How to Survive Traveling with Children

Traveling with children is a nightmare. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it’s a nightmare.

You thought that getting through airport security was a chore before, now you have to go through it with a stroller, an ergo, a car seat, your luggage, and your shoeless children themselves, all while hoping that you packed enough snacks and toys in your carry-on to avoid a total meltdown. It is not a task for the timid. You go in with a plan and a direction or you fall out quickly. 


COVID of course has added a whole new fun level to the traveling experience. Try peeing in an airport bathroom sometime with a kid strapped to your chest and a face mask on, and then let me know if you manage to get anywhere near the toilet. There’s nothing romantic about this struggle. If you are lucky enough to be able to travel, and you are a parent, then you are going to face the many challenges that await you when bringing children along on the journey. I was fortunate enough recently to travel to Florida with my girls and I learned some things along the way that I thought I would share with you here. 


1. Pack Light

Pack light. I mean it. Your babies don’t care if they wear the same clothes two days in a row. I promise. Older kids are a different story maybe, but for the tiny ones no one needs a fashion show. You’re not a Kardashian and neither is your kid. Think utilitarian. Pack extra outfits for spills and accidents, but overall try to keep clothing to a minimum. Same thing goes for shoes. Your kids need a pair of shoes, not a closet of them. I am the worst over packer in existence and go into every trip paranoid about forgetting something. If you are traveling to Easter Island, okay, supplies might be slim,

but I was traveling to Orlando for christ’s sake. Anything I may have forgotten and needed is right there for the taking. So keep it light and save yourself the heavy load.

2. Keep it Entertaining

Entertainment is key. My kids are of the age where I can get ten minutes of distraction out of them by handing them an empty water bottle. The older they get the more tricks you are going to need. You can’t bring a playroom on a plane, so I selected a couple of jangly things and a couple of stuffed things that I thought would serve as decent diversions. On the way back I downloaded a couple episodes of Masha and the Bear on my iPad, which kept my oldest from freaking out. Incidentally have you seen Masha and the Bear? The bear should have eaten that kid a long time ago in my opinion. If you have a tablet, this is a great way to make use of it. Otherwise a couple storybooks can be a life saver. Just remember, keep it light.

3. Plan the food

You have to feed kids. You can’t just turn them towards the light and water them periodically. Any parent knows to have snacks on hand, but remember that planes don’t provide you with anything anymore. Not peanuts, not a stick of gum, nada. Your plane ticket includes your seat and if you’re lucky some overhead room, so be sure to go into your trip loaded up with food supplies for the journey. I like those squeeze pouches. They’re light on mess and give a quick fruit fix when the kids are fading. Yes, they’re plastic. Fine. You pack all biodegradable snacks on your trip and I’ll read about it in your column next week. Make it simple on yourself Mom/Dad. This is about survival. 

4. Consider Leaving the Kids at Home

Maybe leave the kids at home. I’m kidding, kind of, but not really. I said it at the top, traveling with children is an ordeal, and it’s not for everyone. Maybe you need a sitter to stay home while you jet away for a few days. Or maybe you are someone who can afford to travel with a caregiver. Bully for you! My point is that if you can take the help then do it, either on the journey or at home. For me, watching my Maine born and bred daughter frolicking in the Florida sunshine in February made all the drama of traveling worth it. She might not remember it, but I will always have the memory of her and her sister laughing and smiling in the sun, and for that I would go through security all over again. Even in Philadelphia. 

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