Traveling with kids can sometimes feel like taking a three-ring circus on the road. Being trapped in a plane with strangers and a toddler is an exercise in endurance, let me tell you. There are a few things, though, that can make the trip easier.
1. Contact Your Hotel. Book a room away from the pool and vending and ice machines to cut down on noise. Usually, a hotel can accommodate you if you call ahead. Pools tend to be late-night gathering areas, and although they make a prettier view, they might not be pretty at two in the morning when you’re trying to keep your child asleep.
2. Stick to the Routine. Bedtimes are likely to get altered on the road. Late flights, missed napping opportunities, and wired kids from long hours on the road can all take a toll on your normal routines. Keep your child’s same bedtime routine. If your routine is a bath and a bedtime story, be sure and bring the supplies your child is used to. Anthologies of bedtime stories make good travel books for long trips and there are many available. Research shows that children with consistent bedtime routines sleep better.
3. Downsize your High Chair. Manufacturers make convenient, packable, lightweight, portable highchairs now–make use of them! These are easy to throw into a suitcase or trunk for travel and fit almost any table you’re going to find on the road–even picnic tables.
4. Pack Comfort Items. If you’re on a road trip, try to pack pillows for the whole family. If you can’t bring your own comfortable pillows, you might want to pack the kids’ pillowcases if you have room. Comfort items like special blankies, stuffed animals, or a familiar pillowcase all help ease the feeling of being far from home.
5. Lower the Thermostat. Research says that the ideal room temperature is between sixty and sixty-seven degrees Fahrenheit–any higher, and you might find that you and your child will sleep more restlessly.
6. Pack a Lot of Bags and Baggies. From carrying snacks to muddy shoes, soiled laundry, beach treasures–just trust me–you’ll use the baggies you pack. Pack all sizes. And if you happen to be in a hotel that provides shower caps, snag them! They’re perfect for packing muddy shoes at the end of a trip, organizing bags and snacks, and protecting electronics from soiled laundry in your suitcase.
7. Listen to Pink Noise. Think of the sound a fan makes—that’s pink noise. Plug in your cellphone and play pink noise all night long to help the whole family sleep soundly. YouTube, SoundCloud, iTunes, and Spotify are all good sources for pink noise. Purchase your favorite track and play it on continual loop through the night for a relaxing background sound that will relax the whole family.
8. Put Potty Training on Hold. If your child is in the middle of potty training, let them skip a week. I know some would consider this bad advice, but it really is okay. Better to throw away a pull-up after an accident than be faced with a mess in the middle of a crowded airplane. Just call them “travel undies.” Your child will pick right up after your return in their big-kid underwear.
9. Limit Screen Time. iPads on the road are like traveling babysitters. The best part is that you can fill them with great learning apps to keep your toddler busy on long plane rides and car trips. Be careful though–if you don’t limit screen time around bedtime, it might be more difficult for them to fall asleep because the blue light emanating from your device can interrupt circadian rhythms.
10. Pack an Activity and Snack Bag. Kids get bored of tablets quickly. Pack a journal with colored pencils, a disposable camera, sugar-free snacks like crackers and cheese cubes, and a gallon plastic baggies for treasures they find. Developing film from their disposable camera is always a treat after you return from the trip. You might even want to make a photo book for them of their trip. It is always interesting to see things from their viewpoint. There will be a lot of bug pictures, trust me here.
Traveling with kids can be challenging, but if you’re prepared, the memories you will put together with your little family become priceless. If I have learned anything from my adventures with my kids, it is that patience is the number one thing I have to pack with me–and plenty of it! The rest is just icing on the cake. Enjoy the journey, my friends.
Author bio: A mother of two, Hilary Thompson is a freelance writer specializing in health and wellness who has been featured in publications like Reader’s Digest, BestLife and Today. Her focus is on family sleep issues, senior health, and sleep disorders, but she loves to write on a variety of topics ranging from fitness to family dynamics. Her summers are filled with grand adventures–always with her little family in tow.