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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Cantrell

Traveling with Your Heathens and How to Stay Sane

Family Traveling in Airport

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Traveling with kids can be an exciting adventure, but for a lot of parents it can also be an overwhelmingly daunting task. Take it from me; that destination better be to enlightenment for the amount of stress the journey takes on me but, there are ways to mitigate some of the unknowns. From planning and preparation to keeping them entertained and safe, there are many factors to consider. As a parent, it's important to stay calm and in control during the trip and I'm mostly talking about our own emotional state. With the right strategies and mindset, you can make your family trip enjoyable and as stress-free as possible. This is by no means a comprehensive guide but, here are 10 essential tips for traveling with kids and even a couple products I can't live without now, that helped us ensure a smooth and memorable experience for everyone involved while traveling with my heathens and staying sane. I will note; I've got kidos in varying ages and while I no longer have toddlers; my youngest is Autistic so we do still have needs that fall into that category preparation wise. If you don't need bibs, ignore that suggestion!

1. Prepare and Plan Ahead - Don't Panic

I've told you guys before and I'll tell you again. I think of ALL the ways this could go terribly! The key to a successful trip with kids is thoughtful preparation and preemptive planning. Before you travel, consider the length of the journey, the route you'll be taking, even the method of travel can change up your game plan. This will enable you to plan breaks at interesting rest stops, ensuring that your kids have opportunities to stretch their legs and explore. Get the wiggles and jitters out physically. Make a list and anticipate potential issues such as boredom, sickness, or family fights (HE'S TOUCHING ME), and have a plan of action in place. What will the weather be like? Even if you are flying, you'll still need to get to and from the airport facility. Think about what everyone should wear to be the most comfortable during the ride. Is it a long enough trip that someone might fall asleep? By being proactive, you can avoid being caught off guard and minimize stress during the trip.

Note: at first we bought these cute little straps that hold their head back and up in a normal position in the car seat. That works (sort of, my youngest always managed to fall out of it) when you're in a car seat but, not so much for the booster seat age nor in areas where they don't have the car seat, like a quicker train ride (my oldest could fall asleep in the first 4 minutes of a ride), etc. Ultimately, it just looked ridiculous and a little barbaric too. So we went neck pillow instead and the boys loved them!

Another live saver for my youngest was having noise-cancelling headphones. For him, these were essential. He uses them in any loud area; airports, train stations, large or crowded gas stations/stores, sporting events, etc. These are places we want his eyes up and attention on his surroundings or on us, so we can't use his headphones for an electronic device where his eyes would be down and his focus on the game. These keep him happy and reduce his stress level while helping us keep him safe.

2. Pack Smart and Efficiently

Packing efficiently is essential when traveling with kids. To make your life easier, prepare as much as possible, as far in the future as possible, before your trip. We're not just talking about your suitcase either. Fill up the car with gas, check tire pressure, have any warning lights checked out and top up the fluids. Organize and pack the necessary items, including snacks, entertainment, and clothing. What comfort items are you bringing both for physical and emotional needs? Consider using a family road trip packing list to ensure that you don't forget anything important. I very much recommend finishing all of your packing a day ahead. Yes, there are some items you have to wait until the morning of but, having 90% of the packing completed beforehand will allow you to start your journey calmly and smoothly. Think about packing certain items in other areas of your vehicle or carry-on so that they are easily accessible for you when the fights and screaming start! This behind the seat organizer stays in our car all the time, not just for trips but, I also recommend having a specific place for electronic accessories. Cords, chargers, adapters, etc. Yeah, in the car you might be using them but, you'll need them in the room too. Just a little organizer like this works great!

3. Be Prepared for Accidents and Spills

I'll be the first to admit, I am most at peace when everything is in its place and when things are a mess, so are my emotions, reactions and stress levels. If you're traveling with kids (or a messy spouse), accidents and spills are bound to happen. To avoid any unnecessary stress, make sure to pack plenty of wipes and paper towels to clean up messes. Keep a couple of plastic bags handy for storing trash and disposing of it at the next rest stop. Opt for drinks with sealed lids and car-friendly snacks to minimize the risk of spills and messes. I do have a few life-saving products I've found that are essentials in our car now. Some of these are because if feels like we come home with less dirty laundry, some the car or car seat stays cleaner but, all have saved my sanity!

  1. Disposable Toilet Seat Covers (I am NOT a portable toilet in the car kinda girl, sorry)

  2. Boogie Wipes/Baby Wipes (Dude Wipes if your spouse won't wipe their hands on baby stuff. These are "on-the-go" little packs we liked)

4. Create a First Aid Kit and Address Car Sickness

This is usually not a problem so much for my kids as it is for me now that my youngest is a little older. I've got about a 30 minute window before my heads hanging OUT the window. Having a well-stocked first aid kit is crucial when traveling, regardless if it's with kids or not. Include essentials such as adhesive bandages, antibiotic ointment, and over-the-counter medications for common ailments like headaches or colds. Additionally, if your child is prone to car sickness, be prepared with preventive measures. Consider packing chewable antacids and large zip-lock bags for any potential episodes. Having a designated "barf bowl" can also provide a sense of control when the time comes. Most importantly for me, and I can't stress this enough...Dramamine.

