11 Tips for Traveling With Kids
We all love the idea of traveling, and we also love our kids, but to put the two together seems a little scary sometimes. Maybe you are preparing to take your first trip, or maybe you want to start traveling with your kids and need some tips. It is very rewarding to go places with your young kids, as it provides you, the parent, the freedom to enjoy seeing new scenery, while each travel experience can be an educational tool for teaching your children. I highly recommend that you do some checking to make sure that your chosen destination is kid friendly. Some destinations may not specify as kid friendly, however you can still make almost anything work for kids. I generally try to avoid destinations that specifically are casino or bar focused, although it can still be done, such as Las Vegas. You may just have to get a little creative. Heck, I have even taken my daughter to a Styx concert! Everything is within your comfort zone of what you feel comfortable exposing your kid(s) to. Keep in mind that having too many age restricted activities can be frustrating for both the kids and the parents alike. Some adult focused destinations have created kid spaces and child care just to make it more available for parents to feel like they are getting away. Keep in mind though that even some provided child cares have an age requirement, such as cruise ships who require a minimum of 2 years old to participate. The following list is for assumed child friendly destinations. Here is some of the best advice I can give to help you in your journeys.
Do your research before you go
Before heading out, I encourage you to spend some time researching the backstory or history of your destination. This will make the picture much bigger, and turns your trip into an educational experience. It is a great opportunity to have kids learn about history, and then see it come to life as they experience it. It makes the learning process more fruitful when they can get excited about the places they will see before they go. You may even consider having them write a report on their travels and archive it in a journal, or perhaps share with their teacher if it is during the school year.
Don’t expect everything to be perfect
Kids will be kids. Will they have a meltdown? Pretty much guaranteed. If you can set realistic expectations before your trip, it will set you up for more sanity down the road. Know that it is all par for the course. Heck, you or your partner may even have a meltdown, but remember, it’s ok. We are all human. The best advice I can give when this happens is to allow yourself to be human, take a time out, and let it pass. Because it will.
Prepare for all types of messes
Never leave the house without wipes! Even for older kids. They just seem to be a magnet for messes wherever they go, and wipes are the answer to everything. To me, they are the modern day parent’s miracle worker. It makes clean up a cinch no matter what type of mess, from bloody noses to dribbled ice cream spilled on their clothes. If you have a potty training child or younger, don’t forget to pack a change of clothes, just incase you get one of those “special” packages that can’t be contained. I also really like pull ups for a potty training toddler. Depending at where you are in the process, it can bring peace of mind if you feel that you may not have access to a restroom. I have even brought my daughter’s pint sized training toilet on a trip, because I knew that it would put her more at ease if she needed it.
Invest in a good daily nutritional supplement or multivitamin
Traveling just seems to bring out the junk food obsessed maniac in everybody, including kids. Along with the constant on the go, lack of routine, and oodles of distractions, it can cause little ones to not eat as healthy as they need to during a time when they need it the most. Wouldn’t it bring peace of mind to know that your child, and even you, can still get all the nutrients you need despite a momentary time of eating terribly? I choose JuicePlus+ gummys as the nutritional supplement for my family. It is made with organic non-GMO foods, and has the nutrition of 20 fruits and vegetables using whole food that exceeds the daily recommended amount for nutrients. They are so good that your kids will beg for more! Get those nutrients to help keep your immune system strong.
Look for Healthy Sunscreens
With all the brands of sunscreen bombarding you in the marketplace these days, it is understandably hard to choose a good one that will be gentle for your most precious children. I avoid ALL sunscreens that use chemical sunscreens, especially sprays, and opt for only mineral based sunscreens containing zinc oxide and/0r titanium dioxide. The mineral sunscreens are generally thicker, but to me are worth a little extra effort to know that I am putting something safe on my child. A tip for choosing a number, the higher the number does not necessarily mean more protection, but rather it is an indicator of how long it will protect for. A good measuring rule of thumb is if you take how many minutes it generally takes your skin to react to the sun, and multiply it by the number SPF, that is the number in minutes that it will protect for. For example, if it takes a person 5 minutes to react to the sun, using an SPF 30, that would give 150 minutes of protection, or 2 and a half hours. It would be advised to reapply after this amount of time. However, this is a general rule of thumb, and is not a perfect science, as other factors can affect it. Also, every person is different on how long they can be in the sun before reacting (turning red). The fairest person with little sun exposure can react rather quickly compared to a person who maybe spends a lot of time in the sun and takes 30 minutes to react.
