Each week, we invite leading experts in their field to offer advice and share their experiences with our readers. This week, we turn to Megan Sayers, the managing editor for ModernMom, a trusted online magazine community for the “Woman Behind the Mom.”
For many moms, the thought of spending several hours rushing through airports and stuffed in economy class seats with bored and irritable kids sounds like a nightmare. But with the right preparation, a long trip can actually be a fun family bonding experience.
So if you’re planning a long journey with your little angels, make the trip as stress-free as possible with these survival tips for traveling with kids.
Snacks, Snacks, Snacks!
Ask anyone who’s spent a few hours traveling with children: If you skimp on the snack packing, you’re cruising for a major meltdown. The technical definition of this behavior is “hangry” (Hungry + angry) — and it’s what happens when the young travel companions are cranky and food-deprived.
Steer clear of the storm by making sure you’re well supplied with munchies. Here are a few great options that are portable, tasty and not totally unhealthy:
+ Jerky – Whether you choose the turkey or beef version, jerky is packed with protein and low in fat and carbs. And best of all, kids love it because they feel like they’re eating junk food!
+ Veggies & Fruit (domestic flights only!) – Wash and cut up your favorite fruits and veggies, stick them in a Tupperware and voila, a healthy snack that’s easy to eat on the go. You can even bring a mini-cooler and ice pack to keep them extra fresh if you’re not inhibited by carry-on luggage limitations. Best bet for types of fruit and veg: Cherry tomatoes, carrots, celery, grapes, apple slices and orange slices.
+ String Cheese – Who doesn’t love string cheese? Individually wrapped cheese sticks are great sources of calcium and protein. There are different types to choose from as well as reduced fat and part skim options.
+ Trail Mix – This is a staple on all my family trips. You can buy it pre-made or create your own concoction with all your favorite ingredients. Dried fruit mixed with almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, M&Ms… the combinations are limitless.
+ Peanut Butter Crackers – Whole grain crackers taste great paired with peanut butter for a portable version of the classic sandwich. Note: Pack in Tupperware or plastic bags and bring lots of napkins to save yourself and your clothes from sticky fingers.
+ Beverages – Make sure you stay hydrated in the air. TSA security guidelines make bringing liquids along tough, but you can bring an empty bottle to fill from the water fountain after clearing security. Or bite the bullet and buy a few drinks in the terminal. You don’t want to have to keep asking the cabin crew for little cups of water which will inevitably become tedious and most likely end up on your child’s lap.
Travel Kit Checklist
When traveling with kids, it’s best to remember Murphy’s Law: If it can go wrong, it will. With that in mind, you can prepare for the worst by packing a few essential supplies. You won’t realize how important these items are until the when moment you desperately need them.
+ Hand sanitizer, Band-Aids, Tylenol and a first-aid kit. Make sure you get a travel-sized hand sanitizer (3 oz. or less) so you don’t get it taken off you at security.
+ Paper Towels/ Baby Wipes/ Napkins / Tissues – There will be spills. Let me repeat, there will be spills. I don’t care if you pack your children in plastic wrap, they will still find some way to have at least one – and probably several – “oops!” moments. DO NOT LEAVE HOME without some type of paper product or cleaning wipes for emergency janitor duty.
+ An extra change of clothes for each passenger, as well as plenty of sweatshirts and blankets.
+ Portable GPS or map, for when you reach your destination and the navigator “isn’t lost” and “knows exactly where he/she is going” but you’re pretty sure you’ve passed that street a few times. Your smartphone with Google Maps will do this for you!
+ Flashlight (make sure it has batteries.)
Engage and Entertain
When it comes to entertainment options, I’m a big advocate of turning to technology. Burn a CD with songs that everyone can agree on or bring along a portable MP3 player. There are a bunch of family-friendly or educational video games available for handheld devices, and if you’re willing to splurge a little, a portable DVD player can provide the perfect mobile movie theater. Just remember to bring headphones! After about 15 minutes of the electronic beeps and sound effects that accompany most games, you’ll be scrabbling in your bag for that Tylenol, not to mention the death stares from fellow airline passengers.
Not too tech-savvy? Don’t sweat it! Make a travel pack full of books, toys, paper, washable markers and coloring books.
Tip: Instead of giving all the travel toys to your little ones at once, hand them out one at a time. It makes each one more exciting.
Just remember, with a little planning and patience, you can sail through a family trip with your sanity intact. Happy travels!
You can follow Megan on Twitter @MeganSayers.