Prior to having children, few adults would bat an eye at spontaneous weekend excursions or discounted red-eye travel deals that required little more than a hastily packed carry-on bag and passport in hand. Once adults make the decisions to expand their families, traveling even short distances often requires precise and detailed planning.
Children add the element of surprise and the unexpected — not to mention extra gear — and parents must adapt accordingly when they travel with their little ones. These pointers can keep parents properly prepared.
• Pack for the journey. Anticipate what your child may need, but remember, unless you are traveling to a remote location, there’s a good chance you can buy many items at your destination. Direct much of your focus on packing items you’ll need for the journey, and less on what you’ll need once you arrive. Food and entertainment are two key components to keep in mind.
• Factor in “stretch your legs” opportunities. Children have limited attention spans and abilities to stay put. According to Brain Balance, a program for improving concentration, children between the ages of two and six have attention spans from 4 to 18 minutes. Since kids may not be able to sit still the entire time, build breaks into trips so they can get up, run around and expend some of their boundless energy.
• Travel early morning or late at night. Morning flights tend to be less crowded and are less likely to have takeoff delays that can push kids into meltdown mode. Kids are apt to be tired in the wee hours of the morning or later in the evening, so traveling, whether by road or sky, when they’re likely to sleep can be advantageous.
• Plan accommodations wisely. Choose lodging that fits your needs. Some people prefer a rental home because it affords more space and the ability to save money by preparing some meals at “home.” However, certain hotels may have babysitting services or recreational activities for children, enabling Mom or Dad to have a little time off.
• Bring a light stroller and baby sling/carrier. A full-sized stroller may be cumbersome, especially on sand or cobblestone. A sling or carrier enables you to navigate crowded places with ease. A lightweight, folding stroller can be used as a temporary bed for naps or when your toddler has tired out from walking.
• Know security rules. Check with the airline for confirmation, but the TSA generally allows formula, breast milk, and juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in carry-on baggage. It does not need to fit within a quart-sized bag. Remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings.
• Explain the itinerary. For young children who are able to understand, spell out what will be happening along the journey so they know what to expect. This can help calm nerves and prevent tantrums.
Traveling with young children requires a little extra planning and patience.