Traveling with kids requires planning, patience and perseverance. Whether you are traveling on foot, by car or on a plane, there are some strategies to keep your children occupied and reasonably happy without you turning into their main source of entertainment.
While an infant is fairly easy to travel with – they like being held, they sleep a lot and they are happy if you change their view every now and then – kids past 12-months are a different story. They spend their days exploring their world by climbing, touching, smelling and tasting everything.
If you are traveling on foot, let your child walk as much as possible. Be prepared to move slowly and bring a stroller. When your child is in the stroller, give him a drink and a little snack to keep him busy. If possible, stop for nap time.
In a car? Sing songs, read a few board books, point out things on the roadside. If you happen to be driving through farm country, play at making animal noises! Offer water, fruit or crackers. The hardest thing about traveling with this age group is the fact that, unless they fall asleep, you need to stop every 60-90 minutes and let them out to run around.
On a plane? Until age two, you have the option to keep your child on your lap or bring on a car seat. If your flight is much longer than one hour, bring the seat. Pick up a few small toys to pull out during the flight – space them well. Bring some favorite books. As beautiful and smart as your child is, the other passengers are not going to embrace him like you do. If you let him run wild you will be leaving the plane friendless.
Children in this age group are much easier to entertain when traveling. Put them in charge of their own special travel bag – a back pack or something with wheels works. Allow him to pack a few books, 2-3 small toys (you should have some extra surprises for him in your own bag if you’re on a long trip) and paper/crayons/markers.
If you are on foot, try to plan to travel a distance your child can manage. If you must go farther(say you’re at Disney), bring a stroller. Engage your child in the things around him and prepare him for what is coming up. Aside from keeping him hydrated, that should be enough.
If you are traveling by car, try an audiobook instead of isolating your child in the back seat with a mind-numbing DVD. Hank the Cow Dog and The Wind in the Willows are two choices that will not make adults in the car want to hurl themselves out onto the highway. Before the trip, pack an old cookie tin you’ve painted with blackboard spray paint (15 minute project!) with some fun magnets, word or letter magnets and some chalk. Make sure your child knows it’s a “road-trip-only” thing so it keeps its novelty.
On a plane? Have a small bag just for the plane that your child can carry on. Include a small notepad with writing utensils, a few unexpected toys that he can use quietly, and a book or snapshots of your destination. Do not ignore your child and expect him to entertain himself. Include him in your conversations and activities. As with younger children, other passengers are not likely to appreciate how awesome your child is. Try to keep aisle wandering, seat climbing and waving at other passengers to a minimum.
Know your child. Arrange travel times for when he is most likely to nap for the bulk of the trip. And, accept that no matter how prepared you think you are, there is always that chance that your child will not behave as you expect. Do the best you can and learn from the experience.