Take advantage of airline child accommodations
If you are traveling with a child under the age of 2, they may be considered a “lap infant” and may travel for free, as they do not require their own seat. Once they turn 2, they are required to have their own seat and you must pay full price for their ticket. There is no age limit however on the free check-in for any type of car seat or stroller. No matter what type of stroller you have, TSA will have to check it. More about that in the next tip. The stroller would be considered like a wheelchair, and can accompany you all the way to the entrance of the plane. It is there that you will hand it off for plane side check, and will be able to pick it up again upon exiting the plane. Your carry on limit goes with your seat, so if you have a lap infant, they do not count to bring on luggage.
Prepare for TSA inspections before you get to the scanners
The part I dislike the most about passing through TSA inspections is not the process itself, although a pain, but rather the impatient childless travelers behind you. I have gotten this TSA thing down pretty fast, yet somehow I am never fast enough for these people. Be prepared as best as you can beforehand to minimize tensions in this area. Wear the easiest shoes you possibly can to get on and off. Have your carry on liquids ready to pull out. If you need to remove your belt, do it in line before getting to the bins. Have any laptops ready to pull out. Umbrella strollers can be folded to pass through the x-ray machine, and larger ones will have to be manually inspected. If your infant is using bottles with any type of milk, they do not have to adhere to the regular fluid rules, although they still will be inspected, just put in in the bin and declare it. Little kids do not have to remove their shoes and will walk through the old style metal detector machines with a parent. If you have multiple kids, Use 1 bin for each child if they are old enough to be responsible for it. The more you can prepare in advance for this, the better it will be. Some airports have a family line, so if they have one, use it!
Bring LOTS of photo storage
This one is pretty self explanatory, but no matter the choice of your photography device, just make sure that you are prepared to take a lot of pictures. Free up space on your memory chip, or bring an extra, you will need it. Yes, you will want to capture every moment, by both photo and video.
Take a Bazillion Photos
Now that you have lots of storage space, you can fill it up with all kinds of fun memories. Take photos like your finger got stuck on the capture button. Even if it is the same exact spot and background, take several. Especially if you have a larger group, it is incredibly hard to get all the kids with beaming smiles and their eyes open, or not becoming a blurry mess because they won’t stand still. If you have 5 to 10 shots, you can keep the best one and delete the others. To capture that perfect picture in only one shot is like winning the lottery. Can it happen? Sure. How likely? Not very. Trust me on this one, and you will thank me later. Just keep taking photos. LOTS of photos. And if you want some great advice for capturing unique photos, check out my Ideas for Unique Photos page for more tips and suggestions.
Bring travel phone and electronic chargers
With today’s modern technology, we have all kinds of great gadgets to keep kids occupied. Frankly, I’m not sure how parents survived without baby phone apps or youtube. I don’t condone it all the time, however it works great when you desperately need them to be occupied for a bit. Like most toddlers of today, my daughter is obsessed with the Youtube unboxing and toy reviews videos. She knows how to navigate my phone sometimes better than I do. Since your phone may become a source of entertainment for a bored and cranky kid, you are likely to run out of juice fast. I like to bring a good battery charger just incase. Nothing is worse than not being able to use your phone when you need it. I also would recommend bringing a powerful wall charger in the mix, because if you have access to an outlet, it can get the job done fast. Not all chargers are created equal, so do your research and try them out before your trip.
Speaking of Kinder Surprise Eggs, DO NOT bring them home if traveling abroad
Believe it or not, these wonderful little things are illegal in the United States. Yes, the “toy” that has toddlers everywhere in a trance like induced state while watching the unboxing Youtube videos, is actually not allowed in the US. If you get caught bringing one over the border, you can get fined up to $2,500 PER EGG!! The Department of Homeland Security actually has a statement on their website declaring them as “contraband”. You are probably dying of laughter right now, but sadly, it is all true. If you are abroad, and see these wonderful little eggs of joy, buy it, buy many. Enjoy it there at your vacation spot. Even make your own unboxing video that your little one can watch over and over. It will be a fun activity for them, and can be enjoyed long after you get back home. Just don’t bring it back with you.