Traveling with kids 101

Let’s just say it: we all fear being stuck on a long flight with misbehaving children - yours or others. So nothing melts my heart more than receiving compliments from strangers about my children’s behavior on a flight.

As parents, we survive by relying on each other for childrearing advice. Since our international family dynamics encompass a lot of travel, I tend to frequently get asked for tips on traveling with kids, following are a few I have learned along the way.

Start them young and take them often 

When asked about traveling with kids, my go-to answer is, “Take them young, and take them often.” I have braved long, international travels with my little ones, from a very young age. In my experience, the younger you start, the more natural the whole process becomes, thus the better-behaved everyone will be, mainly because everyone learns what is expected.  

Make a list and check it twice 

Looking back at my first solo flight across the country with my then 10-month-old, I was extremely nervous. So I did what I usually do: I started an extensive list of what would help in every situation. And then I tweaked my Excel list through the weeks until it was perfected to the essential items.  

I kept that Excel travel-packing spreadsheet, however, it is continuously updated. I removed diapers and added apps. I start assessing our needs about a week prior to travel. For example, is a stroller necessary, or would a child carrier be more convenient?

Carefully select your destination 

As our kids get older, they are growing more interested in history, museums, etc. With tiny ones, I highly recommend travel adventures to simpler destinations – like the beach. I learned to be more of a planner when we traveled with infants. Choose less crowded places with easy access to naps (like an umbrella on the beach) and food. 

Cruising was an ideal travel style for us when our kids were little. There is always an abundance of food, you don’t have to spend much time in the car, as the ship takes you from place to place while sleeping; and, there are break opportunities for parents via the amazing kids clubs and entertainment. There’s a change of scenery on Cruises with stops to different locales each day. And, of course, unlimited swimming is always a hit with little ones.  

While worth considering at least once, is an all-inclusive resort. Large varieties of activities are provided; many of them free for kids. There is an excellent selection of evening entertainment with different types of shows to introduce to children, all included in the price.

Timing is everything 

I’ve found careful timing to make all the difference in developing good road-trippers. For example, we frequently visit Calgary, which is about an eight-hour drive from Billings. We learned that if we leave after lunch, the kids usually go to sleep about halfway into the trip, and it does not seem as long for them.

Early morning flights are much more manageable when we take the kids from bed in their pajamas, and they continue sleeping on the plane after we board. Later, they change into their regular clothes. A well-rested child is a better travel companion.  

Speaking of clothes, when traveling with small children, it pays to expect the unexpected by carrying an extra set for them (and you)!

Also, consider timing while visiting places like Disneyland. While it is a very fun, stimulating spot, taking a day in between to unwind and explore a beach, makes everything so much more enjoyable. 

Consider making it a surprise if your trip requires an early morning flight and you know your kids will not be able to sleep the night before leaving because of the excitement. Pulling off a surprise Disneyland trip was one of the most exciting things we’ve ever done. Keeping it a secret was tough - we packed at night so we didn't get caught - but the kids’ reaction was so worth it.

Become a packing pro

Avoid overpacking. With convenience stores everywhere, some items are not worth packing and dragging around.

“Kids-size” your trip 

Always include some kids entertainment so that they have something to look forward to. Sometimes, we adults look so forward to a much-needed getaway; we forget to think like kids. Children’s museums are very popular. Truthfully, most of them are as much fun for adults with great hands-on exploring. 

Last fall, we took a Montana road trip and broke it up with lots of stops to keep the kids entertained. With so many neat places to stop around the state, you can customize your trip to the length of your travel. Some of our favorite adventures are ruby mining by Virginia City, Bozeman Hot Springs, Lewis and Clark Caverns, and all of the mining-related museums in Butte.

Prepare for the apocalypse 

My husband jokingly teases me about my “ready for the apocalypse” basket in the trunk of my car. Filled with seasonal must-haves like warmer/cooler clothes, extra shoes, swimsuits, extra snacks, water bottles, towels, etc., if we drive by a splash park, we can swing by without having to go home. I try to plan for the worst and hope for the best while traveling. For example, uncomfortable shoes can be a deal breaker in places that require lots of walking. For our last trip to Disneyland, I packed all of us an extra pair of shoes to switch through the day.

But the best advice is, simply to pack up and go. I promise you won't regret it.

about the author...Akvilina Rieger was born in Lithuania. A scholarship to MSU-Bozeman unexpectedly brought her to Montana where she created her family with husband Paul and daughters Sofia and Savannah. An explorer at heart, she is a little bit obsessed with showing the world to her family and everyone around her.

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s August 2018 issue.

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