“Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo.” - Al Gore
Travel with kids is an adventure. Oftentimes not the adventure we expect.
The poorly timed poops, the lost pacifiers, the rude awakening at airport security, as you are pulled over into secondary with a screaming baby while you are patted down and every nook and cranny of your carry-on luggage is searched and scanned, and rearranged so you can’t find anything anymore, while the overhead speakers announce your departing flight is boarding.
But holiday travel does not have to be complicated. The better organized you are, the easier it gets. I have learned my lessons from the above true-life travel disasters.
Whether you are traveling near or far, these six survival tips will help make your family trip the wonderful adventure it should be.
1. Travel light.
Get packed the day before while kids are asleep and you can focus. Use a list and don't second guess yourself.
Try not to overpack or underpack. If there are items you can borrow once you get to your destination, do so. Call ahead and ask Mom to pick up a few things like extra diapers and formula, so you won’t have to travel like a Sherpa. I use one suitcase for both kids.
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2. Organize your Mary Poppins purse.
Place all travel documents in a compartment/folder in your purse that you can easily whip out while checking in or going through security. Avoid the “I'm lost in my handbag” syndrome by using a bag with enough separate compartments to store documents, baby gear (pacifiers, handiwipes), and a few snacks for easy access.
Tip: If traveling by plane, pack a carry-on ziplock with medications your children might need, such as infant fever reducer, throat soothers, gas or allergy relief.
3. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination.
You never know when a tantrum or dirty diaper will erupt, but they almost always do - especially when you are rushed. Factor extra time into your travel itinerary to deal with inevitable delays.
4. Ace airport security.
Use the Green Circle Family Lanes, where you will be allowed extra time and assistance to get through the lines. Know the TSA regs and pack your carry-ons accordingly. The following tips are based on November 2012 guidelines.
- Gels, aerosols and liquids should fit into one quart-sized ziplock per passenger. Maximum container size is 3.4 ounces.
- Liquids like medicine, baby formula/food, breastmilk or juice do not have to be in baggies, and can be higher than the 3.4 oz. regulation amount. You do have to notify the TSA officer that you are carrying these extra-fluid items.
- Dress for a Magic Mike night out. Wear easy slip on/off shoes, jackets, belts. Children under 12 can leave their shoes on. Be sure your little ones aren’t wearing anything metal that could set off beepers. If you are carrying your baby in a sling, you may get an extra pat-down, even if no alarm goes off.
- If they are old enough, prepare your children beforehand on what to expect when they go through security. Explain to them why they need to stay close and follow instructions, and not to be afraid if the beeper sounds.
5. Fill their bellies.
What is worse than a tired baby? A hungry one! Make sure you have plenty of snacks (infant formula, finger foods) for your little ones to enjoy for the duration of your travel.
Tip: On flights with kids, have a baby bottle ready for take-off and landing. Swallowing will help your baby’s ears adjust to pressure changes. For older children, a low-sugar lollipop works great.
6. Entertainment makes time fly.
Buy a new toy for the trip, bring books, iPad, pacifiers, a pony - whatever it takes to keep your children from reaching octave levels that break the sound barrier. Music is a great soother. Don’t forget comfort items like a favorite teddy, sleep pillow or soft blanket.