Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Have Children, Will Travel

I wish I could tell you my secret to traveling well with small children, but I think that it may involve a large amount of luck.  I will share a few tips and tricks we use when traveling with the girls.
1. The fun starts when the suitcases come out.  Our girls get excited when we start planning a trip and that’s great!  It’s okay to give in and let the vacation start before we leave the apartment.  

2. Each girl packs a roller suitcase (with a little supervision from mom & dad).  We include a fleece jacket (no matter the time of year), an extra pair of socks, a few books, a lovie, a neck pillow, head phones made for small children, sippy cups (so I can pour their in-flight drinks into it), gum to help with the change in air pressure, chapstick (so mommy can use it when my lips are chapped) and a few toys.

EBean and her roller bag
in the Philippines.
3. I also pack a bag with snacks and the famous “activity packs.”  Each trip I print out worksheetss based around a theme. The girls have come to expect them and get excited about what will be in the next pack.  Each girl has a plastic folder I load up with crayons, coloring sheets, activity sheets, stickers, etc.  I find some of them on  Having an iPad on hand is also very, very helpful!

EBean working on an activity while waiting to fly to Hawaii.
4. I try to remember to warn them how may lines we have to wait in.  Usually it is about three: the ticket counter, security, and then immigration.  As we were checking in for our flight to Hawaii (Meeting in the Middle), EBean looked up at me and said, “Is this immigration?” in her high-pitched three-year-old voice.  It was so cute and I wish I could have gotten a recording of it!
The day we moved to China...
in the Peoria airport.

5. Our girls are much better about going through security (and in fact they wish they could take their shoes off), but at one time they really didn’t like parting with their lovies/stuffed animals/blankets or whatever else they had in their hands as we got ready to go through the x-ray machine.  I remind them that security is “taking a picture” of their precious item and we’ll get it back on the other side and that seems to help.
6. We also like to play a game called “Can you...” and it goes something like this:
    Can you kick the seat in front of you?  Nooo!
    Can you go to the bathroom on an airplane? Yessss!
    Can you eat on the airplane?  Yesss!
    Can you cry on the airplane? Nooo!
    Can mommy cry on the airplane? Nooo!
    Can you watch a movie on the airplane? Yesss!
    And the list goes on; you get the idea.  The one that always makes them giggle is, 
“Can you be silly on an airplane?”  The answer is, “Just a little!”

Waiting in Chicago for our 14 hour flight to move to China.  What I love
about this picture is that my friend Stacey (whom I met that day) and her mom
are in the background.   She lives across the lake from us in Suzhou
and we just had lunch together this week!
7. I haven’t done this recently, but I read somewhere that it helps to have little “presents” ready in case the children start getting bored and fidgety.  I did this more when they were both under the age of three, but I think it’s a really great idea.  You can find inexpensive things at the dollar store, the $1 bins at Target or you can be really cheap like me and take the toys from their Happy Meals (that they lost interest in before even reaching home) and use them as “new” toys.  I have wrapped them in tissue paper before just to add to the excitement.  If you buy cheap toys, it doesn’t matter if they are lost, dropped, or destroyed in transit.
 8. Finally, I try to let go of my “we should” thinking.  We should require that our children eat only healthy foods (gave up on this and the whole point is just to arrive at the destination). We should save all of our goodies and activity packs for later (I have decided to just use them when we need them, even it means while we’re waiting to board the plane, and we’ll worry about what to do if I run out of activities later).  We should get to do what we want on our vacation (meaning I want to read on my Kindle).

Here is a link to a blog post that I thought was really great and insightful on traveling with young children:


  1. Perfect timing! Going to be packing up the kids bags this weekend. And had planned on having a few new toys for them.

  2. Several people have asked me the same question. I blogged about it as well. Your comments made me go back and re-read what I wrote. Thought I'd share it with a fellow crazy-traveling-mom. ;-)