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This Is How I Do: Travelling With Kids

By Sonya Brown

With summer around the corner, I decided to dedicate this article to sharing my best tips and tricks for traveling with kids. From long road trips to 7+ hour flights, I’ve learned a few things along the way. Traveling with 3 children four and under is no 5km race, it’s more like a full marathon, except when you get to the finish line you are told to go back to the start line and do it all over again. 

Being prepared in advance for a variety of scenarios won’t make your roadtrip easy by any means, but it will certainly make it a LOT better. In this article I will share my favourite mantras, lessons I’ve learned the hard way, and the travel MVPs I’ve added to my bag of tricks over the years. And although traveling with kids (especially when they are little) is hard, and exhausting, I wouldn’t trade the memories I have made with my family for anything in the world. 

Okay, let’s get started!

My Go-To Travel Mantras

  • “I am the thermostat”
      • No matter how prepared you are for every scenario, traveling with kids does not come without its share of challenges. And one thing I have learned is, it’s only to get as bad as my reaction to the kids, I am the thermostat. If I become unregulated, agitated and stressed, the situation is only bound to get worse – never better!  Staying calm in those hard moments is never easy, but can make a big impact. So when the mid-day meltdowns begin, take a deep breath, and remember – you are the thermostat. 
  • “This will all be worth it”
      • Traveling with kids can be so chaotic in the little years, whether it’s a blowout in your baby wrap, or an overtired toddler – even if every moment feels hard and full of chaos, I’ve never once regretted any trip I’ve ever taken with my children. It’s always been worth it
  • “Snacks & Screens For Everyone”
    • When you’ve tried everything else and finally just need a moment of peace and quiet, you can never go wrong with snacks and screens! 

My travel MVPs for Road Trips

    • Snacks: this one truly needs no explanation. Always pack more than you think you’ll need, and I like to pack new snacks or “fun” snacks (as my children call them) they don’t regularly get to eat. 
    • Garbage & Ziploc Bags: do yourself a favour and pack extra plastic bags in your car! Car sickness can happen, and when it does, it comes on fast! Having bags on hand to pass to your children will save you a yucky mess to clean up! Also, if you have a potty training toddler who has an accident, you want to be able to put their soiled clothing in a ziploc bag until you reach your destination. 
    • Baby wipes: even if you don’t have a baby in diapers, baby wipes are a must! To cleaning sticky hands and faces, spills in the cars, impromptu side of the road pee breaks – pack baby wipes, and lots of them!
  • Back of the seat organizers: these have been a game changer for me! I have linked my favourite one here. These organizers can store colouring books, small stuffies, snacks, an iPad, books, etc. Save yourself crawling over seats multiple times to get your child what they need. All of it can be stored right in front of them. 
  • Portable toddler potty: when my children were first potty trained we had to make a LOT of stops along the way for potty breaks, and oftentimes there was not a gas station nearby with a restroom. I decided to buy a portable travel potty and leave it in my van. When the kids had to go, I had something for them to use. I would just quickly discard any mess, clean with a baby wipe, and we were ready to hit the road again. 
  • Cooler Back-Pack: I always like to pack fresh food to take on road trips for lunch or other meals throughout the day. Having veggies, fruit, sandwiches, cold drinks on hand saves you a lot of time stopping and a lot of money. The best part about a cooler back-up is if you want to make a quick stop to eat at a rest-stop or at a park, you can quickly pop on the back-pack and you are ready to go! Once you arrive at your destination this will also come in handy as well for traveling with lunch and snacks throughout your day. 
  • Car friendly activities: whether it be stickers, mess free colouring books, fidget toys, etc. these are a must for any road-trip. I will also often stop at the dollar store and stock up on new activities, or small toys for the kids and this is always a highlight of them. 

My travel MVPs for Airplanes

    • Stroller: this goes without saying if you are traveling with a baby, but this always can come in handy with traveling with smaller children as well (especially if your stroller is a double). I currently have a double stroller that also has a boogie board attachment at the back for one of the children to stand on as I’m pushing the stroller – lifesaver! Strollers can also be used to store a lot of your carry-on baggage as well. Always gate check your stroller and don’t check it in with the rest of your baggage. By gate checking you can just roll up right to the entrance of the plane with your stroller, and after your flight is completed your stroller will be right there waiting for you when you get off!  
    • Magnetic Onesie: when traveling on a plane with a baby I recommend putting them in a onesie that snaps together with magnets and not buttons or zippers. This will make diaper changes so much easier.
    • Snacks: are you starting to see a theme here with snacks? Haha Pack more than you think you’ll need, thank me later!
  • iPad & headphones
  • Mess free colouring book & stickers
  • Small fidget toys
  • Ziploc bags: remember my advice about car sickness? This can also happen on an airplane and if there is not a barf bag in the seat flap in front of you, you want to be prepared.

General travel advice worth sharing

  • If you have children under the age of 5 years old, it is very likely no one is going to sleep well the first night anywhere new. It’s best to be prepared for this, and lower your expectations. 
  • If you can, I always choose to stay in an Air BNB over a hotel with smaller children! Or at the very least a hotel room with a kitchen and/or separate bedrooms. Having separate bedrooms, access to a full kitchen, sometimes even a yard can make the trip so much more enjoyable. Another pro-trip if you are staying in a city that offers grocery delivery service – order your groceries in advance online and have them be ready for pick-up or get them delivered to the residence you are staying at so as soon as you arrive you will have a fridge full of food and snacks ready for your hungry family! 
  • And lastly, this piece of advice was recently shared with me from a friend and it is absolute genius. This piece of advice can depend on what time you are planning on arriving home after your travels, but if you are planning on arriving home either at lunch or closer to supper time, get pizza or takeout of your choice delivered to your home within minutes of you arriving.  Everyone is always hungry and tired after arriving home from a long trip, save yourself the hassle and have pizza ready for everyone. The last thing you need to worry about is feeding your family after a long travel day. 

Well friends, that’s all I have for you. Wherever your travels take you this summer, whether you’re heading out for a long weekend or an international adventure, I hope you have a memorable time. I hope these tricks I’ve learned along the way help make your travel experience just a little bit easier and perhaps more relaxing. Now go make some memories! 

Until next time,

Sonya

 

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