5. Plan Strategies to Address Family Fights

Family bickering is a common occurrence during long car rides (even short car rides at my house). To maintain a peaceful atmosphere, it's important to have strategies in place to address any potential conflicts. Encourage calmness and provide distractions such as music or special snacks. Consider implementing "quiet time" or allowing everyone to take a break from the situation, even if they can't leave the car. By having a plan to diffuse family fights, you can ensure a more harmonious journey. Giving each boy their own way to "leave" the others was a big win for us. We've got a lot of brands, styles, wired, wireless, etc. Ultimately, my youngest is so hard on electronics, we had to go for durable. These kids headphones have both a wired and a wireless option on them, we never had issues getting it to connect to anything either. It comes in a two pack and they fold up like MAD, so it took him well over a year to break any piece of the first one. We use on in the house and one stays in the car. Even comes with a little hard case. The biggest thing was allowing them each to immerse themselves in their own respective little worlds, even if it's just for a little bit.

6. Incorporate Travel Time into Your Daily Schedule

To make the transition into travel easier for your kids, try to incorporate travel time into your normal daily schedule. If your child has specific routines or activities at certain times of the day, plan your departure around those times. For example, if your child has a designated TV time in the afternoon, use that time to set out on your trip. Bring something along that allows them to complete the normal activity while on the go. We've always been a fan of the Amanzon Kindle Fire's because they offer different sizes and age range capabilities that we could control from our Amazon account. iPads are another option if you're an Apple lover. By aligning your travel schedule with familiar activities, you can create a sense of normalcy and ease for your child. Way easier to get them into the car too!

7. Embrace Flexibility and Enjoy the Journey

Look, nothing fancy here and no flashy gadgets to recommend. It's more about have a tiny "come to Jesus" moment with you friend. Flexibility is key when traveling with kids. Understand that things may not always go according to plan, and that's okay. You can control how you react to those moments but, try to remember, that's a log harder for your kids to do, especially the younger ones. Embrace the freedom that comes with a road trip and be open to making adjustments along the way. Allow for extra stops, take your time, and enjoy the journey itself. Remember that the most memorable moments often happen when you least expect them. By letting go of strict schedules and expectations, you can create a more relaxed and enjoyable experience for your entire family.

8. Pack Nutritious and Easy-to-Grab Snacks

When it comes to snacks, it's important to pack items that are not only delicious but also nutritious and filling or you're going to spend your ENTIRE vacation budget on food (unless that's the goal for this trip in which case you're my new spirit animal). Opt for snacks that are easy to grab AND eat on the go, such as pretzels, beef jerky, graham crackers, or peanut butter. Yes, I'm adding peanut butter even though it's part of the sticky category of foods. Great source of protein and it USUALLY sticks to the other foods above...just bib them up with the disposable bibs from above. These snacks provide sustained energy and help keep hunger at bay. Additionally, include healthy options that don't necessarily need refrigeration like veggie sticks, grapes or oranges for a balanced and satisfying snack lineup.

9. Make the Journey Special and Memorable

Turn your travel experience into a special and memorable time for your kids. Surprise them with small treats or activities along the way to boost morale and excitement. For example, you could plan a stop at their favorite fast-food restaurant or introduce them to a new toy or book at the start of the journey that connects with where you're going, how you're choosing to travel or on how to cope with the trip (here's a cute one on a first plan ride). As a mom, the hardest part for me was to force myself to PUT THE CAMERA DOWN. Yes, I want those cute little pictures but, I'm teaching my children I'd rather have those pictures than BE IN THAT MEMORY with them. Be part of their journey, don't watch the whole thing from behind your lens. These small gestures can make the journey itself just as exciting as the final destination, creating lasting memories for the whole family.

10. Keep Kids Entertained with Interactive Games and Activities

Keeping your kids entertained during the trip is crucial for a stress-free journey. Plan a variety of interactive games and activities to keep them engaged and entertained. Consider bringing along interactive books such as "I Spy" or "Where's Waldo" to challenge their observation skills. Stickers and magnets can also provide endless entertainment as your kids create stories or play matching games. Additionally, don't forget to pack coloring books and puzzles to keep them occupied during longer stretches of travel. I could list out a million things for you to try here but, this part is really better tailored to what your own kids enjoy so instead; here's a great list of kids travel games to give you some ideas!

I'll wrap this up by saying traveling with kids can be a wonderful and rewarding experience. By following a few tips and tricks, you can ensure a stress-free and enjoyable journey for the whole family. Remember to plan ahead, pack efficiently, and be prepared for any unforeseen situations. Embrace flexibility and make the journey itself an exciting adventure. With the right strategies and mindset, you can create lasting memories and a sense of togetherness during your family travels. So, get ready, hit the road, and embark on your next unforgettable adventure with your kids!

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