Whether you’re taking a road trip or venturing to the airport for a flight,traveling is stressful enough for people with kids.Much of your fear is probably due to being worried about inflicting that experience on other passengers.You just don’t know what might happen while you’re all trapped 10,000 feet above ground—even if you usually have well-behaved kids—and so you imagine the worst: from diaper blowouts and vomit on a stranger’s laptop to 6-hour screaming sessions.But it doesn’t have to be! Check out some of these brilliant travel hacks to make your vacation fun for everyone.
1.Prepare in advance
If you are taking a long trip, it does not matter how you get there. Every minute you waste trying to find a flight or hotel room or gas station is a minute more your child spends in transportation and a minute more where they get crankier.
Book your flight and hotel room in advance instead of driving around at 8 PM trying to find the next decent hotel. If you are driving, plan your rest stops in advance and liven things up by finding a park or roadside attraction so the kids will be entertained by visiting someplace new.
2.Ask (and ask again) for the baby bed
On many (though not all) international flights you can get a baby bassinet—a little cot for infants that attaches to the wall in front of the bulkhead seats. They’re free, but you have to reserve them in advance. Book as early as possible, call at least once before the flight to confirm the bed, and remind the flight crew when you board that you reserved one. It’s a hassle, but the payoff for your arms is huge.
3. Direct Flights are Worth It.
Don’t complicate things by changing planes. If you must go to a destination without a direct flight, look at the nearest destination and consider driving from there. It was better to be off the plane without a chance of delays, cancellations, etc. One leg of a flight is enough.
Fly during the week, if possible. Midweek flights to vacation destinations tend to be a little less crowded. Everyone seems to fly on Saturdays. We like Tuesdays.
4. If you stay in a hotel, shoot for a suite
It is not cool to have to go to bed at 7:30 because you’re sleeping in the same room as your two children. My secret weapon is Book a Suite, a website that’s exactly what it sounds like. When reserving, make sure that the “suite” is actually more than one room and not just a larger-than-normal guest room.
5.Know how to find a kid-friendly apartment
If you rent houses or flats equipped for young children ,you generally get more space than in a hotel, you can cook or eat in, you won’t have to worry as much about safety or damage, you might be able to borrow gear like cribs and strollers, and there’s built-in entertainment for your little ones. My trick: when searching Airbnb, I check “family friendly” in the amenities list, then look for listings that have photos of children’s rooms.But I’ve also found them to be more expensive.
6.Plan your packing, so you don’t forget the essentials
We try to pack light, but especially when you have little kids, there are some things you simply do not want to be without (like wipes, bottles, and enough diapers to last for a couple of days). I start my packing list a week before we leave, because thoe everyday items can be easy to forget—when I use them, I add them to the roster.
7. Pack Smart
Pack the bare minimum because you can always buy it there. Roll clothes and stuff socks and underwear inside shoes. Wear your heaviest clothes on the flight. Encourage kids to choose and pack their own clothes to minimize complaints and to teach travel skills.
Select versatile and comfortable clothes and color-coordinated separates so if something gets dirty you only have to change part of the outfit. And pack bags with what is needed first on the top — a change of clothes for dinner, pajamas, or what is needed during the day including a change of clothes in case of accidents.
8.Bring Reusable Bags
Packing a few reusable bags makes getting items you purchase on your vacation home much easier. You can easily put your shoes and other clothing items inside and use these bags as a carry-ons. Reusable bags also make for great beach tots and places to pack/store dirty or wet clothing within your suitcase.
9. Pack a Fist Aid Kit
You’re parents. You know your kids get sick or hurt themselves in the most inopportune times. Instead of relying on the hotel concierge or having to drive a strange city in the middle of the night for children’s motrin, pack your own first aid kit with bandaids, advil, antibacterial spray and anything else you think may come in handy.
10.Tattoos,ID bracelets, and Travel Cards
Yes, I said Tattoos. For your child. This is probably the most innovative and important travel hack I’ve ever seen. It’s not just for those of us who have “runners,” but for any parent who wants to minimize the time their child could be lost by wandering off. An amazing organization called Tottoos.org creates custom rub-on tattoos with any information you want, such as your phone number in the event your child is lost. They also make custom tattoos for special needs and medical conditions.
Placing a travel card in a child’s a pocket can also help if you become separated. However, cards can be torn and lost by little ones who think they’re fun to eat and tear up. A medical ID bracelet or temporary tattoo can ensure the information isn’t lost.
11. Bring a Few Comforts from Home
Allow your children to bring along a few home comforts such as a stuffed toy, reading books, or a portable music player.
12. Bring Your Own Nightlight
It may seem like a no brainer, but you can easily forget that the same child who needs a nightlight at home will probably need one in a strange new place. Do yourself a favor and just buy a “travel” light that you can keep you in your suitcase for all your trips. It will end up helping you navigate your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night too!
