Holiday Travel with Kids? No Fear: Tips are Here!

This past weekend we packed up the van and headed to Tofino for an early Christmas with my husbands family. It had been some time since we had done a longer road trip with the kids. The trip there was super smooth, with lots of fun things to keep the kids busy, not to mention the excitement of all the falling snow and knowing a visit with cousins was on the other end of the journey. The trip home however, was a nightmare! I was reminded of why I have previously put time and effort into preparing for travel with kids, and will certainly visit some of my old strategiesnext time we are off on a getaway! 

Before our first had reached 18 months, he had already traveled to Hong Kong, Holland, England and Alaska. I felt well versed at travel with a little one in tow and had done plenty of reading to prepare for travel with kids. After all, if you are an adventurous type, you will want to continue to be so after your family begins to grow. In this weeks blog, I am going to share some of the tips that I have acquired along the way to make your flight, ferry or road trip smoother for the whole family. 

Air travel does require a little more planning and preparation then just throwing everything in the vehicle and heading out. I have always found it helpful to check out the details that specific airlines post regarding travel with infants and children. Utilizing the pre-boarding time gives a valuable head start at installing the carseat in the airplane seat and getting the kids settled without the pressure of a long line behind you. Make sure you check your carseat to ensure it is Transport Canada approved for air travel. Bringing your own seat along also ensures that your rental vehicle will be equipped with a seat that you know both the safety history and how to install properly. We bought a fold up luggage-cart-wheely-thing that the carseat easily attached to with a small bungie cord that turned into a little stroller type-set-up for between plane transit in airports. Fun for the little one to ride along and much easier than packing the carseat in hand! When we had a lap baby and knew we would not be doing any car travel at our destination, forgoing the carseat and having our baby carrier and umbrella stroller in the airport was also very helpful. 

Particularly when our kids were infants, I found it super helpful to have two or three outfits individually packed in ziplock bags. This allowed for a quick grab and change as accidents happened, and for those longer trips. We were especially glad I did this when our 2 year old threw up mid-flight all over himself and our diaper bag! The ziplock doubled as a great way to package up the wet items and stow them away. We learned from that throw up incident that a small change of clothes for mom and dad was also very valuable to have in our own carry on! Planning your clothing with layering in mind allows for easy adjustments as the environment and weather changes during travel. 

I used the same technique for preparing a couple grab and go diaper kits. Two diapers, a small ziplock with a few wipes and the change pad, make for less burden when your changing in small spaces like airplane or train washrooms, AND you can never have enough diapers! 

Preparing several small snacks that were easily accessible was a life saver when there is a delay or when kids become cranky. I have always found travel days a good time to have an extra special treat, or even something new. Packing a small cooler bag can ensure that healthy fruit and veggies are available for your child. Airlines often have more flexibility with food for babies, so read up on what is allowable. Be mindful of messy items--a Cheerios littered aisle is no one's idea of fun! Hydration is key for everyone when traveling, so ensure your water bottles come along! 

Whether its a long haul or short trip, packing a comfort item or two is crucial. For a baby this could be an extra soother, favourite ring sling, beloved stuffy or favourite blanket from home. Being able to replicate how you soothe your child at home while you are on the road can help put everyone at ease-including mama! As our children have gotten older, the comfort items have changed a little, and we often let the kids pack (within reason) their own little carry-on backpack. I have sometimes been surprised at what they choose to bring from home, but happy kids are always a good thing! 

One super strategy that a friend suggested as we prepared for a flight to Hawaii with our two-year old was to bring along a new activity for every hour that we were actually in the air. I'm not really a fan of the dollar store, but it was a great place to get several small games, puzzles, activity books, tinker trucks and “new” things to keep our little guy captivated and happy. The best thing was there was no love lost when these items went missing or were replaced during the trip home with souvenirs from the vacation. I packed them all up in a fun fabric surprise bag and let him reach in several times throughout the trip. To this day, he will still talk about the surprise bag when we pack for holidays. 

It’s important to add to your carry on any special medications, homeopathic remedies or toiletries that your child might need. Your go-to items may not always be available at your destination and losing luggage packed with important items in it can be very frustrating and inconvenient! Make sure that you have any liquids in the appropriate travel size. For our road trips, having these items readily available has proven to be a successful strategy time and time again. 

With road trips, planning time to stop and get out of the vehicle is important. On our recent road trip we were great at this on the way to our destination, but on the trip home had that “I just want to get home” feeling--so we did not plan any breaks. Unfortunately that did not work in our favour. Even a ten minute stop at a park, playground, beach or mall in bad weather can be invigorating for all. A little fresh air, stretch of the legs, bathroom break, snack for all, can have everyone happily back on the road with very little interruption to your itinerary. I’ve noticed with our two and five year old that two hours seems to be about the maximum time that we can be on the road before needing a short break. 

So there you have it folks. Hopefully you find some little gems that will help you through your holiday travels with little ones with as little stress as possible. My parting piece of advice: try to keep the focus on the journey and adventure. If you can remain relaxed and go with the flow your little ones will pick up on that energy and follow suit. You can almost always count on there being hiccups along the way and how you react to them will set the tone for how the experience unfolds for all! Safe and Happy Travels!