Pleasant(er) Travel with Small Children

Friday, June 30, 2017

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!

We have set out on our massive, crazy, summer trip! At this point, even at barely 5 and almost 3, the kids are pleasant travel buddies. They share our enthusiasm for exploring new places and embrace the experience of travel. But it is only pleasant with a decent amount of planning and organization. They are still normal kids after all.

Cleaning Day

Two days before we leave is cleaning day! The kids help. We start the laundry to get ready for packing day. We sweep, mop, and vacuum, clean out trashcans, wash all the sheets and towels, scrub the bathroom, etc. It is *so nice* to come home to a clean house and only have to worry about doing the laundry from the trip.

Yes, the helmet is overkill. But he was still helpful with it on, so it was allowed to stay on.

I have a list of things that must be done either the night before, or the morning, that we leave. Take out the trash and compost (including the coffee filter. Trust me on this one.), start the dishwasher if needed, and unplug/turn off all non-essential electric devices. Coming home to the smell of rotting garbage is best avoided.


It pays off to check the websites of your airport, airline, hotel, etc. for specific kid resources. Knowing what terminal has the kid play space is a life saver in the event of a flight delay.

Happy kiddo in the midst of a multi-hour flight delay. The kind that's so bad the airline gives out meal vouchers.
I also check for things like laundry availability at hotels and local attractions that have free or cheap kid admission costs.

Directed packing

Packing day is much less stressful if the kids can help with the packing.
We do directed packing. I have the master packing list and I send the kids off to their room to bring me a specific number of items. 5 short sleeve shirts, 8 pairs of underwear, etc. The kids get some agency in what clothes they bring, and only clothes that are appropriate and useful get packed. Win!

The kids currently share a big duffel as the "kid bag". To keep their stuff separated they each have a separate trash bag that their clothes stacks are wrapped in. Small items (socks, underwear, swim suits, etc.) are put in a gallon baggie so they are easy to find.

Kid Packs

Each of the kids has a backpack that fits them relatively well. They each contain:

  • 3-4 books (Picked by each kid, but fit easily in the backpack. It's an important qualifier with my kids. John tried to pack the fully illustrated Harry Potter once.)
  • A coloring book or activity book.
  • Small pad of paper
  • Stickers
  • Small baggie with crayons, pencils, and sharpener.
  • Kid headphones
  • Small toy
Each kid also carries their own water bottle in an outer pocket.

To test their choices, the kids have to wear their backpacks for a decently long walk. If it's too heavy, they have to swap something out or leave it out. They are in charge of their own packs in airports and other travel locations. Mom is not a pack mule.

Snacks go in parent backpacks

I learned the hard way that kid snacks are best portioned out slowly. The kid packs are designed for the kids to have free reign to choose from the materials. Having verboten items in there is a recipe for melt down, but if they all get eaten in the beginning there is nothing for when they are actually hungry. So snacks go in parent back packs!

I also have a wet/dry bag (the cloth diapering item that keeps on giving!) in the parent packs with a change of clothes for each kid, travel wipes, and hand sanitizer. Because if you need it, you need it NOW!

TripIt App

I love this thing! The last thing I want to do is be scrambling around for a confirmation number at the airport. I forward all of my itineraries to the TripIt email and it builds an itinerary that I can pull up via the app on my phone. It keeps plans in order and pulls the current part of the itinerary, and the next stop, to the top of the list. We have a complicated trip this summer, and this thing is a life saver!

White Noise 

Good at sleeping while traveling! Not so good at staying in place.
My kids are used to white noise and it's so helpful for getting kids to sleep in unfamiliar places. I go through the trouble of bringing our sound machines, because I don't want my phone to be held hostage during nap time by a white noise app, but I have used an app when traveling abroad to cut down on baggage weight and not have to worry about voltage issues.

What are your best tips for crafting a pleasant travel experience with kids in tow?

1 comment :

  1. Great tips! My only addition: low expectations. If you expect a tantrum, you're pleasantly surprised when one doesn't happen. ;)

    On our trip to Yellowstone last year, neither my husband nor I planned to do anything other than entertain kids on the plane ride. All we did was talk to them, read to them, and facilitate their snack needs. (Which was a full-time job.) That way they (our 1 and 3 year olds) never got impatient with us, and we never got impatient with them for taking us away from our own activities. It was exhausting, but worth it! No tantrums! :)


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