How to Survive Holiday Traveling with Young Children

How to Survive Holiday Traveling with Young Children
By Chloe Duriern-Pope

For many international families, the holiday season comes with it’s fair deal of traveling!

The holidays are one of those times when the pull of family can be so strong that it has us boarding long-haul flights or road-tripping across continents.

Well, I’m pretty sure that when Chris Rea wrote his suave Christmas tune ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ he didn’t have two children under 5 in his car! Because any of us who have experienced long journeys in confined spaces with young children normally come out singing a much different tune.

I still remember the days when a long flight was a good opportunity to read a book, catch up on some movies, even get some work done. Well, I’m sorry to say, but traveling with children is all about keeping them happy – and you sane! Whether you are traveling by plane and you are anxious not to be that mom with the screaming child (it happens to all of us one day or another though so please don’t stress.) or by car and it is your own family’s sanity you would like to preserve, I have learnt from personal experience that it is always best to be prepared.

With an entire carry-on filled with toys, books and trinkets, I may have pushed that slightly to the extreme on our first trans-Atlantic flight with our daughter – 11 months old at the time. But I have since learnt a few tricks and tips that I will gladly pass on to you here in a bid to help you enjoy your festive travels. I must add that I am quite old-school in my entertainment choices and like to keep screens for absolute emergencies only.

Here are a few entertainment ideas that can be tailored to different age groups:

Wrap it Up

I don’t know of any child who doesn’t enjoy unwrapping gifts!! Any trinket/toy can be made more interesting – and time consuming – by wrapping it up! And why stop at one layer of wrapping? Use newspaper, recycled paper, aluminium foil, anything you have on hand to make different layers and prolong the fun! You could even slip in some little things between each layer! As with all of the ideas that follow, do not feel that you have to go out and buy new stuff for your child – ask your friends if you can’t borrow a few of their child’s forgotten toys or find something your kid hasn’t played with since forever. Otherwise, if you are feeling generous, I have always found that a small stuffed toy, a Sylvanian family style character or finger puppets make the best little travel companions for our wee ones!

Keep on Reading

Are you blessed with a child who will happily sit and look at a book page to page? Or listen to you read the same story over and over? This is your ideal travel buddy and reading – or looking at the pictures – is to be encouraged in my humble opinion!! Small board books will be your best friend if you are mom to a toddler (word books with plenty of pictures can really take some time to get through and are good for learning new vocabulary), and for children over 3 or 4, these kind of spot the hidden item books are amazing : for 3-4 year olds and for five years olds and up.  

Also, I LOVE a good activity book! The wipe-clean books can be a lot of fun for younger kids and mean they can go over the book several times during the journey! For older kids, big bumper books of puzzles and mazes should go down a treat! Another fun travel toy can be a travel magna-doodle or similar – draw, shake and start again!

Audio books

When you’ve had enough of reading the same old story over and over, give someone else a turn and put on some of your child’s favourite audio books! Get them cosy and tuck them in with their travel companion, and with a bit of luck, they might even drop off.

Snack packs

Travelling makes us all hungry, right?! Well, not only can snacking take up some of your child’s time but it will also keep them from getting hangry. But pick your snacks wisely. Nobody wants to sit next to a sugar-charged toddler on a ten-hour flight.

I love to make a little mixture of snacks in a Ziplock bag including favorite cereals, pretzels, nuts, raisins, and throw in some chocolate raisins, smarties or other candy. Watch them as they pick through their bag starting with the sweet stuff.

For another time-consuming snack activity either prepare a Cheerio necklace for your little one to devour or take along a Tupperware filled with Cheerios and some string and let them practice their threading skills.

To avoid too much of a sugar rush, try dried fruit instead of candy – dried mango is particularly yummy and chewy – and don’t forget to pack some good protein too to keep them full and happy. Nuts or nut butter sandwiches or cooked chicken can be particularly handy.

Make it stick

No one wants to have to search for little pieces of games that roll under dusty seats! Magnetic games or mini felt boards for the littler child can make it easier to keep everything together. Felt is really fun and easy to play around with. Get a few sheets of different colors, cover a piece of cardboard with one color to make your board and then cut out different shapes to stick onto it. Try making funny faces or recreating your child’s favorite books.  

And while we’re talking about sticky, don’t forget stickers.  From quick and easy small packs for toddlers to more complex books like this for older kids!

Think small

No one wants to lug around too much extra stuff to keep their kids entertained and once everyone is seated then small is definitely handier. I have already mentioned little travel companions of the Sylvanian family genre but if you are feeling super inspired and crafty you can go one step further and wow your toddler/preschooler with one of these small world suitcase ideas! Take a theme of your choice, find a box/case of an appropriate size, throw in some little figurines and you should have a great occupation for your little one!

Make them carry it

Most kids love carrying a backpack. If they don’t have one that they love already, then borrow or buy them one and fill it with some of the above-mentioned items. My girls are always so excited to see what I have filled their surprise bag with that it is hard to make them wait until we are in the car/reached the airport. If you think your little one will tear through everything before lift-off then keep some extra goodies hidden in your cases for when you need them.  

Happy and safe travels to you all.

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