Through the years, my family has traveled a lot. While we've taken a few longer trips (Vancouver and Toronto), we've mostly been back and forth to Colorado. In the process, my husband, Michael, and I have made our daughter Kenzie, 5, and son Hutton, 3, pretty good travelers. In fact, they have become great little travel buddies.
Ever since the kids were born, they've had to adapt to being good in the car because we DRIVE A LOT! So, the kids are used to being in their car seats. Heck, we drove all the way up the coast from Southern California to Vancouver in two days. Yep, two 12-hour days in the car, with a 2.5-year-old and a 4-month-old. So, like I said, they are troupers. But I must admit, there are a few things I have learned along the way.
1. Get the kids comfortable in the car, and if you can avoid it, don’t give them an iPad. Save the iPad for special occasions like flying, and they are a dream! Pack your car with fun books and toys so the kids can entertain themselves. Play games in the car. If they are good in the car, the transition to the plane is a lot easier—especially if they're used to being stuck in their car seat for an extended period of time.
2. Use the CARES harness. This is my ultimate find for traveling with littles. It's a four-point harness that not only secures them in their seat (great for turbulence), but it also gives them the same comfort and feeling as their car seat. I find that when they aren’t all wiggling and fidgety (they aren’t used to being able to move around), they are far more willing to sit still for the whole plane ride.
3. Bring blankets. I use a blanket on the seats. That way, when they make a mess with their snacks, I can contain it in the blanket and avoid making the plane look like mice have eaten through the bread basket. I also know that when my kids drop food on their seats and then eat it, at least I know my blanket surface is clean. A blanket is also great if the plane is cold and an excellent cushion if they fall asleep.
4. Don't forget snacks. There is no such thing as too many snacks, and trust me, the moment you think you don’t need them, you do. It's better to be prepared and drag them around than to have an utter meltdown because you forgot the granola bars.
5. Let them pack their backpacks. My kids love being a part of the process. They love to each pack one bag, their backpack, with whatever animals, toys or books they choose. This allows them to bring their comfort items and feel like they have ownership in our travel. We even let them carry them on the plane. Though, trust me, it would be easier to throw them in a suitcase, they love knowing they have their special items with them.
6. Like I said before, make the iPad special. My kids only get them on flights. It is loaded with their favorite movies, which they pick out, and their favorite games. Since they don’t get it often, that makes it super special and a great bargaining tool for good behavior. Also, we have kids-specific headphones that fit them!
The key to traveling with littles is setting them up to succeed. Give them all the tools to make them comfortable, and you will have a great travel adventure. Not too long ago, a flight attendant came up to me and complimented my travel setup. She said she wished more parents did it. The key is knowing your kid, knowing how they work and setting them up to soar! Get them comfortable, give them things that are special for traveling, get them their favorite snacks, let them participate in packing by bringing whatever they want in their own bag and make them carry it.
Teach 'em young, and you can travel the world.