Nine days, 3 states, 5 plane trips, 1 rental car, 2 carseats, 5 airports, 7 car trips (90-360 minutes each), and 1 lake later . . . I have survived a mammoth family trip and have lived to blog about it.
There’s no doubt that traveling with kids is much more mentally exhausting than traveling by yourself. But with a little bit of pre-planning, you can make things easier for yourself. Although I’ve written about traveling with kids before, but this is the special preschool edition. Here are my 9 tips for surviving travel with a preschooler:
1) Bring LOTS of snacks
I admit this is no-brainer, commonsense wisdom for any parent. But even though I was prepared with multiple snacks, they disappeared surprisingly quickly! (though it didn’t help that my husband and I indulged as well . . . ) So I guess the lesson here is to overpack the snacks. Bring more than you think you need.
2) Buy (and bring) a portable video game
Our portable player of choice is the Leapster Explorer. Each kid has their own and they share the games (we have 6 that I carry around in a plastic baggy). Although this is not the first toy we bring out, it is certainly helpful when the whining starts to happen (or when you just need a little quiet from children playing in the backseat in that loudly-happy way they do.)
3) Hand sanitizer and tissues
For pre-meal cleanliness, runny noses, and accidental spills.
4) Pack kid-friendly water bottles
I’ve found that, for my kids, it’s helpful if they are “in charge” of something. And since kids can have their own drinks when going through security, why not their own water bottles? Why water? Juice is a treat for in-flight travel and milk just gets yucky.
5) Stock up on small toys (the non-noisy variety)
I’ve tried lots of different toys over the years and what I’ve found works best are those that the kids can play with by themselves (i.e. no games), are small and light, and don’t make any noise (the non-noise aspect is key). This is when we bring out the small racing cars, Barbie dolls, and little reading books. I also recently discovered that the airplane’s safety manual can provide a good 20 minutes of reading entertainment. Go figure . . .
6) Bring the big purse
So where do you put those small toys, snacks, tissues, and hand sanitizer? It’s time to bring out the big guns . . . your big, carry-everything, Mary Poppins-style purse (my current fave is the large Prima Miche bag with the optional long strap so I can carry it messenger-style).
7) Purchase kid-friendly suitcases
One of the best Christmas presents we have received recently were L.L. Bean suitcases, one for each child. They are kid-sized and easy enough for a child to pull him- or herself, yet light enough for a parent to tote with an extra finger or two should said kid get too tired. Speaking of suitcases . . .
8) Stay in control of the snacks and food
. . . the afore-mentioned children’s suitcases are only stocked with their clothes and water bottles. I keep snacks and toys in my mega-purse. The reason—although more theoretical and not based on actual experience—is that I want to avoid any meltdowns over not allowing them to pull out their toys and/or snacks when I need them to move through security or board the airplane. Perhaps I’m over-thinking it, but it’s worked so far (*fingers crossed*).
9) Always potty before each trip leg
My grandmother spent her career overseas, first working in the foreign service then as the wife of a diplomat. One of her pearls of wisdom to me as a child was to always go to the restroom whenever you have a chance—because you don’t always know when the next opportunity will be. That wisdom holds true today, especially with young kids.
Thus concludes my personal traveler’s survival guide, the preschool edition. Is there anything you would add to the list? If so, please leave a comment in the box below!