4 Ways to Make Flying with Kids Easier

Flying with Kids

We booked the flight. We were going to be in Indonesia for 2 months for my husband’s internship. After much conversation we decided to take both kids. They were 20 months and 9 months old. The travel from where we lived included 9 hour flight, one layover, and a 12 hour flight. I had flown long distances, but this was my husband’s first flight. To say we were nervous was an understatement!

Since then we have flown internationally without or without kids many times. We are much less scared. In fact, our children love flying and it has become a past time for them. I do realize this is not the same for children who do not usually fly, but we have learned some things that will help anyone. Here is our best advice for anyone flying with kids of any ages.

Family Flight Advice

  1. Prepare the Children.

Always start with preparing the children. You have probably flown before or seen airports on movies. Though you may not be an experienced flyer, you know the general idea. You have some expectations and probably have an idea of what to do if things don’t go perfect. Lay that same frame work for your children. Go buy a book on flying. Several companies have now made some good ones! Check them out Here.

Explain to them the steps of going through security, what to do with luggage, waiting at the gate, and getting on the plane. Talk to them about what it means to be taxiing before you start to fly. Set their expectations for the flight. When do they wear their seatbelt? When can they use the restroom? What are the rules and why? Explain to them these rules are for their safety and the safety of others.

For younger children, you will want to do this closer to the time you will be leaving. Then remind them of what is going to happen next in the airport as you finish a step. For older children, you can tell them further out so they have time to ask questions as they come up in preparations. The goal is for them to have an idea of what is going on so that each new thing won’t be scary or unknown.

2. Set a Travel Rhythm.

One of the things we are most proud of is our travel rhythms, and airplanes are the best place to implement them! If you are on a shorter flight, then just having a couple of things for the kids to do should be fine. However, more than 2 hours and a travel rhythm is perfect. Basically, a travel rhythm is where you discuss several things that can keep your children busy and schedule it into a rotation. (Look at the full post on travel rhythms here!)

You can pick the specifics that best fit your kid and will help your child be in more control over how they get to spend their flight. With flying you want to keep anything on the rotation within what your child can bring in a carry-on bag. Most of the time you will be packing activities anyways, but instead of your child quickly going through what they have you can help them schedule out their time so they are entertained the entire flight. Our children have gotten good at scheduling their travel rhythm. They love having control over their time. I also like it because I will not have to be helping them the entire time. I can have a copy of their rhythm with me and know how to help them work in restroom breaks and snack breaks.

3. Give them a Job.

One of the things we always do with our kids is keep their hands busy and set boundaries. Airports are tough to navigate and when kids are not paying attention it does not take much for them to be separated from you. Also, when kids are bored their curious minds tell their hands to get into things they shouldn’t. It is especially hard to focus when things change and the parents look stressed. With each line (because there are lots of lines and lots of waiting) we give each of our children a job. Here are some examples of jobs we have given our kids:

“We are going to be in line for a bit, can you help me make sure the luggage stays on the trolley?”

“In security they are going to check your bags. I need you to watch exactly where your bag needs to go. If you do not understand just ask.” (Security people love it when kids try to help!)

“We need to wait in this line a little longer, can you stand close to me and make sure I always have my bag and you always have your bag?”

“Looks like we will be at this gate until the big hand on the clock is pointing at the 6. Here are the places you can go, but we need to stay in these places. Everyone has their assigned spot and we don’t want to take someone else’s spot.”

“As we are walking on this walkway, can you hold my hand (or put your hand on the trolley) and tell me some interesting things you see?” (This is particularly helpful to keep them focused on talking and not wanting to veer off from you.)

Giving children jobs (even teens with age appropriate jobs) gives them the sense that they are needed and important. Make sure they know that you have to get through this as a family with everyone working together.

4. The Parent Sets the Tone.

This reminder is the hardest in the list. We all know how hard it is to keep our cool when the kids are having a meltdown. When things feel unknown or scary, meltdowns happen. So, we have some action steps that my husband and I have seen needs to happen to help us stay in control yet handle any situation. Here are some of the things we have in place:

We have to keep our head or have a way to keep our cool. My husband and I just tend to not get flustered in chaos. However, we are constantly watching each other to be there for support. If we see the other one is starting to lose their cool the other will step in and be the calm.

