I would never call myself a travel “expert,” but with family on both coasts I can assure you that we’ve done our fair share of travelling with kids. If you’re planning air travel with kids, saying that you have to be prepared is an understatement. You really need to be OVER-prepared.
Remember that air travel probably means getting a meal at the airport, maneuvering airplane bathroom stalls (these bathrooms are NOT made for two people even if one of them is little), schlepping through security, and finagling suitcases at the baggage claim.
Drinks will be spilled, feelings will be hurt, tears will be shed (probably yours)… all in the name of air travel. Not that traveling on wheels is easy. We’ve done that too and it can be just as…uh… difficult. If you’ve traveled with kids, you know what I’m talking about. Which is why half of the battle is planning ahead to minimize the craziness. Here’s your travel time in a nutshell: you can pack the newest issue of your favorite magazine, just don’t expect to read it.
Some of the tips below may seem like overkill, but if it’s been a while (or maybe never) since you’ have traveled with kids I think you’ll be glad you at least considered these.
10 Travel Tips for Families
- If you’ve already purchased tickets, double-check to make sure you know about seating and baggage. Do you have an assigned seat? Can you check in early online? How much will your checked bags cost?
- If you’re still considering which airline to travel with, be sure to know that each one is different. Some you have to pay for bags, others you don’t. Some give seat assignments, others don’t. Know before you buy.
- Before you leave, get online and check out the airports you’re traveling to and from. Take a look at the terminal and concourses. Know how to get from the gate to baggage claim, where bathrooms are or what restaurants are available. Just having an idea will make you feel more at ease.
- Consider the safety regulations now in place for air travel. There is a designated security line at the airport for families travelling with small children, so you can take your time folding up strollers and handing over baby bottles. However, knowing the rules ahead of time will make your life easier.
- Even if you don’t allow your kids to indulge in sugary snacks, think of their favorite snacks and pack them in plenty! Think no liquid, no refrigeration.
- Bring a nice assortment of activities to keep little hands occupied. Nothing with small pieces that could get dropped and lost. Coloring and activities books are great for 3-8 year olds. When my kids were younger magnetic books that allow kids to make-believe and create fun scenes were perfect. Books to read, large playing cards, toy cars or figures, and video games are all great travel options. And remember, older kids will like having their own bag and it will lessen your load. Each can have a backpack with their own things which may have the side benefit of reducing arguments.
- Gum! It’s a must for keeping ears from getting full. (Obviously keep age appropriateness in mind.)
- Always use the airport restroom before boarding. Of course kids will want to check out the airplane restroom even if they don’t need to use it… good luck.
- Strategically maneuver. You know your kids best. Who will want to sit by the window? Can you negotiate one gets the privilege on the way on the other on the return flight? Do you need to sit between kids to keep them at bay? Have a plan A and B and then be ready to throw them both out the window (the plans, not the kids).
- Allow older kids to have input about what you will do and how they can spend money. Give them an opportunity to talk about what they would like to do within the means of the family’s time and money. Make sure they know you will consider all ideas, but that ultimately the adults will be making the final decision. As for money, decide if they will be given a specific amount to spend from the general vacation fund or if they will be using their own money. Talk about what you will allow them to use their money on so there is no arguing on vacation. For example, if you won’t be letting them make purchases at the airport gift shop, you’ll want to talk about this ahead of time.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
2 Corinthians 13:14
What are your best travel tips?
By Jenna Hallock
Wife to Mark
Mom of two
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Family Time Training