Travel can be an enlightening and eye-opening experience for children of all ages: there’s new foods, experiences and sights, not to mention quality family time. But traveling with children can also be an overwhelming proposition — unpredictable schedules, long packing lists and cranky kids are just a few of the challenges you may encounter along the way. But here we'll help you make traveling with kids a breeze. After all, you and your children should enjoy every moment seeing the world and create a lifetime of memories along the way. Isn’t that the point of travel in the first place?
Timing is everything
This tip is most important for babies and younger kids still napping. The best thing you can do is book a night flight (I know, not ideal for you… but trust me on this). Keeping with your child’s regular sleep schedule will mean more hours of peace for you on the plane. If evening flights don’t work, try to book so that the departure is approximately 30 minutes to an hour before nap time—and pray the flight isn’t delayed. This means that after takeoff, you can do a quick bottle or snack, a short story, and then hopefully the sounds and movement of the plane will help your little one drift off for a majority of the flight. Unless you’re going long distance with flights over six hours. You’ll need a bigger game plan for that.
Know the rules
From wearing masks on board to whether you can schlep your stroller on the plane itself, it’s important to know the rules before you go. (Your Liberty Travel consultant will also know the details.) You’ll save yourself so much stress at the airport. While airlines each have individual rules, you can be sure that an infant carrier and booster seat will be allowed on board for safety purposes. Strollers can be checked (make sure they’re in a protective bag), but you can also push them up to the gate to be tagged right there. The airport staff will get them off the plane right at your arrival gate so you can strap in and go.
Give them tasks
This tip is for toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged kids. Little kids love to be helpful. Even if what they’re doing is the exact opposite of truly helping. Many retailers sell kid-sized rolling carry-ons. Let your child pack their favorite small toys, stuffies, etc. and then give them the responsibility of wheeling around their own luggage. Sure, they may run over an unsuspecting adult. But usually all you’ll get is a chuckle. And your child gets to feel like a big kid. Other tasks include asking them what they want to wear on vacation and letting them “help” pack. When you’re through security, ask your child who knows numbers to help you find the gate. Do the same thing when on the plane looking for your seats.
If you’re already laughing, you aren’t alone. Every parent knows preparation is key, but the unexpected inevitably occurs. Still, there are steps you can do to prepare for a few different scenarios. Always pack an extra set of clothes for babies and toddlers, as well as more diapers than you think you’ll need. A big pack of wipes will help clean up faces, hands, tray tables, and anything else. When departing and landing, make sure your baby has a bottle or is being breast fed (if possible). Toddlers and older kids should have a snack. This allows kids to naturally swallow, which will help alleviate any uncomfortable pressure in the ears. If your child has a stuffy nose already, especially from allergies, a dose of your usual medication taken an hour before takeoff will also help. That brings me to the food… Snacks are king. Choose a variety of (age appropriate) snacks to keep your kids distracted. I tend to use travel as an excuse to bust out the fun stuff not allowed on an everyday basis. The more delicious the better.
There are so many ways to amuse little kids when traveling. And something new is always the winner. I love magnetic playsets, with a board and magnetic pieces that let kids create their own robot creatures or princess fairies. Coloring and activity books are also great distracters. And if someone tells you showing your kid a movie on your iPad is wrong, well then you don’t want to be right. Another fun idea is bringing new surprises on board, hidden in your own carry-on. A small activity in the beginning to do on the plane, maybe followed by a small stuffed animal, and then a final prize once the flight has landed to open while waiting for everyone else to slowly get off. (This can be the hardest part for a little kid, who wants to get off right away and can’t handle the orderly front-to-back sloth crawl. Admit it, even most adults are impatient at this part.)
Everyone always worries about bringing a baby on a flight. But truly it’s the toddlers that are the biggest challenge. Babies are happy to stay seated. But once your kid can walk, that’s all they want to do. Being snapped into a small seat for hours is their version of torture. If you have a super restless kid on your hands and nothing else works, walk down the aisle with your toddler or preschooler, with them in front of you and you holding on to both of their hands. You’ll not only distract your own kid, but you’ll also provide some amusement to the bored stiff passengers as well.
Being someplace new can be hard for kids. Even when you want to make this family vacation the best ever, full of Instagram-worthy memories with snapshots that will adorn your walls for years, kids are still kids. Some handle travel like they’re born into it, while others have a hard time just sleeping in a new bed. Try to be patient and make sure you’ve packed a few comforting things to help like their blanket, favorite stuffed animal, and even a noise machine if you use one at home. Speaking of sleep, try to stick to a normal nap schedule. This can be tricky if you’ve changed time zones, but if your trip is only a few days I suggest keeping their nap schedule on a similar time as it would be at home.
Remember when I said to pack snacks? It’s not just for the carry-on. Bring boxes of their favorite cereal, some granola bars, crackers, and anything that’s easily portable and you know will be gobbled up. And a handful of reusable containers or baggies too. Some kids love trying new foods and most resorts (especially all-inclusive resorts) have plenty of kid-friendly options. But for times when a cranky child needs calories immediately, you can whip out a baggie from your beach bag and be an instant hero.
It's so worth it
And finally, many experienced parents will tell you that traveling with kids isn’t a vacation, it’s a trip. But I promise it’s all worth it. The memories that are made are some of the bests your kids will ever experience in their childhoods.