Whoever said traveling with kids is easy was obviously mistaken. Wait, no one said that? Of course, because any fool can imagine traveling with children is one of the most tiring, overwhelming, stress-inducing activities one can undertake.
While there’s really no way around the hardship, there are ways to make the ordeal easier and even, dare I say, enjoyable. Check out the parenting travel hacks below for ideas that’ll have you dreading the journey a little less.
1. When your travel plans call for early departure times, put your kids to bed the night before in the comfy clothes they’ll wear for the next day’s travel.
2. Abbey from Texas remembers the kids’ atlases her grandmother used to buy. If you’re traveling by car, these books can turn the trip into a game, drastically reducing the “Are we there yet?” rate.
3. Instead of messy art supplies, bring window clings. Cari from Oregon shared this brilliant hack she uses to keep her kids occupied and eliminate mess. Window clings are perfect for cars, planes, and hotel rooms.
4. If you’re traveling with wee ones, bring your own outlet covers. Hotels certainly won’t have them, and you never know if friends and family will. If you don’t want to bother with real plastic covers, use Band-Aids instead.
5. When flying with a lap child (a baby under age 2), make sure to check your car seat at the gate. This is free, and it eliminates the possibility of the car seat getting lost and not being there to meet you at your destination.
6. Speaking of traveling with a lap child, some airlines — Southwest, for instance — allow you to bring your car seat onto the plane if the flight is not full. Simply inquire when you get to your gate; if the flight is full, gate check the seat as planned. If the flight isn’t full, the airline will likely allow you to carry the seat on and use it for your baby.
7. Kayla from Mississippi swears by blue painter’s tape. Kids will automatically be fascinated by the stuff because it’s so far from what they’re usually allowed to play with at home. Whether in route or at your destination, you can use a roll to make shapes or pictures, create a race track, or play games like tic-tac-toe. The tape is easily removable and leaves no residue.
8. Bring plenty of zip-top bags. They’re perfect for everything from stashing soiled clothes to protecting electronics from water and sand to snagging a few extra snacks from the breakfast buffet. You can even use a sandwich-size bag to mount your cell phone to the back of the seat in front of you while flying. Just put the phone in the bag and zip it closed, leaving a tiny opening for headphones. Unlatch the tray table, tuck the bag in, and re-latch. Your phone will hang at the perfect height.
9. Invest in mess-free art supplies. Karen from Oregon says she stocks up on fun reusable painting projects that keep her kids entertained for hours.
10. Don’t forget those reusable water bottles. It’s important to drink plenty of water when flying, but no one wants to pay $5 for a bottle. Bringing cute reusable bottles for the kids and allowing them to fill them will encourage hydration, and it’ll allow you to easily split one bottle of juice or soda between multiple children.
12. Bring along a travel tray for kids in car seats. These handy contraptions allow kids to eat and play with ease. They’re especially convenient if you’re flying because car seats make the tray tables unusable.
13. You’ll want to pack a lint roller too. Aside from its obvious use, a lint roller is great for removing crumbs from car seats and hotel beds, grabbing dropped earring backs, and cleaning up left-behind craft supplies like Play-Doh and glitter.
14. Make the journey as fun as the destination. Play games like travel bingo and schedule cheesy stops (think World’s Biggest/Smallest/Only…) to make time pass faster and turn the whole trip into a memorable — in a good way — experience.
15. Whenever possible, choose seats at the back of airplane. Not only will you be closer to the bathrooms, you’ll also be nearer to the flight attendants in case you need anything. But keep in mind that you’ll be the last to deplane, so make sure you’ll have enough to time to make a connecting flight.
Finally, pace yourself and have fun!
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