Our family was lucky enough to get away for a trip to sunny Florida last week.
Despite the occasional meltdown here and there, I would classify it as a smashing success.
Our kids are currently 4.5 and 2.5, and we had some apprehensions about how they’d do both on the plane and on the trip generally, but they were both troopers.
If you’re planning to get out of Dodge with your brood anytime soon, here are 7 tips for smooth sailing:
1. Travel light.
With the exception of a beloved toy, a passport, or a family heirloom (which you shouldn’t be traveling with anyway, if you can avoid it!), there are few things you can’t easily replace or replenish en route.
And don’t worry about packing scads of toys – if your kids are anything like mine, they will always prefer to amuse themselves with things like bottle caps, coasters, and luggage tags anyway.
2. Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on.
Not just for your potential spitter-upper, but for the potentially spit-up-upon parent(s) as well. If you’re lucky, you won’t need those extra clothes, but if you do you will be SO glad you planned ahead!
Related to this, be sure you have enough diapers on hand to cover unexpected travel delays.
3. Bring snacks. Even if you’re planning to stop for food or buy something on the plane, things come up – and a hungry 3-year-old won’t understand (or care) why you are stuck on the tarmac for 4 hours with no cabin service.
Dried fruits and fruit bars, peanut-free granola, small crackers, and small squeezy fruit pouches all travel well with minimal mess potential.
The squeezy fruit pouches we brought were 3.2 oz. each – a shade over the 3 oz. carry-on liquid limit – but TSA had no issues with them at either end.
4. Do a dry run.
You don’t need to pack all your bags several days in advance, but do take a moment to work through who’s going to carry what – and who – from the car into the airport, through security, onto the plane, etc.
I once had a packing plan all worked out in my head but then realized it would require my then-15-month-old to either carry a full-size suitcase, ride it like a pony, or scootch herself through the airport entirely unassisted.
5. Don’t push it too hard.
Kids and parents alike both need downtime – so don’t schedule every minute of every single day, or you will all be too tired (and possibly cranky) to enjoy your trip.
6. Maintain some semblance of a routine… Vacations are a special time, with lots of new things to see, do, and experience.
While you won’t be able to stick to the exact same way you do things at home – and you shouldn’t try – it’s helpful for everyone to maintain some semblance of regular naps, bedtimes, meal times, and so on.
7. …But be flexible.
If this means ice cream for lunch one day or an unexpected session of cartoons when everyone wakes up raring to go at 4:30 am, then so be it. That’s what vacations are all about.
Traveling with your kids is a lot like the overall experience of parenting, magnified – more stress and more emotion but also more moments of fun, closeness, joy, and pure magic.
If you can master the delicate balance of planning ahead vs. rolling with the unexpected, you’ll set your family up for a wonderful trip.