Traveling can be hectic and stressful, but it gets even more so when you are taking to the road with kids in tow. Small children get bored with the long waits and highly structured requirements in airports and on trains. And, fellow travelers can sometimes be unwelcoming when they anticipate that your crew may be loud or restless. While some traveling hassles can't be avoided, you can make things easier through a little bit of planning in advance.
1. Choose your carry-ons well.
Every kid who is old enough to carry a backpack should have her own bag with a couple of snacks, toys and books. Avoid the wheeled bags that you pull along; these are often difficult for small children to manage.
2. Let them participate in packing (within reason).
Let kids choose a couple of small items for these packs, but follow up to make sure their decisions work out. Small kids may decide to bring along heavy non-essentials and skip the things they really want.
3. Dress for travel success.
Make sure that everyone is wearing comfortable clothes. Kids do best in shirts and pants that are easy to get on and off. Mom might be more comfortable and feel more put together in a light and airy dress. Check the weather forecasts for your destination and any legs along your journey to ensure that the clothes you have with you will be either warm or cool enough for the climate. Choose footwear that all the kids can put on and take off themselves to make the security lines easier.
4. Have back-ups.
Put a few necessary care items in each kid's bag as well as some in your own. If you have room, bring along extra garments for the kids. It can be a lifesaver if someone spills a drink early into your trip.
5. Try to schedule travel as early in the day as possible.
You may have to get up earlier, but, starting early in the day can make travel far less stressful. There tend to be fewer passengers on the flights that are earliest in the day. And, if any of your flights are delayed, an early start makes it more likely that you will be able to find a new flight to get you to your destination on time.
6. Allow extra cushion time.
If you have to travel far to get to the airport, look for a hotel in the area. That way, you can arrive in town the night before and just have to get up and go in the morning. If you have the option to take flights with longer layovers, these can be a good choice. That way, you aren't rushing in the airport.
7. Keep kids busy.
Include an assortment of items to keep kids entertained during travel. Allow each child to bring one or two special toys. Make sure that toys do not have small parts that could get lost during travel. Include a few different colored markers and some stickers for creations. Dole out these items throughout the day so that they always have something new to play with.
8. Help spur a passion for travel.
Give each kid a notebook to write about their trip or to make drawings to pass the time and detail their journey. Let bigger kids bring cameras so they can record what they see.
9. Keep kids engaged.
To help kids get through each part of travel, explain what is going on and what's expected. They're more likely to wait patiently to get on or off the airport when the reasons for the wait are explained.
If your kids are traveling for the first time, they may be a bit overwhelmed by the experience or confused about what's expected from them. But, after a few trips, they'll be patient world travelers able to journey all over the world.
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