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Will Travel ... With Kids

Are you planning a trip this summer? If so, you might want to take a few trip tips from Christian Science Monitor contributor P.A. Moed, who's been there, done that with a now teen-aged son since he was small.

* Give your kids a taste of the culture you'll be visiting before you go -- literally. Find some recipes from the country and cook them for dinner.

* Read books and rent movies from the countries you'll be visiting.

* Let your kids leaf through information about your destination and choose things to do.

* Don't overschedule.

* And my favorite: Give your child a set amount of money on the first day of the vacation that he can spend any way he chooses. "This eliminates the pestering to buy this trinket or that DVD. Now if he wants something, he debates its merits and decides whether or not to spend his money on it," Moed writes.

In addition, when heading out of town with small ones, some of my favorite tried and true methods still apply:

* Bring a grab bag of new toys/books to keep you and your fellow passengers sane on the plane ride. Keep them small and simple without lots of little parts.

* Pack light.

* Bring your families' medicines -- even those that you and your kids only need occasionally.

What are your favorite travel-with-kids tips?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  May 6, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers , Teens , Tweens
Previous: Do As I Say... | Next: Your Parents Are Watching ... and Watching ... and Watching


We just completed our first long road trip with a potty-training toddler. My tip? Know beforehand roughly where the rest stops or close-to-the-highway facilities are, so you can plan potty breaks and respond to the inevitable urgent requests.

I also always bring a carry-on with a variety of healthy (and healthy-ish) snacks for the trip and to keep in the hotel room. It cuts down on fast-food stops.

Posted by: NewSAHM | May 6, 2008 8:41 AM | Report abuse

My most important tip - pack a change of clothes in the carry on bag. Once my kids were out of diapers and very predictably potty trained I got out of the habit of carrying around extra clothes. But having them is a lifesaver if your luggage is lost and also if your little one spills his entire apple juice on his lap on the plane!

My other tip - gum and lollipops can be a huge help on planes but also during the trip when waiting on lines for sights. I carry sugar-free gum and a few lollipops at all times. When everyone starts to get a little impatient a little mouth activity can really help.

Another piece of advice I read in a Disney Guide book but I've found applies to any vacation is to go back to your hotel each day or every other day for a little break. Kids, at least mine, don't do well being on the go all day and they tend to find hotel rooms pretty exciting. Even if they don't nap, I always bring paper, markers and coloring books and they will color, read or even occasionally watching a little tv. They are then energized for the dinner out or late afternoon activity.

Finally, I think parents need to manage their expectations. Your kids are going to get cranky, fight, and you and your husband may bicker too. Travelling can be a hassle -- long lines, trying to find activities that are interesting for many different age groups, lots of meals out, different sleep schedules all combine to make people a little testy at times. Don't go into it thinking every moment is going to be this amazing family time and maybe even plan some times where you split up. We can actually now laugh about some of the blow-outs my husband and I had on vacations that, at the time, I thought ruined the whole thing. I now realize that the argument was just another part of the experience and a life lesson.

Posted by: Pt Fed Mof2 | May 6, 2008 8:43 AM | Report abuse

To cut down time on long road trips with young kids, I suggest bringing a large jar with airtight lid.

Posted by: DandyLion | May 6, 2008 9:14 AM | Report abuse

1. Know your kid. It's great to plan a flight around naptime -- unless your kid is one of those who gets so amped up at being on a plane that he can't relax enough to sleep, thus both making the flight miserable for everyone else and guaranteeing a miserable arrival and evening with napless toddler.

2. If you're going to try Benadryl, test it first, to make sure your kid isn't one of the 5% who go haywire instead of falling asleep.

3. Plan downtime. My SIL just finished a big family trip, and they planned outings for every other day, with the time in-between spent just lounging around the hotel pool or doing hotel kid club activities. Our last trip was a ski trip, so we planned for a couple of hours of relaxation time every afternoon in the hotel room with Scooby-Doo and bananas before heading out to dinner.

4. Always have snacks. Cheerios have an entertainment value almost equivalent to their nutritional value. And those box snacks on Southwest are awesome -- especially when the kids don't get to eat that kind of stuff at home.

