If you’ve ever traveled with kids (especially over the holidays), you know it’s an adventure. More accurately, it’s a slapstick, Murphy’s-Law, Griswold-family type of adventure. There are poorly timed poops. Lost pacifiers. Traffic jams and road construction. A beyond-awkward screening at airport security as you’re pulled into a secondary area and patted down while you try to comfort a screaming baby.
And the list goes on. There are as many potential travel mishaps as there are families with kids. But take a deep breath: According to Princess Ivana Pignatelli Aragona Cortes, holiday travel doesn’t have to be complicated.
“The better organized you are, the easier it gets,” says Ivana, who is a featured blogger at Modern Mom, founder of Princess Ivana—The Modern Princess, and coauthor of the upcoming book A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year.
Whether you are traveling near or far, these eight survival tips will help make your family trip the wonderful adventure it should be.
Plan ahead. And plan some more. In other words, make a list and check it twice. Write down everything you’ll need while you’re away from home, and do so as far in advance as possible Travel light(ish). Ivana advises packing everything you can a day or two before your departure, perhaps while the kids are asleep so that you can focus. And if you’re checking most of your bags, don’t forget a carry-on with extra outfits for the kids and maybe even an extra shirt for you in case of spills or spit-up!
Organize your Mary Poppins purse. All moms have mastered the art of traveling with a seemingly bottomless bag. First, find a bag with plenty of separate pockets and compartments so that you’ll be able to store documents, snacks, baby gear, handiwipes, etc. Make sure the things you’ll need most often and/or quickly (such as pacifiers, bottles, and snacks) are most easily accessible. Pack a carry-on ziplock bag with medications kids might need, such as infant fever reducer, throat soothers, and gas and allergy relief.
Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. It always takes longer to get out of the house than you think it will. Traffic jams tend to pop up at the most inconvenient times. Airport lines can be mind-numbingly long. And you never know when a tantrum or dirty diaper will erupt.
Fill their bellies. Make sure you have plenty of snacks (e.g., infant formula and finger foods) for your little ones to enjoy for the duration of your travel. If you’re flying, 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.
Make time fly with entertainment. Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile, chances are you’ll have a lot of downtime to fill. Buy a new toy for the trip, and bring books, an iPad, pacifiers, a pony—whatever it takes to keep your children from reaching octave levels that break the sound barrier.
Map out your road trip. Just because you may be traveling America’s roads in the trusty family vehicle, that doesn’t mean you should neglect planning. Many of the same rules apply: Be sure to have plenty of snacks and toys on hand to keep your children occupied, and make sure you can get to them easily. Also, consider a DVD player and headphones to keep parent sanity intact (and to cut down on the “Are we there yet?”s).