We have a saying in our family, “be the calm in the storm.” This saying helps us remember that it isn’t our children’s job to be the calm because they do not understand the situation the same that we do. Usually if we say that to each other, it helps clear our heads and gets us thinking about ways to work through the situation instead of freaking out. If one of us is having a hard time keeping calm, we know that that is the time to let the other one know. We have to be able to work together to keep any situation from spiraling out of control.

When something happens and a situation needs to be handled, we decide quickly who will handle the children and who will sort out the situation. Then we say out loud who is taking what. This helps us both keep our focus on a single task. If you are a single parent, have a game plan for your children. Maybe have a code word that means the kids jump into action focusing on a certain thing. For example, you could say, “When I tell you the codeword ‘alarm’ that means you put your right hand on the trolley and hold on very tight. You do not let go until I say the word ‘disarm’.” Of course, this is just an example, but use words that are age appropriate and practice so they understand immediately what to do. I would also consider using words only your family would understand. You probably do not want to freak out by-standers.

Prepare and Adjust

I hope you find some great ways to make flights easier for your family the more you fly. As you start notice what works and what doesn’t. Also, take into account the ages of your children with what works. That first flight may seem daunting, but with these tips our aim is that you feel much more prepared!

The Travel Rhythm Worksheet is included in each Travel Activity Book.

4 Ways to Make Road Trips Easier

Road Trips on the Horizon

As a family who travels extensively locally and internationally, we have had our fair share of long car rides. And I do not foresee that ending anytime soon. I remember hearing from parents, before I became a parent myself, that road trips were the worst. I saw on television that families dread being in a car together for too long. It really made me nervous the first several times we had long car rides.

Seeing that road trips were not going to end anytime soon, I made it my mission to find ways to enjoy them. Not only was I going to choose to be happy, but I also wanted to give my entire family a good experience. I wanted to take advantage of the precious time I would have with my children in close proximity. Over the years, road trips have continued to get easier for us, and I wanted to pass along some of the things we have done to come to enjoy them.

4 Useful Tips for Road Trips

1. Set a Travel Rhythm.

A travel rhythm is having several activities the children (any age, even you) enjoy doing in the car and putting them into a rotation during the drive. I have another post that thoroughly goes through what a travel rhythm is – Look Here! I give examples and a printable to help you implement it with your children. Having a travel rhythm on long car rides was a game changer for our family and one of our top recommendations for families who travel.

2. Set Their Expectations.

Having clear expectations allows the children to know what is going on. All of us can understand fear of the unknown. Being taken out of our normal setting, though exciting, can also be challenging. When you are young enough that you do not understand time, an extended car ride can seem daunting. Likewise, if you are a teenager, you would want to be in the loop with how the trip is going to go. Simple communication can fix both of these circumstances.

If you have infants or toddlers, you will be planning around diaper changes, feedings, and nap times. Make sure the rest of the family knows when they may need to be doing a quiet activity or set that in their travel rhythm.

For younger ages, set a timer. We set a timer for when to switch activities in our rhythm. When I set the timer, they let me know when it is going off. It helps them feel a little more in control. I even let my younger ones help in picking their activities for their travel rhythm to give them a sense of control. There have been times where they switched up which activity we would do next, but rhythms are flexible and easy to work with.

With older children and teenagers, you may want to ask them to help you plan a rhythm. Having them be an active part of the decisions will help them not get as frustrated on the trip because they had input. With this age group you may also want to include “individual time” and “family time” into your rhythm. That way they have expectations from you on when you want them to participate or be listening and when they can have their own time.

Overall, having clear expectations is helpful for everyone. It also gives a framework that if change does need to happen, you can just adjust to the needs for the trip.

Our Travel Activity Book includes our Travel Rhythms Worksheet.

3. Set Your Expectations.

Having a rhythm for the kids is only half the battle. When it comes to car rides things happen. You could have car trouble. Your children could spill something or have a potty accident. These accidents may be fewer as they get older, but you still need to be ready in case things go wrong. We keep certain items in our car for these unexpected events and when traveling with younger children we always plan extra travel time.

