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Travel With Kids: Make it Easier by Packing Smart

Published Feb 23, 2015 | Updated Feb 19, 2020

The thought of a 10-hour road trip or an 8-hour flight with your children can strike fear in the heart of even the most resilient mom. As a family who travels frequently, our 7-year-old twin boys have been on more than their fair share of trains, planes and automobiles and we know how challenging it can be to travel with kids for long hours.

But would you believe that we have travelled hundreds of hours without a single digital device? It’s not uncommon for us to have other parents sitting near us on a plane stop and ask us how we managed to not have any iPad, Nintendo DS, or DVD player with us. My husband and I decided very early on that we didn’t want the boys to just be “occupied” and out of our hair but rather, that they would learn how to conduct themselves well in all situations. That includes sitting respectfully at a restaurant table or traveling quietly for long hours on an airplane. Yet, we also know that kids are still kids and they don’t have the attention span of most adults so we don’t just sit them in their plane seat and let them twiddle their thumbs! That would surely be a recipe for disaster. Instead, we make sure to avoid all sugars on travel days (even natural sugars can cause some kids to get hyper) and we follow the following tried-and-true principles in packing a great carry-on or travel bag that will keep them occupied and entertained.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

When we hear the old adage of “something borrowed, something new…”, our minds typically conjure up beautiful brides with a touch of old lace and a blue safety pin hiding somewhere in the midst of their flowing white gown. But the same cliche is a great reminder for how to pack the next time you find yourself traveling for long hours with kids!

Something Old

Packing your child’s favorite toy can help them settle when they’re feeling anxious or nervous due to travel-induced stressors.

Something New

When our family makes the long trek to visit family, our boys love getting on the plane because they know there will be treats waiting for them in their carry-on bags! A new sticker book, a mini Lego set, or anything else that will keep their hands (and minds!) busy. Since our family is buying nothing new this year, I visited our local thrift shops and found some new-to-us puzzle books to tuck away for our next trip.

Something Borrowed

Most libraries have a 2-week return policy for books (and 1-week for DVD’s). Checking out a few special books that your child has never seen before is an inexpensive way to capture their imagination!

Something Blue

…or pink, or yellow, or whatever color is your child’s favorite! Putting a little toy or trinket in your son or daughter’s favorite color is a personalized way of showing them that you wanted to make this trip special and that you were thinking of them.

Road Trips

When driving for hours on end, it’s important to have fun things for the kids to do. And a comfy pillow to sleep away the hours, of course! With car travel, we tend to have more space than when flying so you may want to take advantage of these smart organizational tips so the kids have everything they need for a fun car adventure right at their fingertips.

Airplane Travel

It’s no secret that some airlines are better than others. When we can snag a seat sale, Swiss Air is one of our favorites to fly with and not just for the free booze (okay, mostly for the free booze). During our first flight with Swiss Air, the boys arrived to their seats to find adorable little over-the-shoulder zippered tote bags and activity books to keep them busy. These bags, three years later, are still our go-to bag for packing the kids’ carry-ons and when they finally expire, I will undoubtedly attempt to recreate them with my less-than-stellar sewing skills.

In just the perfect size, a one-shoulder hip bag can fit enough things to keep a child occupied but not be so big that they’re a burden to carry or overwhelmed by all its contents. If you don’t plan on hitting the Alps anytime soon with Swiss Air (that was a joke, by the way!), try making your own simple hip bag with this tutorial or check out similar ones available on Etsy.

In the end, whether we’re traveling on a 12-hour transatlantic flight or just a 4-hour drive to Lake Tahoe, putting extra thought into the kids travel bags has always saved us from major travel meltdowns. There will always be challenges when you travel with kids but when we give them the right tools, it’s amazing how much easier it can be. And without a single digital device!

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Natasha Drisdelle
By Natasha Drisdelle
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