5. And most importantly, get rid of the dream of the "perfect" family vacation, where everyone's smiling and happy all the time, there are no squabbles, your patience is infinite but you're never required to exercise it, etc. That may be what the pictures show, but you're not taking pictures at 4 AM when the toddler decides that it's 6 AM his time and therefore time to get up. Think more of normal family life with less homework and better scenery.

Posted by: Laura | May 6, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Laura, I think Benadryl's really dangerous. I saw a kid on an airplane one time where they had to call 911 because the mother had given him so much Benadryl. If you can't handle travel with your kids without drugging them with dangerous narcotics, then you seriously might want to consider staying home.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 6, 2008 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Agree with the Benadryl. Silly idea to drug up your child to make them sleep. I do give my toddler daughter Tylenol before we get on the plane on doctor's advise to help her ears. The pressure can be very difficult for little kids. We also encourage her to suck her thumb. We take a bag with loads of books, toys (one or two new ones), healthy snacks and photo albums. We also plan, plan, plan - take loads of diapers, clip-on toilet seat, change of clothes, drinks (either buy at airport, or take small quantities yourself if you declare them to TSA), snacks (all healthy, and include fruit), blanket, one or two soft toy "friends" and lots of patience. We've made quite a few flights over the last two years, and my best advice is to schedule the flight around naps, and let them run (or crawl) around as much as possible before you get on the plane so they want to sleep.

Posted by: DopeyMummy | May 6, 2008 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Benadryl is not dangerous. If a parent can't figure out the proper dose for his/her child, that's dangerous.

This will be an interesting blog for me today as I've just learned I will be flying by myself with my two young children this summer to China. My husband's company has assigned him to Beijing for the Olympics. I'm kind of in shock, frankly.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 6, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

To 9:36: Or, better yet, a person shouldn't give his/her child drugs if he/she is too dumb to figure out what the proper dose is. Everyone else, use your brain to figure out (1) whether to give your child Benadryl, and (2) if so, how much. Every drug is dangerous... if you take too much.

My favorite travel take-along: We call them magnet books, but I'm not sure if they have another name. I've seen them sold in airport stores all over. Metal boxes with punch-out magnets of different characters (we have a Disney one and a superhero one). It's like the Colorforms I played with as a kid, except the kids use magnets to make scenes and stories. No dropped pieces, and no mess. Entertains my kid for... well, minutes. But minutes can seem like a quiet eternity on a plane!

Posted by: J2-D2 | May 6, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Lots and lots of Benadryl, WMX. (Just kidding.)

Posted by: J2-D2 | May 6, 2008 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Rent a house! It is so much easier (and often cheaper) with young children to rent a house or apartment and then take day trips from there. It is nice to have place to leave your stuff, the kids have a sense of "home", you have a fridge and stove and often cable t.v. for downtime. I cannot recommend this enough, especially if you go abroad!

If driving with a newly potty trained girl, just throw the learning potty in the back. Put one of those small trash can bags or store bag over the cup with a couple of paper towels in it. This way your daughter can go potty anywhere, anytime and you can simple tie up the sack and throw it away. We did this around town with both of our children - one of the best pieces of advice I had ever gotten. Also, the family rule when traveling is "if you have a chance to go to the bathroom take it. you never know when you will have another chance."

For long trips on the plane. If you have a video ipod, buy a splitter so you can hook up two headsets and you can download movies or episodes of shows like Scooby Doo or the Jetsons, so much less cumbersom than the DVD player.

Finally, just go. Don't keep waiting until they are bigger. They will adapt. Manage your expectations and theirs and you'll have a great time.

Posted by: Moxiemom | May 6, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

WorkingmomX - how exciting! You'll do fine and have a trip of a lifetime!! Even if the worst happens, that which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. How old are your kids?

Posted by: moxiemom | May 6, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Almost 4 and almost 6. I figure lots of movies, one new toy an hour, good snacks. Oh, and Benadryl.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 6, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I have traveled with small children every year for the last 5 years (ages 11 mos - 5 years old)to South Africa and have to say that without a doubt benedryl is a life saver. I agree that you should "test" on your child prior to the trip but it relaxes my little ones just enough that they can sleep in thier car seats. Talk with your ped first to get the correct dose but it is a very safe drug.