Some items to have on hand:

  • Towels – one large and several small are convenient to have on hand.
  • Wipes
  • Snacks and water
  • Portable toilet – You can now find great travel toilets to have. These come in handy for potty training, but also emergencies when a restroom is not near.
  • Small bottle of cleaner
  • Small trash sack
  • Wet bags for dirty items
  • Hand Sanitizer

4. Set the Example.

Finally, as the adult it is up to you to set the tone for the travel. If you start the trip complaining, your kids will see that example. If you are able to be excited and optimistic about the trip, they will be watching you. The hardest part of being the example is that you will remain the example for the entire travel time.

Set your expectations that if things go wrong you will work to be one who helps the family stay focused. As whining begins, remember that this is not your children’s normal setting. When car trouble happens, remember that you can only do the next thing to help. Keep a good attitude.

If you need help with this, have someone to call for support! Tell your friend your travel details and ask that person to be on call so that you can get out all of your panic, negativity, and fears. You do this so that you can help your children process those same things. You are the adult in the situation and can set up support for yourself so that you can be the support your children need.

These 4 easy steps can make a huge impact on your car travels and you can make all of these work for your family!

The Travel Rhythm Worksheet is included in the Travel Activity Books.

The Best Way to Make Travel Easier

Creating a Travel Rhythm

We looked at the map. We had plotted our car ride for the 6 hours it would take for us to get to the beach. My husband and I then thought how that seemed daunting with kids.

That first time it may have been daunting, but since then we have seen how it really isn’t as bad as it seems. Traveling with kids just takes planning. That planning may need to include adding a little extra to your travel time, but it is always manageable. I am going to give you something that has helped us so much and I hope it helps you also!

What is a Travel Rhythm?

When we first started traveling with children, we definitely did not have a rhythm. With infants travel is different because their rhythm is already set. The rhythm is simply their eating and diaper changing schedule. However, eventually the children start getting restless after sitting for long periods of time. Do not let this scare you!

A travel rhythm is when you put together ways to keep your children busy while traveling and putting these things to a schedule. Having several activities the children (any age, even you) enjoy doing in the car and putting them into a rotation during the drive will help you all keep your sanity.

Click Here for a Free Travel Rhythms Worksheet!

A travel rhythm can be used for any time you are traveling with your children for any amount of time, but it would be most useful for more than 2 hours of travel. We have used this concept of a travel rhythm on car rides, flights, and train rides. So, I hope this travel rhythm will set you up with confidence no matter how you travel.

Our Travel Activity Books include our Travel Rhythm Worksheet!

Travel Rhythm Examples

Below I will list several options for rhythms. These will give you an idea of how a travel rhythm works and can work for your family.

20 Minute Rotation

Rhythm Option 1 – 20-minute Rotation:

20 minutes audio book, 20 minutes activity bag, 20 minutes tablet time

This is the rhythm we use the most. My children love audio books, and we love listening with them! For the activity bag, they pack a small bag with books they pick out, colors and paper, stickers, magnetiles, dry erase board and markers, or any other smaller activity they may want to put in there. We like this rhythm because it is one hour total.

Screen Free

Rhythm Option 2 – Screen Free:

30 minutes audio book and quiet activity, 15 minutes family time (discussion or game), 15 minutes individual time/activity bag

This is a rhythm that promotes family interaction and no screen time. We have loved this rhythm when we have a really interesting audio book. One that leads naturally into family discussion. My children are preschool and early elementary, and we are still able to do this rhythm. The book prompts questions they may have or leads to good questions for us to ask them. Things like, “If you were that character, what would you have done?” or “Why do you think that character did that?” It is also good to have individual time for the introverts in your family or if you need time for naps.

Movie Day

Rhythm Option 3 – Movie Day:

1 movie or show, 20 minutes discussion/family time, 20 minutes activity bag.

We usually only do this rotation one way to our destination. If there is a movie the children are particularly loving or a new movie for them to see, this is a great option. We have never had a car with built in DVD players, but these days there are so many devices that work for this most people have some way to watch a movie. Even if it is a movie they have seen a lot, bringing in family discussion time right afterwards helps them get out the words they have been holding in during the movie. My children love talking about new details they saw or really whatever comes to mind. My children cannot just do movie after movie, nor would I want them to, so we always need to break it up with other things to do.

Siblings Unite!

