Posted by: hbofficechick | July 27, 2011

It’s Summer, time to hit the road and vacate. There are so many things to consider when travelling with young children and it can be hard to think of everything (especially when you have young children!). So Emily and I wrote down our thoughts on the subject to share with you all. Between Emily’s family’s long car trips, and my family’s frequent flyer status, we managed to cover alot of ground. It’s a lengthy read, but well worth it. Feel free to share your own travel tips.

Safe travels everyone, Carolynn

Happy Bambino’s Travel Tips:

On the road again… Car Travel Basics


• Diaper bag should be well stocked and EASY to get at. Glove compartments are also a handy place to have one diaper and a ziplock bag of wipes.

• Placing a blanket down on a grassy space at a rest area is usually much preferable to rest area bathrooms.


• Take the time to sort snacks into stackable Tupperware containers, either placed in a cooler or a larger plastic bin. Not only does this make it easy to find and get specific foods, but you minimize crushing and smashing your food, and while it may take up more space, you can use it as a makeshift table or foot rest in the car.

• Pack finger foods.


• For grownups- Don’t push yourself! If you are driving at night, make sure you are driving in 2-3 hour shifts, no longer. Coffee can only do so much, but snack like sour candies, spicy trail mixes, and wasabi peas will keep you alert. Keep the car cool, warmth can make you feel drowsy.

• For kids- there are kids that sleep in the car better than in their own bed, and there are those that will hold out all night. To encourage rest, keep the car quiet, and try to recreate bedtime routines in the car. Stop at a rest area to brush teeth & get PJ’s on, read a book in the car, and sing lullabies. Some car stereo systems allow you to adjust the balance so that you can turn the volume off in the back and keep the sound on up front. For naptimes, a window cover can be helpful for blocking out light & outside stimulation- although for my boys it became a toy to pull down and watch it roll up.

Keeping them from driving you crazy

Baby entertainment

• Finger puppets, Sophie and other teething toys that squeak, anything you would normally entertain them with. Toddler entertainment • This is the hardest age to keep happy, as they want to MOVE. Finger puppets are another big hit for this age group, but frequent stops are going to be a necessity to keep them from major tantrums. Stop at areas that have green space or play areas so they can really get their energy out. Playdough can be great for distraction, but be prepared for it to be rubbed into seats.

Kid entertainment

• A portable or in-car DVD player is usually a big hit for preschool age and up.

• A great alternative is an Mp3 player loaded with stories and favorite songs. You can download all sorts of free stuff for your kids to listen to online.

• Getting your kids to enjoy the view and appreciate travel games is better than trying to get them to forget they are in the car if you are planning on doing road trips frequently. There are websites devoted to fun activities and car games. A quick google search of “car games for kids” will get you several to choose from.

o The ABC game: each person looks for words beginning with the letter A, then B, C, etc. Or, you find each letter in succession and race against each other.

o The Name Game: the first person says the name of a famous person or fictional character, and the next person has to come up with a name that begins with the first letter of the last name (or the last letter, either way works).

o Geography: similar to The Name Game. Person 1 says the name of a place, and person 2 has to use the last letter to start the next place name.

o I-Spy is a great game to play during traffic jams because nothing is whizzing by too fast. One person says I spy a red hat (or a word that starts with Q, or a dog) and the rest of the car tries to find it.

General Philosophies

Driving straight through

• If your kids will sleep in the car and you are a person that can drive at night, this can make a trip much shorter for your kids & quieter for you! As mentioned before however, be sure you are trading up drivers or taking a break every 2-3 hours.

Taking your time

• If you’ve got the time, turning a 16 hour drive into a 2 ½ day fun tour is definitely worth it. Get some maps for the kids to mark up as you travel, and purchase a book (or download an app) that details what you will find at each exit. You can also do some research before you leave home about what road side attractions & events you will be passing by, but stopping when you need/want to stop (wherever that may be) and finding unexpected treasures can be more fulfilling and efficient that planning around stops. With planned stops you may be interrupting naps or good driving energy, and those are too precious to give up.