A second recommendation when flying with children is to buy them a seat. It is expensive but for long flights, you will want the extra space.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 6, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Ditto Moxie on potty training. Also: lots and lots of ziplocs. From sealing shampoo in checked luggage to wrapping up dirty diapers, you can never have too many ziplocs.

And look, I'm not advocating benadryl. After the recent warnings about kids' medicines, I personally don't use much of anything beyond baby tylenol and baby ibu even when they're sick. But there are a lot of people who swear by it (some of whom I'm related to). So I just wanted to remind folks who do use it that, for a small number of kids, benadryl is a huge upper -- and you really don't want to find that out for the first time on a 3-hr plane flight!

Posted by: Laura | May 6, 2008 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and give your kid their own carry on with wheels that they can pull and put their own stuff in. Also put in everything they need to go to sleep in case your luggage gets lost (stuffed animal, pjs, toothbrush, extra underwear).

Posted by: Moxiemom | May 6, 2008 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Benadryl is extremely safe. I've been told this by several doctors and allergy specialists. My son has a nut allergy and it goes where we go as the first line of defense before the epi pen.

Laura is correct that some kids react poorly to it, but that's true of all medications. Very good advice to try it first before the flight.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 6, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Travel to Europe in the summers with 3 little ones. They're getting bigger now, but we go over rules and regs and expectations. That really is the best.

Do NOT recommend giving your child one chunk of money. I give my kids 1 Euro/day (we are there a long time) and the kids EARN that Euro by behaving. They can spend that money any way they want. If you give them it all in the beginning, it will be gone very quickly.

Posted by: Andrea | May 6, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Ugh, Andrea, that's what my mom used to do when we were on vacation. So if we were bad early in the morning, we lost the dollar for that day, and then that essentially meant we could be holy terrors until bedtime!! Too much oversight for me.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 6, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

1 Euro? That's like 50 cents. Is it 1966 where you live? Just kidding.

My kids bring their own money that they have saved and an amount selected before we leave. They know not to ask for a lot of stuff. They know the answer is generally no, here or abroad.

Posted by: Moxiemom | May 6, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse


My then three year old entertained herself for a VERY long time on the flight from Hong Kong to Newark by covering her stomach with tiny (pinky fingernail sized) stickers and then taking them off.

Plenty of snacks: both healthy and unhealthy (the novelty of unhealthy snacks can make them even more fun)

Books, favorite CDs (fun music, sleepy music, storytellers, something old, something new), rip the flap books,

Toys: A magic wand (the kind with liquid, glitter and sequins trapped inside that move up and down when you turn the wand up and down), etch a sketch, little dolls (we have some that are about 4" tall), small plastic animals, a toy telephone or cellphone, a new pack of fancy markers (fluorescent or that work on black paper or some such), plastic scissors (might get taken at security, but might not),

Remember, the inflight magazine is yours to keep--or cut up or tear or whatever.

You can take walks around the aisles, if that helps.

When they lose interest in a toy, put it away--it can be a new choice later on if it doesn't lose its novelty by being left out. Aim to have only a few toys out at any given time. It keeps the clutter down, and gives you more choices about what to pull out.

On traveling solo with kids: make friends with a friendly person sitting near you, so when one child needs to use the bathroom, you can leave the other one in the seat. You can't fit two children in the airplane bathroom, so you have to have someone nominally in charge of your child while you are gone. Be sure to leave your child fully engaged with something fun (stickering their tummy or something) while you are gone.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 6, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Exchange rate reality check 1 Euro is now equivalent to almost $1.5. Given that my 12 year old has a $3 weekly allowance she would be thrilled to get a week's allowance in 2 days.

I strongly suggest making a spending money commitment in dollars so they can get as frustrated as their parents with the devaluation of the dollar against major currencies. It can be fun to have your kid see the impact of this Administration's fiscal irresponsibility and Greenspan's legacy so that they have a learning opportunity vis a vis their vacation spending.

I actually arrange for some special chores (real big ones since daily stuff is not for pay) in the weeks before the trip (clean garage, beat the rugs, etc) so they can rack up some money before the trip and really appreciate that the stupid trinket costs 1/2 of a clean garage. I also offer one t-shirt of choice on the trip since these can be quite pricey.

