We headed to our family reunion in Maine just two weeks ago and had a great time with family. Of course getting there meant that we’d be doing some travel both in the airplane and in the car. In planning our trip, I did a couple things to help make our travel experience as easy as possible. These were my travel tricks and tips:
1. Think about your kids normal schedule as you plan travel. I purposely didn’t take the 6am flight or 9pm flight knowing that there was a good chance my kids would be in meltdown mode if I did that. I picked times that were their usual naptimes, that way they’d still be sitting and having a rest time, even if they didn’t sleep.
2. Bring a stroller. You can gate check it right before you board the plane and it’s so nice to have a place for your little one to sit when you’re walking through the airport. We always had Landon (4 y.o.) walk and Brooks (2 y.o.) in the stroller as we headed through the airport and walked the .7 miles to the hotel from the shuttle. There’s no way Brooks could have made the journey safely on foot and my arms were full with other things and a 2 y.o. would have been too much.
3. Pack treats. My kids don’t get treats all the time, so for me to pull out a pack of fruit snacks or a lollipop on the plane made their trip. Whenever I felt them getting a little antsy, I tried a new activity or handed a treat. Brooks ate 2 lollipops on the way up and 1 on the way back and they both got a pack of fruit snacks. Just enough to get another 5-10 minutes of calm! (Also, sucking lollipops can help with ear popping during take off and landing!)
4. Bring a variety, and bring something new. I grabbed a couple of their favorite things for the journey – dinosaur flashcards, and Cars figurines. We also just got the Planes movie and we loaded that onto the ipod and let them watch it on the plane. That was a hit and gave me about 20-30 mins per kid. Also Cars movie on the laptop was a clear winner. They watched about 60 minutes straight. It is their favorite. Even buying a dollar store trinket that would work great at your destination (i.e. blow up float for the pool) and wrap it so they can open it on the halfway point. Who doesn’t love presents?
5. Don’t miss naptime every day. If your kids are like mine, they like a semblance of routine most days and when they don’t get their downtime, afternoons can be tough. When we missed naptime, I made sure the kids got to bed a little earlier that night and then I made sure we didn’t miss naptime the next day, so we scheduled a beach morning or park afternoon to make sure that we could keep them on their normal schedule most of the days we were gone.
6. Do special time with your kids each day. Whether it was reading a book right before bed, or letting them go with Gigi and Papa to the candy store to pick out a treat, let your kids know that this is a special and fun time. I wanted my kids to know this was vacation and so it was a little different than our normal day off.
7. Expect the worse and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. As is my motto in almost anything, if I think about the absolute worst that can happen and then expect my day to go that way, I’m often pleasantly surprised when it goes better than I expect. And at least I am not in a tailspin because my not-a-cloud-in-the-sky overly optimistic plan gets ruined and dampens my mood.
8. Talk it up in advance. Our kids knew months in advance that we’d be riding on airplanes to go to Maine. We went to the airport and watched planes take off and land and we let them know how fun it would be to look out the window or get a special juice on the plane. We even did an airplane countdown on the oven at home and ripped a sheet off each day as we traced the days.
9. Fly nonstop if you can. Once the fun starts wearing off, it can be hard to talk up another plane ride plus sit around during the layover, so if it makes sense financially, try to choose a nonstop flight and get there as quick as you can!
What else would you add to the list to make your trip as fun as possible for the little people you travel with?