Traveling with little ones can be very challenging. Just about every routine and comfort of home is thrown out the window when you travel and are staying in a hotel or at a friends house. Let me tell you, from experience, that this can be extremely hard on both the parent and the child! Those routines, no matter how small, help to keep our sanity as a parent and help children to know exactly what to expect and find comfort in the familiar.
While going on a trip can be very exciting, it can also be very anxiety provoking and exhausting for a little one.
All EIGHT of us got on an airplane last week to travel to Michigan for my sisters wedding. That would be six kids, 8 years old & under, traipsing through security lines and terminals and baggage claims… Yes. Very, very exciting! We certainly made quite the scene with our luggage, double stroller, carseats, and backpacks.
I have found there are several things we can do as parents to minimize the stress while traveling with children.
It’s mostly a frame of mind and remembering to help give your children a feeling of security while experiencing a new adventure.
1. Bring a blanket or stuffed animal from home.
Bringing something familiar can help ground your child while everything she is new and potentially overwhelming. We let each child bring a stuffed animal. The younger ones brought a small blanket and a stuffed animal. It really helps them feel secure clutching something they love and is familiar.
2. Limit the amount of sugary drinks and snacks.
Have a good meal while traveling. It is easy to stop at fast food and fill up on snacks and readily available sugar-filled drinks, but you don’t eat like that all the time at home! Make sure to plan a few meals that are more like what you eat at home. Stop at a grocery store and grab some fruit, bread and sandwich meat for a simple and easy lunch. This is especially important for those kids who do not usually have much sugar and carbs. Overloading on sugar can really screw with their system too.
3. Expect them to have a weird appetite.
While we are on the subject of eating, let’s not expect our children to have the same appetite they do at home. They may be so excited they can’t eat. They may have an upset tummy from all the bumping around on the airplane. Or they may be starving at midnight because of the time change they have just experienced! Whatever the case, just go with the flow. Don’t stress about them eating. If my kids don’t eat at a meal I try to keep some leftovers handy or healthy, filling snacks in my bag for when they do find their appetite.
4. Encourage cat naps if they can’t get a full nap.
It probably will be pretty hard to get your children to take their regular nap. Or even sleep as long as they normally do at night. Don’t worry about forcing naps. Encourage them to lay their head back when you are driving in the car, waiting for an event, or even on the plane. Grabbing a 15 minute cat nap is better then no nap at all.
5. Plan an exciting event for them to look forward to and talk about while traveling.
I know that sometimes you want to keep a part of the trip a surprise, but try to give your children incentives to hold it together for a bit longer in anticipation for something fun. Helping them focus on something in the future may help them to forget about the long drive, or standing in line, or waiting their turn.
6. Find a place to get energy out.
Getting energy out was essential to our survival on this trip! You don’t need a designated child’s play place to run around. Turn some music on your phone and have a mini dance session. Set up a starting point and finish line and have mini races. Twirls, jumping jacks, and balancing on one foot are all great ways to get energy out and help your kids not feel pent up with nothing to do.
7. Understand the reason behind the meltdown.
When you are going to be traveling with children, please, expect a meltdown. There will most likely come a moment when they can no longer handle the stimulation or exhaustion or combination of both. Meltdowns are a lot of time just an expression of the only way children know how to communicate how they are feeling. Of course, we aren’t condoning bad behavior, but try to understand the reason behind the meltdown and be a little more flexible and patient when they do happen.
8. Find a dark and quiet spot for them to wind down and sleep.
Let your inner “Mom Genius” out when creating quiet places to unwind and sleep for your children. Usually when traveling, you have to share a room with more people they usual. This creates all kinds of situations which may make it hard for your child to sleep. We set up a little palette for the girls with blankets and pillows between the bed and wall in our hotel room. It was perfect for them. It was darker in the corner and they couldn’t see their brothers from that spot which helped keep them from getting up to participate in whatever the big boys were doing.
9. Don’t set high expectations for perfect pictures and experiences.
I know you are like me and really want to have the perfect vacation with perfect pictures to capture your perfect memories…. But the reality is, you may have some overwhelmed children who just won’t cooperate! I have one son who when very excited and happy actually frowns and looks down because he just is so overwhelmed with emotion.
10. Enjoy the craziness.
When you have children you WILL have something crazy happen. It just is a part of having children. And you know what??? That is what makes traveling them all the more memorable! Crazy makes the BEST stories!
I am always proud of how well my kids do when traveling! I am exhausted when we get home, but that’s okay. It is always worth it!