Posted by: samclare | May 6, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Plan one thing every day that is designed for your children's enjoyment. They'll tour a museum more happily or sit in the car more patiently if (a) it's not for too long, and (b) they know that there's a treat coming, even if they don't know exactly what it is.

And if you're traveling by car, remember that the great strength of the car trip is that you can pull over any time. Plan lower-mileage days with more stops, and think of the trip as a loop rather than as having a destination. That's how my parents got us happily through years and years of car trips, and why we have seen more of the U.S. than nearly all of our friends.

Posted by: KateNonymous | May 6, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

>>1 Euro? That's like 50 cents. Is it 1966 where you live? Just kidding. >>

Where do YOU live? Not been following the news lately, eh? It's more like $1 is worth .5 Euro.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 6, 2008 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Not only do I bring a change of clothing for my children in a carry on bag, but I also pack one for myself. You never know when you're also going to be covered in whatever is covering your child.

Posted by: Jenny | May 6, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Great stuff!! Keep posting!!!

Posted by: tlawrenceva | May 6, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Agree with the poster who said, take the trip - don't wait for the kids to be old enough. We've been traveling with ours since they were infants, and now at 10 and 7 they are great travelers, by car and plane. I think if you wait too long to start, it is harder to adapt.

DVD's are a must - that's 2 hours of occupied time! Books, iPods and comfy pillow and stuffed animal for sleeping. We also have those magnet games - like checkers. We play the car-games - like the alphabet, or state license plates.

Also, a fun thing that they look forward to is when we stop off for gas, they get to pick a snack and drink. And the fun part for them is that for once, we don't monitor 'healthiness'.

As for activities while on vacation - we've done beach-bum types and Disney-types and both have worked out well. As long as the parents are flexible, don't over schedule, things work out.

Posted by: prarie dog | May 6, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Hi Stacey.
Thanks so much for mentioning my article in yesterday's CSM. I'm delighted that you and your readers found the advice helpful!

Posted by: P.A. Moed | May 6, 2008 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Like some other posters, I say- take the trip, and stop worrying! But there are some things that will make it better. Like others, I take stickers, books, color wonder markers & paper, etc on the plane or in the car. We schedule trips and down times around naptime- and have even convinced the hotel to check us in early to take a nap! When our 2-year-old was smaller, we used a Kelty Kids backpack when sightseeing in the city (NY, Tokyo, Boston), which was much better than spending all day hunting for an elevator for the stroller and trying to get it up and down stairs all the time. And, a plus is a much better view for your little one. Finally, I have to say this- quit being a cheapskate and buy the darn seat on the plane for your kid, even if he's not 2 yet!!!! Don't tell me you can't afford it, because you bought the other seats. The NTSB has repeatedly recommended children be secured in car seats, and yet the lobbyists have so far defeated their efforts. Safety first. On top of that, does your child want to sit in your lap for 3 hours straight at home? No. So why are you surprised when they cry and whine on the plane when you expect them to do it there? My son has always traveled in his carseat on the plane, and is perfectly happy doing so. Yes, it's heavy, yes, it's a pain. But like every other American child he's used to being in his carseat, used to being strapped into it, and it's far more comfortable than an airline seat. I would never fly without it. Even now that he's over 2, we still bring it on the plane. And plan to keep doing so for at least a few more years. S

Posted by: Tiffany | May 6, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Actually booster seats are generally not allowed on planes. I think there are special booster seats that they do allow on planes but not most of the ones that people use in their car. So check with the airlines before lugging one on a plane.

We love felt board play sets. I think it is a lot like the magnet sets that you people are talking about. Although the magnets sound a bit better. I am going to check those out.

We also love sticker books. I buy one (usually $5) before taking the trip and it can bring in at least 20-30 minutes of fun.

For car or even long plane rides, portable DVD players are awesome. Even on low volume without a head set, these things are great.

We also tend to rent time shares from our travel club. We don't own a time share but find renting one is usually cheaper then a hotel and with nicer immenties. It is great to have your own washer/dryer, fully stocked kitchen and tv with cable.

It is also nice to eat breakfast in the room and the occassional lunch or dinner. I don't think kids enjoy eating out 3 times a day.

Most importantly, take breaks through out the day. For the little ones napping is important but for the older kids going back to play with some of their favorites or new small toy you picked up.

