The idea of travelling with kids can be as much fun as it can be a nightmare. But with adequate planning and preparation, you have nothing to worry about. Check out How to Survive Traveling with Kids.

The idea of travelling with kids can simply be enough to make you scream, and the reality can be just as painful. Something that is supposed to be fun and exciting can quickly turn into a bad family vacation if you’re not careful. Whether you’re traveling with one child or four, by air or by car, you can find peace on the way to and from your destination. The secret? Quality entertainment.

Road Trips: Packing

  • Pack one small bag that contains clothes for the next day, an extra change of clothes (for spills), PJs, a toothbrush, and anything else you need for that day and night. It will be much easier to grab that than paw through the big suitcase.
  • Take your toddler’s blanket and pillow if there’s room. This is extra important if your road trip includes an overnight stay. Kids like their own stuff, particularly at bedtime in a strange place. If your child is out of his car seat, he may nod off more easily if he puts the pillow against the window and rests his head against it.
  • Babies and toddlers drop, spill, and spit up. Keep a roll of paper towels and a box of wipes in the front seat for easy clean-ups. Keep a garbage bag handy too.

Road Trips: Surviving the Ride

  • Bring on the snacks. As adults know all too well, eating gives you something to do. Be careful, though — getting your kids sugared up may backfire. Pack some healthy food, and don’t worry about them turning up their noses at it.
  • Beat the boredom. Be sure to load some kid favourites onto your iPod or take some of your child’s CDs. Portable DVD players can be a lifesaver, too. New DVDs they haven’t seen are a bonus. Kids often have a hard time with headphones, though, so make sure they’re comfortable before you go, and have at least one backup pair.
  • Get in the backseat. A little face-to-face contact, some patty-cake, and a few tickling games go a long way toward distracting a cranky baby or a bored toddler.
  • Try to tune out the tears. There may come a point where no amount of singing, snacking, or engaging will do — your child wants out of the car, now. How to deal? If your child isn’t hungry or wet, remind yourself that he’s safe in the car and won’t die from crying. Eventually, he’ll stop or fall asleep.

Flying: Packing Tips

  • Overpack snacks, under pack toys. Kids get crankiest when they don’t have familiar things to eat. Also, food can double as toys; make squares out of shortcakes, for instance. And kids will play with anything (cups, napkins, sugar packets) and will also accumulate toys (from fast-food meals and souvenir stands) during the trip, so don’t take the whole toy bin along.
  • Put extra clothes in your carry-on — your baby may have a big diaper blowout on the plane.
  • Pack each day’s outfits in a one-gallon Ziploc bag: shirt/pants/socks. It makes packing easier because you can keep track of how many days of clothes you have; after an outfit is worn, use the bag for yucky laundry or dirty diapers.

Flying: Going Through Security

At security you’ll be expected to:

  • Keep your boarding pass in your hand at all times. But because you’re a mom, you’ll more likely wind up holding it in your teeth while you manage the baby.
  • Send everyone’s shoes through the scanning machine. Take baby’s shoes off while she’s still in the stroller and have your hands free because next, you’ll need to…
  • Take baby out of the stroller (or carrier, or car seat), fold the stroller, and send it through the scanner.
  • Help older children put their loveys through the scanner. Promise that blanket or teddy will meet them on the other side.
  • Encourage a toddler to walk through the security gate ahead of or behind you.
  • Hold your baby without any carrier as you walk through the security gate.
  • Gather up everything on the other side; get shoes on and stroller unfolded as quickly as you can.
  • In preparation, we suggest you all wear slide-on shoes and little to no jewelry. To limit your juggling, try to use one big sack as your carry-on rather than a purse plus a diaper bag plus a bag of toys.

Flying: Feeding Baby on Board

The good news is that breast milk is considered a “liquid exemption,” which means you can bring more than 3 ounces on board as long as you are traveling with your child. (If your child isn’t with you, the 3-ounce rule applies.)

This also applies to formula or juice, canned baby food, and tethers filled with gel or liquid. If you’re bringing these items on board, separate them from the cosmetics that you’re carrying in your quart-size plastic bag. Declare you have breast milk (or formula, etc.) at the security checkpoint.