Traveling with kids is equal parts exhilarating, exhausting, and frustrating. I will not lie to you, traveling with kids is not at all easy, but our family motto is parenting is hard wherever you are, so why not do it with a view?
We have had the luxury of taking multiple international trips and during our family travels, I have been able to weed out what are kid travel essentials, and what can be left behind. I have separate lists of travel essentials for the plane and for land.
I pack the following five kid travel essentials for each and every flight to make our flights as smooth as they possibly can be.
#1 – Screens
Yes, breathe and let it go. I know, the American Pediatrics Society recommends that children only watch two hours of screen time a day, however, I firmly believe that every once in a while it is okay to go over that amount. Your child’s brain will not rot, I promise, and everyone has an equal chance of arriving at the final destination without losing their bananas. So, charge up your tablet, DVD player, or hand over your phone and let your kids go to town. You may also want to invest in a portable battery pack because not every plane has device charging capabilities. After all, one of the best parts of vacation is that you have an excuse to bend the rules just a bit, and no one, not even parents, are supposed to suffer.
#2 – Water bottles
One of the worst things to deal with while traveling are spills. Whether you are on a plane, train, or in your own car, cleaning a liquid mess is just a pain. I always pack a water bottle for each of my children and use them when we travel. Having a small opening that they are used to drinking from greatly cuts down on the number of spills that happen. You can fly with a water bottle in your carry on as long as it is empty. After you pass security, find a water fountain and fill up your kid’s water bottle.
# 3 – Wet wipes
Yes, even though I try to avoid messes as much as possible, they still happen. Wet wipes are not only great for cleaning sticky toddler fingers, but also for cleaning any dirty surfaces while traveling. I use wet wipes to clean seat trays, restaurant tables, tv remotes, and any other hard surface.
#4 – Snacks
Nothing is worse than dealing with a hangry child while traveling. Because of this, I always pack a variety of snacks any time we travel. My go-to travel snacks are graham crackers, fruit snacks, and goldfish crackers. When looking for snacks, I look for foods that are relatively low mess and are lower in sugar.
Pro tip: When packing snacks, remember that foods that come in liquid forms such as applesauce and pudding are considered liquids. The rule according to the TSA is 3.4 ozs of liquid are allowed. Before throwing in those applesauce pouches, make such they are under 3.4 ozs.
# 5 – New Toy
Screens are great but they only entertain for so long. At some point, your child will get bored and you need to have a backup. Before each trip, I head to a dollar spot (either at Walmart, Dollar Tree, or my personal favorite, Target) and pick up a couple of small, cheap toys. Coloring books, crayons, stickers, small dolls, toy cars, Mr. Potato Head, blind bags, mini slinkies, and fidget toys are all small and entertaining.
Now onto the second half of this post, my five kid travel essentials for the land.
#1 – Medication
Hopefully, during your vacation, all members of your family will be in full health however just in case they aren’t it is a good idea to pack your go to over the counter medications. For medication, I always pack children’s Tylenol, Advil, Benadryl, triple antibiotic ointment, and bandages.
# 2 – Comfort items
Being on vacation is awesome, but sometimes it can be challenging to be sleeping in a new space. Before leaving on vacation, I have both of my children pick one comfort item to take with them. Sometimes it is a small stuffed animal, blanket, or a book. Each of my kids’ comfort items go on their vacation bed to help them sleep. I find that having a piece of home provides them with a sense of security that not only helps at bedtime but also to comfort them when bumps and bruises happen as well.
# 3 – Sprays and lotions
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean that bugs and the sun will magically disappear, and depending on where you travel, you might be spending a significant amount of time in the sun. To protect the whole family from unwanted sunburns and bug bites, make sure to pack your favorite sunscreen and bug spray. I am typically a less-is-more type of girl, but in this department, I always pack more than I think we need for two reasons. First, my kids have sensitive skin, so we use specific products for their skin, and I don’t want to be hunting down these products in a foreign place. Second, these items are necessities and resorts love to inflate the cost of these items. A few years ago, we ran out of sunscreen while on a trip in the Dominican Republic. We went to the resort gift shop to grab a bottle of sunscreen and to our shock, each bottle of sunscreen cost thirty dollars. We were halfway through our trip, we needed sunscreen, and we weren’t going to spend the rest of our time indoors so we had to shell out thirty dollars for something that we could have bought for eight bucks at home. Ouch.
# 4 – Stroller
My daughter is four and for most day trips, we no longer bring a stroller. However, when we travel, we always bring a stroller for her to use. I love having a stroller while traveling because it provides some storage space on the bottom, a contained and safe space for your child, and a place to rest. Traveling can be tiring as you are typically walking more than you do in a normal day, and having a place where your child can take a break or a nap is essential.
# 5 – Cash
In my day to day life, I almost never have cash on me. However, when we travel, I always carry a little bit of cash. Having a couple extra dollars means that your kids can go on the Merry-Go-Round, get an ice cream, or you can tip the bellhop who helped you carry all those bags up to your room. When we travel, we have a philosophy: conserve kid energy. Sure, you could lug all your beach stuff and your water soaked kids up a hill, or you can take the beach taxi and spend the best five bucks you will ever spend in Bermuda. Go ahead, make your life a little bit easier and take the shortcut from time to time.
My five must-have kid travel essentials for the plane and land may not make all the tantrums go away but hopefully will make your trip a little bit smoother. Do you have any travel plans this summer? What will you be packing to save your sanity?