How to make traveling with kids less stressful
Ask any parent – traveling with your children is never not stressful. A little preparation and a positive mindset, however, can make the journey more enjoyable for everyone. Pediatrician Kerry Sease, MD, offered some helpful tips on how to make traveling with kids less stressful, whether you’re taking a flight or hitting the road.
Traveling by plane
If the idea of getting on a plane with a little one is overwhelming, here are some ways to make it easier:
- Explain to kids what to expect. If you’re flying, give your kids an idea of what to expect and how long the flight will be. “It’s really important to talk to kids about what’s going to happen through security, so they are prepared,” Dr. Sease said. “If they are 12 or over, they’re going to have to take off their shoes, so make sure they have on shoes that are easy to get off and on.” You can also find videos online filmed by parents that show what it’s like to board and fly in a plane, so that the sights and sounds won’t feel so unfamiliar.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Everything takes longer with kids in tow. You might also have flight delays and long lines getting through security, so give yourself extra time. If you normally arrive at the airport an hour before your flight, try giving yourself two or even three hours to get through the process, so you won’t feel rushed and your child or children can take their time.
- Dress for comfort. Have your kids layer their clothes and always bring a jacket for the plane, which can sometimes be chilly.
- Let them carry their own bag. Kids often like to help. If they’re going to carry their own bag, make sure it’s not too heavy so they can actually carry it through the airport without discomfort. Also make sure it’s not too heavy for you to add on to yours if you end up carrying it for them.
- Bring snacks. Pack a few healthy snacks and water, avoiding junk food that can lead to sugar highs and crashes. While most airport security lines won’t allow you to bring bottles full of liquids through, you can pack an empty water bottle and fill it at a water fountain as soon as you’re inside to avoid paying those high airport prices.
- Pack some easy entertainment. Bringing a new coloring book or toy might help hold their attention a little longer. While screen time isn’t ideal for children, don’t beat yourself up if playing some games on a tablet or phone helps keep your child calm and content during the flight. What matters is that they feel safe and comfortable, and so do you.
Traveling by car
If you’re taking a road trip, here are some ways to make traveling with kids less stressful:
- Plan for stops. “Kids get restless, and they’re going to want to get up and move about,” Dr. Sease said. “Ideally, if you can, let them stretch their legs and run around every two to three hours.” Schedule extra time so they can get out that energy at a local park or rest stop without you feeling like you have to rush them back into the car.
- Make sure your child is in an appropriate car seat. Children should be rear facing until they’re at least two years old, even longer if possible, and then make sure they’re in an appropriate belt positioning booster seat or high back booster seat. Get more car safety tips here.
- Pack snacks and entertainment. “Hydration is important, but maybe limit the water in the car so you don’t have to go to the bathroom all the time,” Dr. Sease said. Healthy snacks like granola bars, fresh fruit or other fiber-focused eats can keep your child from begging for fast food every time you pass a billboard with a burger on it. For entertainment, prepare some good music lists and games you can play in the car.
Regardless of how you travel, always bring a first aid kit
Preparing for an emergency is always a good idea. In addition to the regular items like gauze, bandages and antiseptic, make sure your first aid kit includes some children’s Benadryl, sunscreen, tweezers for removing ticks and Dramamine.
“Preparation is always the best way to prevent some of the stress that comes with traveling with children,” Dr. Sease said.
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