Let’s face it — traveling with small children can be… less fun… than it was before you had kids. BUT — it doesn’t have to be a disaster! You can set your kids up for success through what you pack and what expectations you set, so let’s get to it!
For entertainment at your lodgings:
If you’re staying with people you know, you can ask them to collect some recyclables and instead of putting them out in the bin, keep them for building! If they buy things like paper towels or toilet paper in bulk, those are also fun to build with.
If you’re staying at a hotel or an Airbnb that might not have any toys or games, get some 1 inch foam cubes. Those are light and small so they could easily be packed. You could also bring some playdoh and toothpicks — make small balls with the playdoh and use the toothpicks to connect them together to form shapes/structures. Ask for some extra pillows/sheets and build forts in your hotel room. Kids can usually be quite inventive with building supplies, so even if you can’t pack anything specific they will probably find some way to build with what’s already there!
Before your trip, download my Air Travel Bundle to learn all about what to expect at the airport. In the airport, get there early and walk around a lot while you’re waiting to board. Maybe find some escalators or moving sidewalks to explore. Stand at the windows and watch the airplanes moving around on the ground.
On the plane, pack things like stickers and paper, washi tape (you can put it on the airplane tray and then your child can peel it back up over and over again), favorite books, and so many snacks. If your child has some kind of comfort thing that she likes to snuggle with, bring that plus an extra if you have it!
Let your child help as much as possible! This can be simple little things like helping to push a suitcase at the airport, helping to pack their own clothes, etc. Think about little ways your child can be involved with everything you’re doing, as that can help them to handle all of the transitions and changes to routines.
If you’re traveling by car, a portable potty is always handy!
Put together tiny backpacks full of activities that you can pull out at restaurants and other places with long waits. I recommend things like:
- magnetic drawing boards
- favorite board books
- foam cubes for building
- large beads with a shoelace for stringing
And of course, your child will always be entertained by the little caddies of sugar packets and other condiments on the tables — those make great building materials!
Pack simple things that your children can explore on their own, like:
- lots of books
- guidebooks or anything that has nature items from the place you are going (ex. sea creatures/seashells when you go to the beach)
- a large magnifying glass
- child-sized binoculars
- a camera for children
Setting your expectations:
Set them LOW, friends. Traveling is really hard for little ones — they’re way out of their comfort zones, usual rhythms and routines have been thrown to the wind, and there’s a lot of overstimulation. Be patient, plan time for plenty of breaks, try not to skip usual naps, and pack extra snacks. Expect extra meltdowns and big feelings. Remember that little ones enjoy very simple things, so don’t stress too much about providing perfect experiences. Have fun!