13.Forget Taking All Your Baby Gear –Consider Renting It.
There are baby gear rental agencies throughout the country that can line you up with cribs, pack-n-plays, strollers, and everything else you may need for your little one. Travels With Baby has an excellent round-up of companies around the world that can conduct baby gear rentals.If you’re flying and then renting a car, call ahead to your destination’s car rental company and see if they rent child seats.
Another option is to buy inexpensive seats and ship them to your location. This works especially well if you are traveling to family and have seats from another country.
14.Don’t Bring Your Fancy Stroller if you don’t try a baby gear rental service
Whether you’re driving or flying, your big stroller is going to take up a lot of space. If you’re flying, it’s also just one more thing that can get banged up or even lost. Buy a cheap umbrella stroller at your destination and leave it there if you want when you’re heading home. If you’re at a theme park, you won’t care nearly as much if someone steals it as opposed to your Bugaboo!
15. Have a giant bag of snacks.
Food is always a must when traveling. Prepare a bunch ahead of time and store in kid friendly and entertaining containers, like a bead container. Little fingers can easily pick out snacks from each compartment, and the handy lid will keep everything from spilling when they’re done.Try to give your children their own containers so there are no conflicts over sharing.
But sugar means active kids, and you don’t want your kids to be hyper whether they are sitting in a plane or car.Cheerios are a good snack choice, as is fruit or crackers.
16.Help With Ear Popping
Adults typically chew gum to help with the shift in altitude when flying but not all kids are ready for gum. For babies, have them drink a bottle as you take off and decend. Toddlers and younger children who aren’t ready for gum can ease ear pains with chewy snacks – fruit chews, gummy bears, etc.
17.Make Your Own “Coloring Bottle” or A Coloring Case using a DVD box
Using a bottle or an old DVD box,you can easily craft your own tool kit to let your kids get their drawing on without having to worry about colored pencils everywhere!
18.Use Upside Down Crazy Straws To Lock Straws In Place
Keep drinks under control with a fun twist! Stick crazy straws in upside down to anchor them inside the cup to prevent the straw from popping out.
19.Buy a new toy for the flight.
Let the kids pick out a small toy or other item in advance (days in advance, at the airport, whatever). Don’t let them open it until mid-flight.
20. Keep them entertained
Obviously, you want to bring some toys, colored pencils, or other items to keep the kids distracted during the trip. But there are things you can do to ensure they stay occupied and quiet over the next few hours.
If you have multiple children, try to have enough distractions for everyone. For example, multiple small coloring pencil packs is better than one large set, because it will make it less likely that your kids will fight over one particular color.
An iPad or tablet can have plenty of apps or games which can keep the kids distracted for a while, but don’t depend on that or DVDs alone. Make sure they have non-technological pursuits as well, and keep the entertainment varied so your child can move from one form of entertainment to the next.
21.Use the hotel garbage can as a stool.
When they can’t reach the sink in the hotel to brush their teeth, flip the garbage can over and let them stand on that.
22. Electrical Outlets – Band-Aid Style
Forget bringing all the plastic covers for electrical outlets. Pack some Band-Aids and you’re covered. Literally.
23.Know when to back down
You can’t take a 2-year-old boy sightseeing all day, let him skip his nap, and then expect him to behave in a fancy restaurant. Sometimes you need to quit while you’re ahead. And, that you can have pizza delivered in Paris.
24.Be mindful of airport security
The above notice on bringing milk and juice on a flight may be confusing given TSA regulations on liquids. But the TSA website does note that “formula, breast milk and juice for infants or toddlers are permitted through the security checkpoint.” In order to get it through, notify a TSA officer in advance and they will screen your child’s drinks with an X-ray.
Also, make sure that children are aware they need to go through security, and treat it like a little game to keep them interested. Children under 12 can keep shoes and light jackets on, but their toys and favorite items must be placed on the X-ray belt, and no toiletries, like soaps and shampoos, are allowed through most airport security checks. Make sure your child understands they can get their teddy bear back in just a bit so that they do not throw a tantrum upon being separated. If your child cannot walk, then you will need to hold them as you walk through the metal detector.
Perhaps most important of all is to make sure that your children understand that making “I have a gun” jokes towards airport security is never acceptable. Make it clear that such a joke could see their vacation delayed or even outright cancelled, as a parent could pay a fine for the child’s mistake.
25. Do NOT drug your children
There are a growing number of parents who believe that sedating their children before a long flight is acceptable. It is not.
Over-the-counter medicines such as Benadryl can have unpredictable and dangerous effects when used on very young children. As the BBC notes, the chair of the American Academy on Pediatricians observed that many of the drugs used to sedate kids are not actually designed to do so, but do it as a side effect.