A Survival Guide for Traveling with Kids

Matthew Richmond Matthew Richmond
Holiday travel is stressful enough — but toss babies and kids into the mix? Now you’ve got the potential for a mind-numbing, stress-inducing, blood-pressure-raising disaster. Having just completed an 8-hour train ride with two kids, one husband, stroller, car seat, two suitcases, backpacks and various other accoutrement in tow, I came up with a few ways to help holiday-haggard moms like me stay moderately sane during the craziest travel time of the year. (Speaking of crazy, those are my kids in the photo, about six hours into the ride.)
Your ability to entertain is the key to your survival
Surprise your child on departure day with some brand new books and small toys. This is much more effective than bringing along the toys they’re used to playing with every day. Anything that your kid hasn’t seen before is guaranteed to buy you at least an extra five, or even ten, minutes of entertainment! Distribute these goodies wisely throughout your journey so you always have a reserve bag of tricks to help cope with long lines and delays. Make sure the toys are compact, do not contain small parts and, most importantly for avoiding death stares from your fellow travelers, that they don’t make any loud or annoying sounds.
The best travel insurance is an extra set of clothes
If you don’t carry at least one complete set of clean baby clothes (yes, socks too) in your carry-on, you are pretty much guaranteeing that your baby will pee, poop or barf on themselves at the worst possible time. People will stare at you. It will stress you out. It will, quite literally, stink. If you don’t bring the socks, the pee, poop or barf will defy all logic and physics and completely miss their entire outfit except for the socks.  It will likely happen on the coldest day on record and your baby’s feet will wind up sockless and freezing. Do yourself a favor and don’t even think about leaving home without the extra clothes. You’re welcome.
You’re not a bad mom for resorting to lollipops at 8:30 AM
Sometimes you just need to pull out all the stops, especially with preschoolers. As your kids get mentally and physically drained by travel, the thrill of sparkly new toys wanes, complaining begins and a meltdown ensues. This can happen as soon as only one hour after leaving the house! These desperate times are when you need whip out usually forbidden treats like candy, even first thing in the morning, to help silence the weary wee ones. My kids had about three lollipops each over the course of our trip — and, yes, I gave them the first one shortly after breakfast. I’m sure I was judged by my fellow passengers, but so what? I can guarantee those same folks thoroughly enjoyed being able to read on their iPads without my 2 1/2 year old yelling the ABCs at the top of his lungs.
Have an extra shot of patience
You have to cut the kids some slack when you travel.  Even the normally chilled-out kid can completely lose it if they get too tired and overwhelmed, especially in an unfamiliar environment. Breathe deep and keep your cool as best as you can — everyone knows that Mom’s ability to remain in control sets the tone for the entire family. No pressure!
How do you make holiday travel more tolerable?