. You just pay the difference (if there’s one at all.) This is especially more applicable when you purchase in advance. The closer you get to your departure date, the more likely you’ll see a price difference. You can make changes directly on their app or online without long holds over the phone. Flexibility is key when traveling, make arrangements with those standards in mind when booking.

Second, no need to wait for packing. Give yourself a week or two head start on packing by washing all laundry first. This way you know what you need to purchase ahead of time if needed. Find an out of the way spot in your home to line up the clothing for each child and yourself. I organize my piles so that I can see the outfits, underwear, and outerwear. Then I choose what will go in a carry on for emergencies, and put the rest in the suitcase. If you’re out of space in your home to have it open, zip up your suitcase and slide it out of the way, you can always add to it later. I also like to keep a small notebook by my bedside table to use for list and reminders. Anytime I think of something else I need to pack, I write it down and put the items in the case later.

If you travel with your children often, you might want to invest in some good luggage. Our all time favorite is Briggs and Riley it is incredibly sturdy, water proof, and spacious!!! Our largest travel bag even has a built in element to extend the size inside of the case! Take a look at it here. I highly recommend knowing the weight restrictions for luggage if you’re traveling by plane. Because we travel with two car seats we have extra storage inside the car seat bags that we use to throw items in that may make our luggage over the allowed weight. If you don’t have that, simply grab a large empty duffel, fold it, and place it inside an outward pocket of a bag you’ll check at the airport. If you need to lighten a bag up, you can use that one. Since our family has grown so much over the past seven years, we have added a shoe bag (large duffel) to our checked luggage grouping. It is almost never filled to the brim, so it has also been a great weight reliever for last minute additions.

Third, go ahead and prep your kids’ immune systems before the trip starts. Often when traveling, regardless of it it’s on a plane or in a car, the simple process of switching environments on your kids can throw their little immune systems for a loop. (Ours too!) Dealing with the sniffles, coughs, and fevers while balancing the stress of the new environment woes on the first two days is no fun! To combat that,  I have two favorite immune boosters we use regularly during cold and flu season and anytime we’re amping up for a trip. We keep this in our subscribe and save package from Amazon. One is Black Elderberry by Gaia and the other is Immune Support and Vitamins by Zarbee’s. I use the elderberry to prepare them for the trip and the Zarbee’s if I see their already showing symptoms of a cold or other illness. Our oldest is the only one who can take children’s mucinex and other kid versions of cold medicines, so I’ve made it a priority to find other ways to prevent or give relief to my littlest ones.

Fourth, bring an activity bag with “never seen before” favorites. Typically I get books, games, and small packable toys. Use stores like Walmart, Five and Below, and Target  whose clearance section is always a winner, just don’t go any further than that, I know you’ll send me hate mail because of it lol! Sometimes, when I run out of time I just use good old Amazon, since they have variety in pricing AND options. I like to choose new, inexpensive items for this bag to keep nearby because the “newness” coupled with your snack options (and the planes’ snacks) keeps the meltdowns, and tantrums at bay. They are happily busy and well fed with a steady flow of munching.

Last summer, I traveled with my two youngest ALONE. One was a lap child at the time, but he was at that age where he really wanted to take off and run. I knew if his feet ever touched the ground during flight, he would fight with all his might to get out of my lap for the rest of the flight. (I did not make those rhyme on purpose lol) Luckily I kept him busy for the entire hour and fifty minute flight. Here are some samples of what I filled my travel bag with.

  • A regular sized tub of disinfectant wipes to clean off the tray tables and the areas the kiddos like to touch the most, windows, baseboards and armrest.
  • Books about airplanes since my three year old really likes them (the 15 month old just enjoyed looking while we read)
  • An IPAD downloaded with a new app (one that could function minus the wi-fi in case it goes out or isn’t available)
  • A few small toys for my then 15 month old to organize on the tray table (he was really into making things fit, and dropping items inside of larger items at that age
  • 4 different sandwich bags of snacks, (I always include something high in fiber like soft prunes, and dried peaches because often trips force them to eat a bit out of their ordinary diets), pepperidge farms goldfish, a few squeeze packs of apple sauce, and Aunt Annie’s gummies candy for last ditch efforts.
  • One bag of plain old candy. We usually never have to use this, (didn’t have to on the last trip) but I’ve definitely used some of the goodies in here on previous trips. Especially car trips!!

Fifth, plan a restroom break right before you arrive in the gate area if you’re flying. If you have any littles in diapers, they can get a fresh one right before boarding the plane and depending on your destination (and your littles bladder) you might avoid having to use the tiny bathrooms with the even smaller changing tables on the airplane.

If you’re not flying and taking a road trip instead, my trick for clean restrooms is always find a hotel. A Residence Inn, Staybridge, or LaQuinta are some of the most familiar ones. They’re also usually easily accessible from the highways. It might be an extra stop for you, but often times they are clean and a much better alternative to the gas stations or even the fast food places. If it’s the middle of the night, depending on the neighborhood you may need a key to go in the front doors.

Traveling with small children can certainly be daunting. I’ve realized over time that doing what’s best for myself and family is what really puts our trips and planning at ease. Hopefully some of these tidbits can help you with your planning! Feel free to share some of your own with us.

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