Traveling with children carries its own weight and understanding. But actually successfully navigating the how, where, and when is the challenge. Whether you are traveling by car, air or sea. Children require more work, more planning, and supplies.

Let’s first start with the basic checklist. Take it slow and allow for a lot of extra time, pre-book everything you can, explain the trip to your children, snacks, bring extra gear and accept that things will go wrong.

Children may be smaller versions of adults, but most of the world is new to them. They are seeing everything with new excitement and sometimes with fear trepidation. With the consistency that home brings, travel turns upside down. Some children will run through a new experience quickly, whereas others need a lot of time to explore. Some children struggle with traveling. They are being confined more, sitting more, and often expected to behave better. When you travel with children, allow for at least an hour of extra exploring. More time for children to get motion sick. Allow for boo-boos, tantrums, naps, and just try to enjoy the moment. See the trip through your child’s eyes.

Pre-book everything means just that. Pay for tickets and make reservations ahead of time. That way you don’t have to wait in line as long and it won’t be sold out (if applicable) before you get there. It is common to find tickets when you book online ahead of time.

Explaining the trip to your children is beneficial for little ones. That way they can be excited and maybe a little more patient during travel. I wanted to warn you about educating older children about your plans. If you tell older children of your plans and they are canceled or otherwise change, some children get very upset and behavior may become an issue. When telling older children, tell and show them where you are going, how long the stay is, who may go with you but avoid the details. You may be super excited to take them to a particular destination, but leave it as a surprise, in case plans need to change.

Snacks. Snacks may seem like a given but they are critical. I’m not just talking crackers and fruit during travel. I mean bring back up meals. Restaurants don’t always offer food your children will eat. Sometimes the food just isn’t what your child will eat. Always having a meal on hand, in case of a car breaking down or getting stranded overnight at the airport, is just smart. It may seem like overkill, but hangry tantrums are miserable.

An important topic to cover is gear. Most people will assume I mean a stroller or rolling suitcase. Those can impact your travel experience. The things to look at are the weight of strollers and car seats, how easy it is to collapse and lift. If you have small children I also highly recommend a baby or toddler carrier. You can choose something similar to a backpack carrier or a woven wrap or sling. These give young children a safe place to ride/hide, but it also allows parents to have a more hands-free/hands-on experience. Strollers make a great place to toss things, but you also have to keep up with it the whole trip. Other gear I highly recommend are wet bags, non-spillable water bottles, extra clothes for the season, reusable snack pouches, activities/toys to keep children busy, and a water-proof/ shatter-resistant way to take pictures. While all of this may seem like common sense, maybe these will trigger your thought process. Forgetting something is always a fear in traveling.

The last point and final thought…accept that all your planning will go wrong. It won’t go as you envisioned it. Someone may get sick, someone may get over-stimulated and need to leave. Learn to enjoy all the little moments that make up your trip. Remember to take a lot of pictures and make mental notes for your next trip.

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