When my teens were toddlers and SouthWest had yet to open their doors to the northeast, I would often travel the 12 hours to my parents’, just me and the kids. These days iPads, laptops, and portable DVD players make travel with kids much more manageable. But some things never change, and as my husband and I prepare for summer travels with our toddler, these are the tips I hope will carry us through.
1) Change of clothes and plastic bags - If you travel with children often enough, there will eventually be barf. Most likely a fluke-puke will occur the one time you decide against bringing the emergency vomit supplies. Please don’t shoot the messenger. That’s just the rules of traveling with the very young.
2) Toys - Bring many. Kids need something to toss across the car and preferably onto the driver. If traveling by airplane, toys are a useful tool to meet your fellow passengers. Dropped toys rolling around the aisles will ensure that you know which passengers are friendly and which pine for a child-free flight.
Make certain your child’s most cherished toy is on the packing list, the one that he or she can’t survive without at bedtime. No trip with young children is complete without a misplaced “lovey” and much crying accompanying both this tragedy and many others, large and small.
3) Receiving blankets - Receiving blankets stay useful forever. I used them well into my kids’ teen years. Bring three more than what you think you’ll need, because no matter how many times a child refuses a proffered blankie, it will become instantly indispensable the second you decide to use it for a pillow.
4) Snacks and water - Throwing as many special snacks as possible into the back seat is a sure boredom buster. Bringing them with you rather than purchasing on the road ensures that you save money and that the ingredients are recognizable as food if you so choose.
5) Bathroom - Everyone “tries” before leaving the house. End of story.
6) Wipes - It doesn’t matter how long the last child has been out of diapers, wipes are crucial for semi-disaster free travel. They come in especially useful at that moment when your neatly dressed long lost cousin hands your child a hot spicy Cheeto seconds before he realizes that the ultimate destination for said Cheeto is all over the calf of his pants.
7) Gate check the stroller - When the airline cancels your flight while you're still hundreds of miles from your destination during a blinding snowstorm and tells you, “No, we can’t actually get you where you're going or provide a hotel room...but how about this nice bus ticket?” you'll want to have that thing at the ready. Having a baby carrier too is even better: the child can go into the carrier and the stroller can hold all the stuff.
Traveling with young children is always a dicey proposition, but well worth it. I hope that these tips work as well for you as they have for me. Wishing you safe and happy travels with minimal barf!