Car sickness

• Sour lollipops

• Bachs Flower Remedy and Calm’s Forte have been effective for settling stomachs when they are due to anxiety

• Looking out the window, getting fresh air, keeping the car cool

Traffic jams

• Try to avoid these ahead of time by skirting large cities (it’s faster to go around then through, especially at rush hour times)

• Take the opportunity to get off the highway at the nearest exit and take a break, or have an adventure!

Leavin’ on a jet plane…Air Travel Basics

Booking: There are many factors to consider when booking a flight or flights with your family.

• Cost: Who has to pay? A child under two can still fly free as a lap child. This means one less ticket to buy, but also less leg room. Travelling this way with a little one who likes to be worn and hasn’t started walking yet can be a cinch, in fact, the younger the better. As they become mobile it gets harder to keep them on your lap. Some airlines allow you to request an “infant block” where they will basically save the seat next to you until all the other seats are taken. Then, you could still bring and use your carseat, without paying for an extra ticket, if the flight isn’t full. There is no guarantee that you will get the extra seat, though, so it’s not foolproof.

• Non-Stop vs Stops:

o While non-stops are usually more expensive, it can be well worth it to spend a few extra bucks for one or more less flights to deal with. Or, find another airport to fly in and out of (Milwaukee offers far more non-stops to either coast than Madison and is just over an hour’s drive).

o Conversely, if you are flying cross country, breaking up your trip into two legs will definitely be cheaper, and some families find two shorter flights easier to manage than one long one.

o Be wary of short layovers – a delayed first flight can quickly turn into a much longer delay and possibly missing your second flight. Some airports, like Detroit, have a ton of stuff to do and see (even a monorail!) and can make long layovers tolerable.

• Timing:

o If your child takes regular naps, try to find flights that will fit into his nap schedule. The loud white noise of an airplane can be wonderfully conducive for napping. Always be prepared for them not to sleep a wink though.

o If a flight is going to be longer than 5 or 6 hours, and your child is a good sleeper, a red eye might be best.

o In general, morning flights are less likely to be delayed than later in the day.

• Seat Selection: This, like everything is so subjective. Always try to sit together as a family.

o The rear of the plane usually boards first and is closest to restrooms

o Sitting over the wings will give you the most white noise as you are nearest to the engines. Children cannot sit in exit rows.

o The bulkhead makes for swift exits and offers the most legroom, but no room for stowing carry-ons since there is no seat in front of you. Some airlines offer baby bassinets that hook up to the bulkhead in front of you, leaving your lap free.

o Aisle seats are good for travelling with an infant – it’s easiest to get up and down for pacing the aisles.

o Window seats are great for toddlers and preschoolers.

o If you can’t select seats in advance or can’t get seats together when you book, ask when checking in or at the gate. Even if a flight is fully booked, see if someone with switch with you once on board. Usually just the mention of children is enough to get even the most unsympathetic traveler to switch seats.


• Carry-ons:

o Diaperbag: A lap child gets their own carry-on, so take advantage and load up a diaper bag with snacks, a few diapers, wipes, a wetbag, a blankie, toys, books, and a change of clothes. Save yourself an embarrassing trip to the overpriced airport souvenir shop and pack an extra shirt for yourself – babies spit up and puke a lot.

o A second diaperbag that doubles as a mama purse (or vice versa) for all your personal stuff. I don’t like to pack my jewelry or makeup in my luggage and prefer to keep them with me along with a few toiletries, travel documents, cell phone, wallet, gum, a magazine, etc.

o Portable DVD player with discs and/or MP3 player, and kid-sized headphones. Don’t forget the charger!

o For a Preschool-aged child, their own little rolling suitcase packed with a few of their things can be a lifesaver.: blankie, a travel pillow, coloring books, crayons, snacks. Sneak a new small toy or book in there to discover on board.

o If you must bring any toiletries or fluids on board, make sure you follow the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule regarding liquids: everything must be in quantities of 3ounces or less – 1 quart bag – 1 per person. Keep this bag easy to reach so you can take it out easily for security. You can bring unlimited quantities of breastmilk or formula provided you keep it separate from everything else and declare it to security.