I use Benadryl to control my daughter's seasonal allergies. I only use it at night, so she can sleep without coughing or sneezing. I don't know about you but if you give your kid the proper dosage, it is perfectly safe.

Like everyone else said, just manage your expectations. With small children, you always have to scale down your trip and not jam pack your day. Everyone will be happier. Just keep in mind, most small children do better with just a few things a day. They also just love the hotel pools.

Posted by: foamgnome | May 6, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Where do YOU live? Not been following the news lately, eh? It's more like $1 is worth .5 Euro.

You are correct, I got my math backwards. I was thinking a dollar to spend in Europe, not the other way around. This is why I'm not in charge of the family finances.

I also agree re: buying the seat. It is a great place to put all their junk even if the kid doesn't sit there. We always strapped the kids into their car seats for take off and landing whether they liked it or not. If I need to be buckled, so does my child.

Booster seats cannot be used on the plane, but we carry them on or gate check them because they are the one thing we do not want to be without at our destination. We will check them on the way home since their regular car seats are in the car waiting.

Posted by: Moxiemom | May 6, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

DD thinks I am cool because I allowed her to carry two small teddy bears on her first and only airplane trip to Niagara Falls. I packed two more in her suitcase
and she had friends for the entire vacation.

I love the sticker idea. We may be taking a plane trip next year.

Posted by: shdd | May 6, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

"The NTSB has repeatedly recommended children be secured in car seats"

"Actually booster seats are generally not allowed on planes."

I never had a problem using a car seat on an airplane. I never tried to use a booster seat, because the reason for a booster seat is to raise the child to a height that makes the shoulder strap a help, not a hindrance to child safety--and I've yet to encounter a shoulder strap on an airplane.

Also, here is a tip I used once: scheduled an early morning flight, spent the night at the airport hotel, which was across the dropoff driveway from the airport. This allowed me to leave my car in that lot for no extra charge. Got up, checked in, returned to the hotel to eat breakfast, then back to the airport gate to catch my flight. Much more relaxed than getting up, getting ready, and driving to the airport only to sit around and wait. Added bonus, as I was traveling alone--I was able to leave the carry on luggage back at the hotel room and just carry over the luggage to be checked on the first trip, and then just the carryon luggage the second trip.

Workingmomx, this might be useful to you, depending on when your flight leaves. You want to be as unstressed as possible when you begin your flight.

Also, don't give back the washcloth that they give you before your inflight meal. You will find many uses for it on such a long flight. You can give it back at the end of the flight. Or take a few of your own in ziplocs.

Posted by: car seats on planes | May 6, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm with y'all on buying the extra seat and bring the carseat. We made sure one of our two carseats was airline-approved and narrow enough to fit in the seat, and always used it (up to the 40-lb limit). Had to stand up to one flight-attendant who misunderstood the rules, but I wasn't flying without it. My husband was friends in grad school with a family who lost their "lap baby" in the Iowa crash @ 20 yrs ago (when most restrained passengers lived), so that's a dealbreaker for us.

Once they outgrow the airline-approved seats, you can also usually rent a booster from the rental car company for a few bucks a day. We did that on our ski trip this year: between our ski gear, the kid stuff, and the in-flight entertainment crap, we had a ridiculous pile o' crap to schlep; and with a 6- and 2-yr-old to shepherd through the airport to boot, it was worth a few bucks to have to wrestle only one carseat instead of two.

Posted by: Laura | May 6, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

The best investment is a rear dvd player for the car. Adults forget it is a long boring ride in the back and singing 99 bottles of beer was not fun then and is not now.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 6, 2008 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Uh, how about tips for the Parental Newbies who are trekking 10+ hours with babies (and the family pooch!) by car?

I'm planning on abiding by the KISS principle - keep it simple, stupid. Stop enough times to change the diapers and feed the baby (based on whatever the schedule seems to be for those events at the time of the time) fill the gas tank, let the lovely wife satisfy her biological needs (OK, me too), and let the pooch out for the same at each and every stop.

Envisioning one 20 min. stop for 2.5 hours of driving. Can it be done?

Posted by: NewbieDad | May 6, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I will be travelling with my almost 2 year old soon. I do not want to lug a car seat with me on the flight. According to Laura, you can rent one for a few bucks a day at a car rental.

