In my five years of parenting, we've lived in three states and traveled to many more, including taking an eighteen-month-old on three planes to get to Hawaii (yes, it was insane- yes I'd do it again). Cross country flights, twelve hour drives- Niagara Falls to San Fran's North Bay, you name it, we've likely traversed it. Here's the best of what I know so far.
1) OVERNIGHT DIAPERS!
They'll hold more and keep baby more comfortable, whether in the car or on a plane. If you use cloth diapers, adding an extra hemp insert (or your usual nighttime add-in) will keep baby much drier and happier.
2) PLAN AND PACK ALLLL THE FOOD AND BEV
Pack/ pre-make all the food you can, and eat it on the road. That way any stops along the can be for taking walks and getting fresh air and sunshine.
If you're flying, be sure to review airline requirements, and ensure that any items you take the care to pack are permitted.
My favorite easy-to-pack, lightweight plane foods are homemade peanut butter cracker sandwiches, hard boiled eggs (for eating in the airport, not the plane thankyouverymuch, as a courtesy to neighbors), apples, and hummus with bright veggies.
If you need to pack extra light, I’ve found Starbucks is actually a reliable stop for kid snacks that won’t have result in a sugar crash. And while you’re there, an unsweetened Passion Iced tea was always a special “plane treat" for us in the airport. It might look like pink kool-aid, but it’s herbal hibiscus tea and has nothing scary in it.
3) CHANGE OF CLOTHES & OVERNIGHT
Always (always!) have a change of clothes for each member of the family that isn't packed away in luggage. When you're covered in goodnessknowswhat, it's best not to have to unpack all the bags to get to a clean shirt. We keep a single emergency/ overnight bag in the car, just in case we need to make an unplanned overnight stop. A comfy change of clothes (that can double as pajamas) along with toothbrushes should do the trick. In the event you need to make an unscheduled stop, it's far easier than taking out all the suitcases. For plane travel, keep extra shirts in a ziploc bag or reusable wet bag. That way, you can neatly put away anything messy.
4) MID-DAY HOTEL RUNS FOR CAR TRIPS
Rain or snow shouldn't prevent your little ones from getting their energy out along the way! In bad weather, we stop at roadside hotels and ask the clerks if we can walk the main floor halls for a minute. They always say yes, and they seem to enjoy the midday distraction of a toddler with energy to spare blazing down the hallway! They'll be ready to get back in their car seats after a few minutes of freedom.
5) NOVELTIES, NOVELTIES, NOVELTIES!
It helps the kiddos to pass the time if you present them with something they haven't seen/ had before. I suggest something really tiny to do, and something new to snack on- for instance, we recently packed rainbow mini scratch art notes and a blueberry fig bar. Voila! There's an hour down!
So buy/ borrow/ trade a couple of new (to you) toys/ activities for the trip and keep them out of sight until you're in motion. Dollar store stickers and some printer paper are an easy solution for younger kiddos. Other tried-and-true ideas: a small reusable sticker book or this magnetic tin play set.
6) PHONE TIMERS
Set a timer on your phone for the one hour and 45 minute mark for infants in their car seats. That way, you can begin figuring out where to stop before the two hour mark.
7) HEADPHONES AND NOISE REDUCERS
Headphones for older kids will help keep the car quiet and calm for the littler ones. Meanwhile, noise canceling ear covers can help kids escape any clamor or crying from the younger travelers.
8) WHAT'S WITH THE BABY ON BOARD STICKER?
These aren't just a badge for sharing with the world that you're a parent (your 4 a.m. hairstyle and your yoga pants with fresh spit up on them already broke the news). The sticker is meant to alert rescue personnel that a small child is present, and in the event of an emergency, to be aware that a baby will need assistance.
9) TAKEOFF AND LANDING
For takeoffs and landings, breastfeeding is the best solution to quell uneasy ears and tummies. But an older toddler might like a fruit and veggie pouch, or a Vitamin C lollipop. Anything that encourages sucking and swallowing will help ease little ears at new altitudes.
10) “BUT I DON’T NEEEED TO USE THE POTTY!"
For a toddler who refuses to use the bathroom when you’ve stopped, accompany them for two quick jogging laps outside around the rest stop or restaurant. Sometimes their bodies need a little movement to activate the sensation of the need to potty!
We’re always looking for great new ideas with the summer travel season ahead. Share your best tips with us on Facebook, and keep up with us on Instagram below: