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Moms Share: Travel With Kids Without Losing Your Mind

Travel can be challenging in the best of circumstances, but adding children into the mix often takes the experience up to code red stress levels. Here are 9 tips from moms to avoid in-flight tantrums, on-the-road boredom and more on your travels:

1. Have the right mindset

Before you even leave the house, adjust your attitude:

"You are now a parent traveling with a child (or children) and that means more stops, endless questions and talk. You are no longer in a kid-free zone. So, you set your mind to understand that what might be a three-hour drive when you were single is now a five-hour drive and there will be 'kidzone' and not much silence, as with my family, we play word games and guessing games and we entertain ourselves."

—Karen Fitch, Mother of a 9-year-old boy

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2. Snack attack

Almost every mom agreed, snacks sooth the cranky beasts, especially individually wrapped bags or tiny Tupperware that are easy to access and open.

"Make sure you travel with a large mix of pure calories and protein your kids will actually eat, whether you are in the car or an airplane."

—Amy McElroy Mother of two girls, 12 and 15

3. Stick to your time zone

"When traveling from west to east for one week or less we stick with our home time zone whenever possible. It enables us to stay up late with friends and family and then just sleep it off in the morning. When we return home, it's a snap to transition back to normal bedtime."

—Karen Gaudette, mother of a 3-year-old boy

4. Tape it up

Who knew that a little tape could go so far? No, not on your child—tempted as you may be—to play with:

"My other standby for flying is a roll of masking tape or painters tape. Use it to play counting games, to create a giant sticky beach ball, to build a spider web. Use it to decorate your row with sheets of your kid's crayon art or fun photos you rip from magazines. When it's time to deplane, it's a snap to wad up and dispose."

—Karen Gaudette

"Younger kids take great delight in taping anything and everything (the seats, the windows, the chair, themselves), and then later peeling it off. Older kids still enjoy taping things, but can use it in more advanced ways: DIY stickers, weaving the tape, creating fake nails/claws/teeth, tape on the face to create funny faces, making little books, etc."

—Shannon Brugh, mother of two sons, 4 and 6

5. Little gifts

The thrill of opening something new is often enough.

Moms agree—the thrill of opening something new is often enough to keep small children engaged and you don't have to spend a lot. Dollar store, Goodwill and Target's dollar section were all great places to purchase things:

"When my son was small I'd wrap several tiny presents—those little Dover sticker books, cars games and I'd give them to him one at a time."

—Alice Peck, mother of one 16-year-old boy

"Spend the extra $30+ for a carry-on full of new items your child will love. If the flight is longer than their interest in the bag of fun ... Benadryl, it's what's for dinner."

—Tara Bevington, mother of one 11-year-old girl

"Stock up on inexpensive novelty toys at Target or a dollar store, preferably without small pieces that can be dropped or lost. Accept any toys/fun packs from the airline. My son won't read regular books on the plane, but can stare at catalogs of his latest obsession for hours (Pokemon, Skylander)."

Grace Loh Prasad, mother of one 7-year-old boy

6. Don't scrooge on screens

Many moms recommend letting go of restrictions on screen times for long flights or train trips.

"Let them gorge on screens if it's a long international flight. My son played video games for 9 hours straight on the way to France once. It was odd, but there was no fallout and I enjoyed two feature films, a glass of Pinot Gris and worked a bit."

Kim Green, mother of an 11-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy

7. Old school games

Avoiding the 'Are we there yet?' is my biggest goal.

Many moms still fall back on old-fashioned, interactive games, particularly when multiple children are involved, and if traveling in the privacy of one's own car:

"I tell them to find me, for example, a red car, an animal, something pink, etc. And we play the ABC game. We find things that start with A and go through Z. It can be on a billboard, road sign, on a car. We also have a game called 20 questions where we take turns thinking of something, drop a hint, and they have a combined total of 20 questions to ask to figure it out. It makes for a much more fun trip and helps pass the time."

— Patty Gutierrez, mother of three boys, 17, 11, 9

"Avoiding the 'Are we there yet?' is my biggest goal. I conditioned my boys to know how many miles we were traveling total and they could ask me for something from the goodie bag every 20 miles. After age 10, we taught boys to play cribbage and poker for air flights. Whatever points they acquired in play was added to spending money."

Michelle Meeker, mother of two boys, 17 and 20

8. Stay connected

Avoid the loss of precious toys on flights with a simple solution:

"If traveling by plane with a toddler, bring a piece of ribbon. Tie one end to your wrist, or his/hers, and the other to the toy of interest, lest you spend half the flight retrieving it from the floor, from beneath your seat, or worse, beneath the seat of your behind-you-neighbor."

—Rebecca Altman

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9. Don't rush

Remember that travel is an opportunity for new experiences.

"Let them adventure. Don't rush it. Try to look through their eyes. Remember, you were a kid seeing things for the first time once too."

Courtni KG, Mother of a 14-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl

Photo via Karen Fitch

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