I will need a car seat when we get to our destination. If Laura is right, I can travel without a car seat and then rent one when I get to our destination.

Hey y'all thanks for all those wonderful travel suggestions. I think I'll leave out the benadryl for now.

Posted by: Mama in Alexandria | May 6, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Mama, you can rent them, but you do need to make the reservation beforehand to make sure they have one available at that location at that time.

Posted by: Laura | May 6, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse


A long car trip is totally possible with an infant, though I won't lie -- it's not much fun.

If you can, you may want to schedule a stop at a hotel mid-way through the trip. It'll give everyone a change of scenery and give Mom and Dad a chance to get out of the car. For some reason, two five-hour drives are a lot easier to take than one 10-hour drive.

If you don't want to stop and your baby is old enough to sleep for several hours at a stretch, also consider leaving right around the baby's bedtime. That way, you get a longer stretch of driving in without stops while the child is sleeping. It's harder on the parents because you arrive somewhat sleep deprived, but the car portion of the trip is undoubtedly more pleasant. Depending on where you're going, you can also miss a lot of traffic by traveling at night. (we drive from NC to NJ a couple of times a year. Leaving during the day usually means a few hours in traffic in the DC area and a 12-hour trip; driving at night cuts us down to 8.5 or 9 hours).

With regard to airplane travel, we always bought a seat for DD and always traveled with her car seat. The best travel gadget we ever found was a little wheeled platform that screws onto the car seat and basically turns it into a stroller that you can just pull/push through the airport. We tend not to like traveling with an actual stroller, so this gave us the best of both worlds -- we could push DD through the airport, then use the car seat on the flight and at the other end without having to cart a bulky stroller around.

Posted by: NewSAHM | May 6, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Nice idea about heading out a night earlier and catching the hotel. We usually head out EARLY in the morning and make a single run of it, but this may be a worthwhile adjustment!

Posted by: NewbieDad | May 6, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

mama - you can rent boosters, but I have heard of people who arrived only to find that there was no car seat. talk about being stuck! I usually use the adjuster strap (for the shoulder strap) on the booster to tie it to the handle of my child's carry on so they can roll the whole thing through the airport themselves. We did this the first time when they were 4 and 6. They love having their own suitcase and it frees up your bag and hands as well. Good luck. Workingmom, I cannot wait to hear your story. You should do a guest blog. I bet those boys will LOVE China!

Posted by: Moxiemom | May 6, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

NewSAHM wrote "The best travel gadget we ever found was a little wheeled platform that screws onto the car seat and basically turns it into a stroller that you can just pull/push through the airport."

That travel gadget sounds like a great invention if you're talking abount one for toddler seats. I've never seen one before. Where can I get one? Toy's R US? Target? Walmart?

Posted by: Mama in Alexandria | May 6, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Newbie Dad-

we've travelled from MD to the Outer Banks by car each year for the last 7 years. Originally with just one child, and now with three (a 6 year old and twin 3 year olds). My advice is to leave as early as possible. We usually leave our house around 5 a.m. which allows us to get between 3 and 3 1/2 hours of driving in before we have to stop. The kids usually fall back asleep after a little time in the car. When they wake up we stop for breakfast which takes about 30 to 45 minutes. We usually have to make one more stop for a bathroom break and then we are at our destination around 12:30 or 1.

When our twins were infants and mostly bottle fed, we had to stop more frequently. Some stops were 5-10 minutes, others longer. When our oldest was an infant, we drove 14 hours from Florida to MD with him in a single day. We stopped 8 times for various things.

Two more pieces of advice, pack one bag with the essentials for each family member that you can easily take out of the car (in case you have to stop somewhere and stay me, it's a pain unloading the whole car to get to each person's stuff) and leave a spot in the vehicle you can use as a diaper changing station. We have an SUV, so we usually pack a cooler of stuff and put it in last with nothing on top. Then when we stop, we take out the cooler for a perfect diaper change spot.

Good Luck on your trip!

Posted by: Mom2LED | May 6, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, why would anyone not use a little brandy or antihistamine to knock out a young kid or baby? It's not fair to them to expect them to be quiet and generally good for any serious length of time, and it's not fair to the people around you to deal with a crying child. Knock them out!

