What follows are some tips that hopefully will make life a bit easier when traveling with kids.
• Traveling is a good time to break the family’s no electronics rule. Age-appropriate apps and games are a lifesaver during long rides or delays.
• Dress all children in the same, bright colored shirt to locate them quickly at a busy rest area or airport.
• Lollipops help relieve ear pressure on airplanes during take off and offer a few minutes of quiet distraction while you rent a car, check in at a hotel or wait for a table at a restaurant. Sugar-free lollipops work too.
• Invest in a few new inexpensive books and toys, put each in wrapping paper or decorated paper bag, and let your child open one each hour during the trip. Old toys that have been out of rotation will work too.
• Pack an abundance of healthy snacks like fruit and whole-wheat crackers; include some protein like cheese or hummus to keep everyone’s energy up. Don’t forget a few treats.
• After airport security, buy bottles of water for the plane. The air in the cabin is dry and the cups given out by flight attendants are small (plus they’re too busy to keep you hydrated). Dehydration causes fatigue and worsens jetlag, so drink up.
• Put a business card from the hotel or a note with your temporary address in the child’s pants pocket.
• Travel mid-week if possible to save money and avoid crowds on the road and in the air.
• Forgetting where you parked is a lousy way to end a vacation. Use a phone to snap a picture of your car’s location before heading into the terminal.
• Some airlines allow parents with children to board first. Board early and the kids will be cooped up on the plane for an extra 20-30 minutes. Wait until the end of the line.
• Tuck a soft duffle bag into your suitcase. Souvenirs are heavy and extra weight on a plane is pricey, so it pays (literally) to plan ahead.
• Fly early in the morning to avoid waiting in the airport. Afternoon and evening flights are more likely to be delayed.
• Reserve your seats on a plane as early as possible to avoid being separated from your children. Unless your kids are old enough to sit alone, think twice about booking with an inexpensive carrier without assigned seating.
• If you are separated, ask other passengers to change seats. Many are willing to help a mom, especially if you offer a better location in the plane.
• When getting on a bus, train, elevator, or even a revolving door, decide who will get on first and last, so no is lost or left behind.
• Keep your sense of humor, be open to adventures and most of all have fun. Happy summer!
Janine Queenin is a writer, mother of two kids ages 11 and 9, and travel agent for her family of four. Her family can’t wait to hit the road this summer.