Rhythm Option 4 – Siblings Unite:

20 minute sibling game/activity, 20 minute family time/discussion, 20 minute activity bag/individual time

My children love playing games together, whether they are competing against each other or working together. You can find so many car games on Pinterest or even come up with your own. Doing something where they take turns to complete a task or compete against each other is another way to build on that natural family time a car presents. Breaking it up and giving them individual time helps for morale. As with most siblings, competition can lead to arguments and so can working together. My children can now go a little longer than 20 minutes, but that took practice and lots of coaching from us parents. However, putting that time into helping them understand each other is worth it!

Making it Work for Your Family

Now that I have given you some examples, I hope you understand the concept.

When coming up with your rotations think about things your children enjoy doing and will actually do for the allotted time frame. You can use smaller time options for those with short attention spans that need things to change up regularly. You can use larger time options to break up smaller rotations. Of course, snack time and restroom breaks help to break up the limited movement. Something to remember about a rhythm is that you do not have to stick hard and fast to it. Rotate an activity when the children are getting restless, but if they are good with continuing what they are doing don’t change what is working.

Here is a list of examples that can be in your rotation:

20-30 minute options

  •             Show
  •             Tablet time
  •             Discussion Time
  •             Family Time
  •             Activity Bag or Notebook
  •             Sibling Game/Activity
  •             Audio Book (with or without a quiet activity)
  •             Travel Game
  •             Snack Time
  •             Listen to a Podcast

1 hour options

  •             Movie
  •             Audio Book
  •             Family Game
  •             Listen to a Podcast

This list is definitely not comprehensive, and the goal is to make this rhythm fit for your family.

Everyone Benefits

Finally, the goal of setting a travel rhythm is to give everyone clear expectations. It helps you not lose your mind trying to keep the children entertained because a plan is already in place. It helps your children also by giving them answers within a confined space. I am definitely of the mindset that it benefits children to be bored within a known setting. However, when you disrupt a child’s normal setting it can be better for them to have structure and answers to help them feel safe and calmer. Use this rhythm for everyone’s benefit!

Our Travel Activity Books include our Travel Rhythm Worksheet!

International Travel with Children

“Do we really need this?”

“Well, how much does it weigh? I guess if I am asking that question, we do not need it.”

“Did we want to check luggage this trip?”

“Did we check to see what ‘restroom’ is in the local language?”

The conversation for an international trip goes much different than a local trip! (For my post discussing local to you travel click here).

Read more

Travel Words

“What do you mean some people make money through traveling the world?”

“Why do I feel so tired, and we just got here?”

“Why do I feel so weird in this culture?”

These are just some of the questions that have come up from learning more about travel. Over my trips all over the world, it has been beneficial to know words that either help describe what is happening to me or describe the people I meet.

Read more

7 Types of Places to Stay When Traveling

Where you can stay has evolved thanks to the internet and people wanting more options when traveling. Honestly, people travel differently than they used to. It is more about simply visiting a place, but some have started to long to delve into the culture in their stay. If you have ever looked beyond a traditional hotel, the options now include igloos, tree houses, huts, and more! What I wanted to give you is a list of the general options for places to stay and the pros and cons for families.

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Deciding Where to Stay based on What you Want to Do

The city in the middle with villages surrounding. When I went to West Africa, my main goal was to learn how the locals lived and get a taste for what life was like for them.

The small home on the edge of the farm on the side of a mountain. When we went to Indonesia, our main goal during my husband’s internship was to be close enough to be able to see him while he worked and enjoy the beauty of the country.

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Deciding Where to Stay based on Price

We went to Disney World on our honeymoon. It truly was magical. We decided we wanted to go back on our five-year wedding anniversary.

Five years and three kids later, we went to Disney World. Yes, we were a little crazy, but we were so excited to take the kids! We knew it would be a completely different experience, AND IT WAS! We had a blast, but in a whole new way. Somehow taking children made it a different kind of magical. We definitely want to go back.

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Where You Stay Depends on Your Location

We walked into the only hotel in the city. I was thoroughly surprised at how “normal” the hotel seemed to me. The dusty dirt roads and mud brick buildings surrounding the hotel made me wonder what I would see when I went in. While traveling in West Africa, camel rides and markets were on the docket, but I was looking forward to meeting locals and seeing what life was like! I was in college, and my desire to wander was strong! Read more