Posted by: Liz D | May 6, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I found strap on wheels for Britax carseats at Our first trip was to Hawaii with a 15 month old, and this was a lifesaver through the airports. We just used it to travel again with the new baby, and it gets lots of curious looks, but has been wonderful.

Posted by: mls3z | May 6, 2008 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, mis3z. This is fantastic. Will definitely buy it.

Today's blog is definitely very informative!

Posted by: Mama in Alexandria | May 6, 2008 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Mls3z posted the link to the one we have. I think (but don't remember for sure) that we bought ours off of Amazon.

Posted by: NewSAHM | May 6, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

My kids are now 12, 10 & 7, but we've been traveling (flying) with them since the oldest was 2. My most useful tip, even now: use the rest rooms BEFORE getting in the security line at the airport!!

Posted by: momof3 | May 6, 2008 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Definitely travel with kids! My four are in high school and college now, but we started traveling with them from a very early age. Couple ideas. First, we ate out with our kids a lot before our first big trip, so we could work on "restaurant manners" -- quiet voices, staying in your chair, quiet voices, the joys of crayons and paper, did I mention quiet voices? all useful for airplanes too -- in a less stressful environment, ya know? By the time we hit the crowded plane or that cozy bistro, even our toddlers knew what was expected - and actually, they learned to love the undivided attention from their (ok, exhausted) parents. The payoff has included years and years of wonderful family dinners and fantastic conversations.

I want to echo the brilliant parents who've already said "Ziplock bags!" and "dole out the cash (or tell them the cash amount) on the first day." And add my two cents on Benadryl, which made my older daughter incredibly hyper -- that was one long, horrible flight!

We always carried "Car Boxes" - a large plastic box for each kid with crayons, sticker books, all the usual. The covered box made a great lap desk. Not sure how it happened, but the kids were transfixed by the very idea of these precious, mysterious boxes -- it didn't even matter what went inside!

And finally, do not, under any circumstances, pack Barney or Raffi CDs for the car.

Posted by: Jackie | May 6, 2008 7:03 PM | Report abuse

NewbieDad- I know I'm coming in late, but we did a 10 hour drive with our 2 month old. We split the trip there in half, and it was miserable! So, we drove straight through on the way back. She slept most of the time, and when she was awake, we tried to keep her happy with toys. I can't imagine doing it now that she's 16 months, but it was easy when she was tiny. The biggest hurdle was that I was breastfeeding, so we had to stop if she was hungry. If she had been on the bottle, I would've just given it to her in the car seat. It sounds miserable to be strapped in for 10 hours, but they really don't seem to mind at that age. I imagine it feels like one long hug for them!

Posted by: atb | May 7, 2008 8:17 AM | Report abuse

We have traveled extensively with both of our children since each was about six weeks old. We have flown, driven 20+ hours, trained and been away for a month traveling the country with the kids. We always carry small bottles of bubbles. I put them in a ziploc bag and stick them in my bag. Long waits in lines, even car rides can be made more fun with a few blows. At Disney World i have entertained the whole line of little kids with them. They don't make too much of a mess and are easy to put away when the line starts moving. The second must carry for us is a bag of balloons. They are ready made balls when you are stuck in the airport for five hours. It costs less than a dollar for a bag of twenty and you can keep them in your bag forever. We just pull one out and blow it up when we need some entertainment. These are also something you can share with other bored families. If you find yourself in the city with time to kill you can always stop at a park, blow up a balloon and chase it around. When the flight is called for boarding we just carefully puncture the balloon by the tie so it doesn't make a big pop and throw it away.

Posted by: mb | May 7, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I traveled by car for 10-11 hours a few times with my then 2 year old. Stopping overnight in the middle was the solution one time, but the other thing I found was that a long stop for lunch at either a rest stop or McD's playland was a good break from driving. We could drive long distances, stop for an hour, drive 4 more hours or so, and stop again. I still like doing this (not at McD's, though), and now the older one is nearly 10. You have to think of the trip as a journey, not a destination. I bring something to read while the kids play.

When there was just one kid, getting up early (4-5 am) was a great way to travel. We could drive most of the way to grandma's house, stop for breakfast, and have only 45 minutes to go--and then have the whole day to visit. But my younger one doesn't go back to sleep, so I don't do that so much any more.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 7, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

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