Tips for Traveling with Kids

When the kids were little, I liked to be prepared for long trips.

When they were really little, it meant having enough food for them (including bottles), their favorite “friends” (be sure not to lose them!!), extra clothes, and some fun activities.

The key to the “fun activities” was new stuff. I often just went to the dollar store, or found cute things online or at the toy store that were reasonably priced.

I would pack in their bags some new toys and some new books. In fact on their first flight ever, I bought them backpacks (they were really little so had never had backpacks before) and presented them filled with their new stuff at the airport.

This stuff was strictly travel stuff and would only get pulled out when we travelled.

Every time we travelled, I’d remove what was outdated (or what they outgrew or were sick of) and replace with a few new items.

As they got older, I expanded a bit. They still got a new book, some new toys, and then I usually went and rented some new movies (the time when blockbuster was around:).

In recent years, as they are getting older, they are more responsible for packing their own carryons, but  I  remind them to pack their electronics, a book and any other item they think they would like to have (often a small stuffie is thrown in). I then sometimes add something new, and usually pack new movies or tv series (especially for road trips).

I also started packing them their own individual snack bags – which they love! It saves me from pulling out snacks every five minutes! They get a great big ziploc filled with some of their favorite snacks and treats.

With this upcoming big trip, we talked about how they will have tv’s on their seats, and they can bring their electronics and books. Santa also got them some eye covers to use to sleep, some magnetic games (chess, checkers, tic tax toe) and Josh gave everybody some warm fluffy socks for Christmas to wear on the plane.

But the other day, Zach asked me if I was going to make the “surprise bags” for the plane ride – like I used to make when they were younger. He was backed up by a series of “Yeah!! Remember when you got us those Star Wars figures, those army guys, those knights!”

So they DO remember the little things like that!

So then I’m sold! Anytime my kids remember something with such fondness, I’m a sucker.

So I’m starting to collect stuff for their surprise bags! It’s a bit harder as they are older, but art stuff, books, magazines, and travel games are for any age. I’ll only be able to share the specifics later – as I don’t want to spoil the surprise for my kids who read this now:)

But suffice it to say – traveling with kids? Prepare surprise bags and give only in the airport! New stuff, small stuff and noise free stuff!

Also prepare individual snack bags. Easy for them to manage carrying, and you don’t have to be digging through bags every 5 minutes ( you still have to monitor how much and when they are eating for the little guys though).

Then the basics: comfort toys/stuffies, extra clothing (especially a hoodie as it gets cold on a plane) and a plastic bag. You never know when you’re going to need it – trust me:)

UPDATE: Here’s what was in their “surprise bags” (kids range from 7-14 and they were a hit with them ALL!!)

– Travel journals and travel stickers
– A magazine specifically geared towards their interests
– Sudoku and word search books
– Pens/markers/glue stick
– A blank notebook that I purchased and then went through and wrote in questions of things for them to do. (There was a question section: “Name your 5 closest friends, 5 fave foods, 5 fave quotes, 5 fave movies” etc… basically a top 5 list;  as well as drawing section – draw a mini super hero, a banana dancing, a one eyed monster etc)
– A couple of travel games: tic tac toe, chess, checkers, battleship
– Little boys got little sticker activities
– Lots of snacks: fun stuff like “astronaut icecream” and fortune cookies, gum, chocolate bar and then normal stuff: granola bar, dried fruit, bagel.
– Eye masks, ear plugs, travel pillow, travel toothbrush and paste


Tips for Traveling with Kids — 26 Comments

  1. Hi! Great ideas…for younger and older kids too!
    a list of a few thing I would add: earplugs, game scrabbe slam which is super small, series party of five, series brothers and sisters, series Big Bang theory, mad magazines.
    Also I would never assume that the TV in front of them works…our last 3 trips on various airlines they have announced at beginning of trip “Sorry TV’s not working for the duration of flight!”

  2. So true! I’m going to get Party of 5 for Sure – they loved that! We have scrabble slam too – I forgot about that! Never thought of mad magazines…will check them out! Thanks:)

  3. wow!These are great tips. never thought of little surprise backpacks and I can totally sell it to my three year old! Thanks for this. Found you via SITS. Please feel free to visit me too 🙂

  4. These are some great ideas! I particularly love the one about surprise backpacks!Gives them something to look forward to, and something to keep them busy for the travels! Stopping in from SITS!

  5. I love how they remembered their surprises when they were little! I do similar things for my kids when we take long car trips. On our first long trip by plane, I made a special binder for them to use on the plane with stickers, markers, and some special activities I knew they would like.

    Visiting from SITS!

  6. Thanks for the tip! We are gearing up for a 20+ hour drive for our move to Utah. I have a three year old, so I will have to come up with a REALLY good bag! What would we do without iPads?? Happy SITS Day!

  7. Such a fun idea for all ages. My husband like to grab what he calls traveling food when we’re going to be taking a long trip. I like the idea so much I’m going to make some up for me, too. Enjoy your SITS Day. Thanks for the post.

  8. Great post! We are flying to Florida this summer and I will definitely use some of these tips. I *love* the idea of the blank book with questions in it. What a keepsake!

  9. Happy SITS day! This is great timing. I’m getting ready to fly in a month with a 3 year old and a 11 month old, all by myself. From NC to Alaska. I will be surprised if we make it their with all 3 of us alive. 🙂 Surprise bag is a great idea. I love it.

  10. Happy SITS day!
    I’m going to need to do this. This summer we will be picking up my stepdaughter from NY as she will be spending the summer here in Florida with her dad and I and she’s never flown – let alone been in a car for 18 hours. Regardless of what travel system we use, I know that this is going to be a challenge. Thanks for these tips. I will definitely let you know if this worked for me.


  11. Great ideas! I could have used these for our Spring Break flight! I’m a big fan of the individual snack bags and will definitely borrow the idea of a surprise bag for future trips! Thanks!

  12. We are beginning to prepare for our big road trip in two weeks. I will be traveling by car alone with my 4-year old for 8 hours!!! These tips are going to save. my. sanity. Thanks so much!!!

    Happy SITS day!

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