Tips For Traveling With Children!

Tips For Traveling With Children!

Traveling after having little ones can be very intimidating and very overwhelming. Within the first year of our oldest child’s life, he had taken over ten longer airplane rides. I've learned that traveling within that first year is somewhat of a breeze compared to the later years and when adding subsequent children into the mix, just because of the lessened sleep opportunities and shorter attention spans as they get older, as well as having to facilitate it with more than one child. With two children now and many flights under our belt, I feel pretty experienced in this department and I’m thankful to be able to say that our air travels have been pretty stress-free and enjoyable for the most part. I’m happy to share what’s worked for us and the tricks that have allowed us to plan trips and prepare for them in a way that makes us look forward to the experience!

As with everything, preparedness is key. Taking the time to think ahead and get everything organized and ready to be used will be such a benefit to your travel experience. I like to keep one whole carry on bag dedicated to the little ones and their entertainment. There’s a few categories to consider that can help keep a child engaged. The biggest are food, activities and books. 

The reason I don’t have movies and things included in that, is because we’ve become a mostly “screen-free” family. So for us, traveling with an iPad just isn’t something we are interested in doing. Otherwise something of that nature might be something you’d want to include, because I know how helpful they can be! We do have a Yoto player and headphones that we will sometimes utilize, but this isn’t something our now 3 year old is interested in for longer periods of time. In the future though, I can see it coming with us on flights! We’ve also enjoyed the engagement that going without screens has provided us with! I feel like we’ve had so many more opportunities for learning, observations being made and great discussions that we may not have had otherwise if we were “plugged in”, so-to-speak. I heard Janet Lansbury speak on the subject in one of her ‘Unruffled’ podcast episodes, where she talks about how sometimes in an effort to entertain or engage children, we often create an environment or situation that is overly stimulating. She pointed out that even just being in an airport or airplane alone can be so stimulating and fascinating enough for a small child. She noted that there’s so much to see and explore already. That is, unless we’re creating and providing things of much more fascination. And for our children, I’ve really found this to be true. Just looking out the window, being present and curious, discussing and discovering things and having really fun, connection boosting conversations has been a really enjoyable aspect of our travels, and something that really makes me feel empowered in my role as their nurturer. So that's just a little insight into our decision to be void of devices that I wanted to share 

With food, we like to make sure we have snacks that are not only within our nutritional preferences, but also things that will ensure we don’t create a mess in our seats or have any stickiness to deal with. Some of our favorites are homemade beef jerky and fruit leathers, maybe some organic cheese or cauliflower crackers, RX bars, dried fruit, beef sticks, popcorn, etc. Bringing empty snack containers with spill proof tops is great for serving snacks mid-flight, and especially for the airplane snacks to go into since they come in such a small, easy to spill from bag. Also bringing empty water bottles or sippy cups serve as a great tool, so they’re not drinking out of an open cup, while they’re also most likely utilizing the tray table for play. Which will help you prevent spills and allow you to alleviate that worry for yourself. I learned this one the hard way!

And just like in our home, we like to incorporate open-ended play and promote independent play as much as possible. From a Montessori perspective, these two things have an incredibly beneficial impact on a child’s sense of imagination, independence, problem solving skills, patience and connection with oneself, among many other things. Open-ended toys also help to develop a young child’s attention span, as well as engage them more such a longer period of time. We like these kinds of toys because there’s no end in sight, no limits, and no set way it has to be played with. Which makes it perfect for all the time spent on an airplane! So, I pack items specific to being open ended, and keep in mind their size pertaining to our ability to travel with them and any related components, in addition to their potential for mess making. Some items we’ve pulled from our toy inventory and have loved to have with us on plane ride and subsequently also in hotel rooms, are: 

Colored pencils, which typically don’t show up well on anything other than paper, which is important! We have and love these ones, their thicker size is perfect for smaller hands. 

And these triangle shaped crayons are also great because they won’t roll off the tray table!

I’ll also bring a drawing pad and/or a coloring book to go with them!

Cutting pages or books are also great, with a pair of scissors! They really make for some challenging, self esteem boosting and focused play! This one is great and so is this one!

Activity books are always fun and create a great opportunity for learning and quiet play! We love sticker books, eye spy books, and educational lesson books and games like this, this, this, and this!

Open ended activities like these have been fun for us on the plane, as well as in the car, at church, or even at home:

Wooden Geo Board with Rubber Bands!

Geometric Puzzle Board!

As well as our super long-lasting, all natural play dough, which I also pack some small accessories and tools for! I’ll share our playdough recipe in an upcoming blog post!

Magna Tiles or magnetic building toys in general have also been great for traveling with and are great to have with us in our housing accommodations whenever we arrive at our destination!

Some books are always great to have on hand! I try to be more strategic with what I bring. I typically prefer to go with ones that have a longer story line, ones that are more engaging and have thought provoking material, maybe even some favorite bedtime books to promote sleep with a familiar bedtime routine practice, a chapter book we’re all enjoying together and certainly some books for ourselves as well. I make it a point during our travel to do something that I also enjoy and can focus on, because if I want them to engage in independent play, I think it’s important to model that for them. After we’ve had some really interactive play and connective time, I let my children know that I’ll be reading (or working on my laptop or resting or whatever) and that now is the time that they can work with their play dough or do some drawing or whatever. I like to give ideas and choices, and choose things that don’t require my involvement or any assistance, which could potentially lead to their frustration from not having any. I do this in a really calm, assuring way, and it typically works really well, just by setting the tone and coming off as very matter of fact and pleasant about it. I not only want to have the time for myself, but I also want my children to see me doing something for me and that I love. I think it’s important for them in a lot of ways and when done at the right time, meaning my children are not overly tired or hungry or lacking in connection, it makes for a really peaceful, enjoyable bit of time for everyone.

On a practical note, I also like to keep any supplies and accessories tidied and readily available within our bag. These things include any chargers we may need, definitely diapers and wipes together, antibacterial wipes, and I’ve also come to love having all natural soap sheets on hand to be used in replacement of the toxic public restroom options.  I bring chapstick, pacifiers and change of clothes just in case.

Here’s the link to the soap sheets! Perfect for 'on the go' hand washing when you're mindful of ingredients!

Having everything in its own ziplock bag is a great way to ensure you don’t have to rummage through your bag to get what you need, and helps you keep your bag nice and organized. And as much as I dislike Ziplocks from an aesthetic standpoint, their clear material makes it really easy to find what you need! Another great idea might be to write the contents on the bag, so you make sure you have everything you came with when you pack up at the end of your flight and vacation! I also like to go through the list with my toddler as we tidy up after ourselves, in an effort to involve them in the practice and teach them about accountability and responsibility. Afterall, they like to be included in things and feel good about having a job to do! Especially if it's with you!

One thing I know for sure, is that even though traveling with teensy ones may be more challenging than when you were a single person, or a “panther” as my husband likes to prefer to his formerly childless, traveling self, it definitely does not have to be stressful, anxiety inducing or so challenging. It’s all about being prepared, remaining as their guide and facilitating the experience you want for each of you. It’s really so much more rewarding and always makes me proud to align with the kind of parent I want to be, in these bigger life moments and when it can be hard to have a positive mindset.

I hope you’ve found this helpful and I would LOVE to hear any tips you may have or things you’ve enjoyed utilizing in your travels!

Thanks for reading!

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