Travelling with children can be stressful, especially on long road trips or if you're stuck in an airport. I've travelled long distances with my daughters since they were six weeks old and we have certainly had our fair share of meltdowns - admittedly, I've had my moments too - but it never ceases to amaze me that at least one fellow passenger comments every time about how relaxed we all seem to be. But with help from experts like Dr. Pamela Smith, ND and lifestyle and wellness expert and nutrition coach, Michal Ofer, and the Moms at Calmmother I know we're in good hands.
Here are our top six tips to help make traveling with children stress-free regardless of whether you're on a road trip or an airplane with a newborn or a five year old (or both!).
1. Pack strategically
The things you pack and your level of organization (i.e., how quickly you can get to the items you need) will help make or break you when dealing with a child on the verge of (or worse, actually having) a meltdown. There is a fine balance between packing too little and too much and this post is helpful for determining what you need to pack for each member of your family. This packing checklist will help determine what you need in your checked luggage and carry-on bag.
2. Know your diaper/carry-on bag and keep it close
The peace of mind alone is enough to justify making sure you can get what you need from your diaper and carry-on bag quickly and conveniently. If you prefer not to tote around a diaper bag, organizers like this can help keep your purse in order. Some things that we need to have within arm's reach at all times when traveling with babies and children are listed below.
Absolute must have life savers
- This includes things like required meds as well as extra bottles, diaper change paraphernalia, soothers and a teething chew toy for your baby and other distractions for your child (see tip 4 below for more about distractions).
- To help alleviate pressure on your child's ears during take off and landing, give them something to suck on (i.e., depending on the age of your child, a soother, a drink out of a bottle or cup, gum or sucker - kids love these suckers and we prefer the ingredients to a lot of other brands).
- Don't forget to bring an extra change of clothes for you and your children in case someone gets sick while in transit. It also doesn't hurt to carry a dirty clothes bag (or large Ziploc bag if kept out of reach), Kleenex, wipes and hand sanitizer.
- Bioron Laboratories' Camilla helps with teething but we've found it is also amazing if your child is crying hysterically.
Comforts – favorite snuggle item and snacks
- Depending on you child's preference, you may want to bring one of your child's stuffy and little blanket (and possibly a neck pillow if the trip is long). Consider avoiding bringing your child's favourite stuffy in case it gets lost! Aden and Anais blankets are perfect for travel because they're so lightweight.
- It's also nice to bring a few of your child's favourite snacks or bottle/sippy cup. For snack ideas see tip 3 below.
Potty training things
- If you’re in the mist of potty training, consider using pull-ups while in commute to avoid unnecessary pressure and messes.
- This potty is great for quick and efficient road pull overs.
- Bring your child at least two extra pairs of underwear and pants to change into just in case you need them.
- To find out more about packing a great diaper bag read this post.
3. Pack and carry on our own snacks
According to lifestyle and wellness expert and nutrition coach, Michal Ofer, “planning ahead is possibly the most important aspect to maintaining at least a small component of your family’s healthy routine when travelling. You will never be sorry that you have some extra snacks tucked away in your bags." But this can be an uphill battle when you're going on holidays, especially if you bags are already bursting at the seams! Those who struggle with an allergy, sensitivity or are on a therapeutic eating plan face even more of a challenge when eating out. As parents, we've all seen first hand how sweets can wind children up and then create meltdowns.
Our top snack tips are:
- Bring at least a full day's supply of snacks in case you run into delays. Snacks like squeeze pouches, yogurt tubes and cheese strings come in handy and tend to be less messy, and big kids like them too!
- For infants, make sure you have enough milk or formula - these travel wipes are great for cleaning baby bottles/nipples and pump paraphernalia on the go. A thermos with warm milk or formula can be a life saver on the road if your baby will only take warm milk (a portable car bottle warmer is also an option).
- To help avoid unnecessary squabbles, bring each of your children their own water bottle to refill.
For great snack ideas for the whole family that are quick and easy to prep, read Michal's post Travel tips to keep you nourished.
4. Know your life lines
This is extremely important if you're travelling alone with children. Depending on the age of your child and if you are transferring planes, you may want to gate check a stroller or baby carrier. Don't be afraid to ask the flight attendants for help!
We find that activities and other distractions are very helpful, however we have found there is also value in teaching your children to sit quietly when it is appropriate to do so.
Some activities we like are:
- iPad preloaded with movies (and headphones)
- sticker, colouring or activity book - older kids may like magic pens, crosswords, mazes or doddle books
- Travel Where's Waldo book or other books, particularly one that contains more than one story
- toy or stuffy -- try to avoid bringing favourites in case they get lost -- a small new toy like a figurine or car can be helpful as kids tend to play with it longer if they haven't seen it before.
5. Support your family's immune systems
According to Dr. Pam, "Traveling, whether during the summer or winter months, can take its toll on our immune system. Even an expected fun filled family vacation can be a bit stressful which can leave our immune systems vulnerable to pathogens in our environment." Read more from Dr. Pam about maintaining health while travelling in this post.
6. Don't forget to breathe!
It may go without saying but don't forget to take time to breathe when you travel, especially when faced with a meltdown. Remember that you're doing the best you can and no one can ask anything more.
For tips to improve overall health and wellbeing, nutrition, recipes and meal plans, visit Integrative Health.
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