• Luggage:

o Most airlines charge $25 for the first suitcase under 50lbs and upwards from there. If you’re going to be checking more than one suitcase, be sure that they are each under 50lbs or you’ll get charged again (a lot!). If necessary, you can always move things around at the check-in counter, but save yourself the trouble and get on the scale at home with your bag.

o If checking more than one bag, try to divvy up your family’s clothes so that if one bag gets lost, everyone will still have stuff to wear.

o Pack whatever toiletries you won’t need on board into your luggage in sealable bags or containers.

o If there is a washer/dryer at your destination, only pack ½ the amount of clothes you’d normally need, and leave room for stuff you’ll most likely buy.

At The Airport

• Wearing Baby/Stroller

o Wearing your baby makes travelling so much easier, especially with an infant. It can be very soothing for a little one to be right there with mama or papa in what can be a very stimulating environment.

o That said, the stroller makes for an excellent luggage rack and can also make maneuvering much easier. With two children, the optimum solution for us has been wearing the little one in my Ergo, pushing the bigger one in the stroller, and loading it up with carry-ons. You can bring the stroller all the way up to the gate and then gate-check it. You’ll get it back as soon as you exit the plane. Choose a sturdy, but compact stroller that can handle getting scuffed up a bit.

• Security

o While wearing your baby does makes travelling easier, you will be groped if you wear your baby through security. You will also be asked to remove your baby’s shoes – yes, even robeez or nowalis!

o Adhere to the 3-1-1 rule and keep your Ziplocs easy to reach.

o Be sure to declare any breastmilk, formula, or other liquids outside of your Ziploc to security. They may ask to open it and might wave a litmus paper over it.

• Entertainment

o Some airports have kid’s play areas. I found the one at Milwaukee’s Midwest terminal when stuck there for a ridiculously long delay and my toddler was literally entertained for hours. There are also some that have mini museums or other cool things to check out. Check the airport’s website to find out more.

o Once you’ve found your gate, let your kids run around and tire themselves out before getting on board. An airport is an exciting place for a toddler or preschooler who is into planes and other moving vehicles.

• Take advantage of pre-boarding if it is offered for families travelling with young children.

On The Plane

• Wearing Baby

o You will be asked to remove your child from a baby carrier or wrap before takeoff and landing. I have found various levels of empathy from flight attendants, but they all are pretty firm on this point. There is currently only one FAA approved carrier and it doesn’t look like the FAA will come to their senses anytime soon and realize that an infant is infinitely safer when being worn properly than when loose in arms. It’s no use trying to argue with the flight staff, but it’s also not necessary to totally remove a sleeping babe from your carrier. I simply unbuckled the chest strap on my ergo and lowered the shoulder straps. Lowering the fabric on a wrap or sling carrier can sometimes be enough to appease them.

o Wearing your baby can help when trying to soothe her when she’s fussy. When possible, get up and walk up and down the aisle.

• Basics

o If you can, nurse during takeoff and/or landing. The change in pressure can be especially challenging for babies who are unable to pop their ears themselves, and nursing opens up their jaws and can ease any discomfort they might be having. Of course, nursing also helps in getting them to sleep.

o Keep as much as you can within in arms reach under the seat in front of you or in the seat pocket. Snacks, water, blankie, a travel pillow, cards, and other essentials should not be put in the overhead bin.

o A portable DVD player or mp3 player and headphones should also be easily accessible.

o Do your very best to keep you children calm and entertained, or preferably asleep, but don’t worry too much about what your fellow passengers think if they are fussy and loud. They were all babies once too!

o Roll with it as best as you can. Even the most well-behaved children will get tired and cranky eventually. Try and use the time-honored method of distraction whenever you can and remember that you will eventually land and get off the plane.

Useful Links:

Here’s the TSA’s page on travelling with children

Here’s a great site with a ton of info and games for car travel:

This is a British travelling with baby site, so some of the info doesn’t quite apply, but most is very useful:


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