Dragging luggage through the airport with a screaming baby. Listening to "are we there yet?" over and over again. Poorly-timed bathroom incidents, lost pacifiers and more.
Now that school's out, many families may be heading on vacation, and whether you're flying or driving, heading to a tropical destination or an amusement park, there are many ways parents can help their kids' avoid meltdown mode while on the road.
Princess Ivana Pignatelli Aragona Cortes, featured blogger on ModernMom.com and co-author of "A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby's First Year" (Don't Sweat It Media, Inc., $15.95) offers eight tips to turn your family trip into a memorable adventure.
1. Plan ahead. And plan some more. "Give yourself plenty of time to consider your travel schedule and think through all possible scenarios," she said. "For example, if you're going to be midflight during naptime, make sure you have sleep essentials like their favorite blanket or stuffed animal and also pack a distraction like a portable DVD player in case sleep doesn’t happen." Also, be sure to check any connecting destinations for restaurants or kid-friendly areas so that you can refuel and kids can burn off energy in between flights.
2. Travel light(ish). Yes, this is definitely easier said than done — but it’s not impossible. Try packing everything you can a day or two before your departure, perhaps while the kids are asleep so that you can focus, suggested Cortes. “Also, consider whether there are items you can borrow or buy once you get to your destination,” she said. “If you’re visiting relatives, you might even call ahead and ask 'Aunt Sue' to pick up a few things like extra diapers and formula so you won’t have to travel like a Sherpa." Don't forget a carry-on with extra outfits for the kids and maybe even an extra shirt for you in case of spills or spit-up, she said.
3. Organize your Mary Poppins purse. First, find a bag with plenty of separate pockets and compartments so that you’ll be able to store documents, snacks, baby gear and more as opposed to simply throwing them into your bag and hoping for the best, suggested Cortes. "Make sure the things you’ll need most often and/or quickly (such as pacifiers, bottles and snacks) are most easily accessible," she said. Cortes also suggested storing travel documents in a separate, brightly colored wallet or folder so it's easy to find.
4. Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. "Make sure your time margins are as wide as possible," she said. "Leave a half-hour or more earlier than you think you need to. Otherwise, you may find yourself in the middle of a meltdown.”
5. Ace airport security. “The thought of navigating airport security can strike fear into the heart of even the bravest mothers,” said Cortes. When possible, use the “Green Circle” lanes, where you will be allowed extra time and assistance to get through the lines. Also, know the latest TSA regulations and pack your carry-ons accordingly, she said. For example, liquids like medicine, baby formula/food, breast milk, or juice do not have to be in Baggies, and can be higher than the 3.4 oz. regulation amount. "You do have to notify the TSA officer that you are carrying these extra-fluid items," she said.
6. Fill their bellies. Make sure you have plenty of snacks for your little ones to enjoy for the duration of your travel. If you’re flying, have a baby bottle ready for take off and landing. "Swallowing will help your baby’s ears adjust to pressure changes," she said. "For older children, a low-sugar lollipop works great."
7. Make time fly with entertainment. Buy a new toy for the trip, and bring books, an iPad, coloring books — whatever it takes to keep your children from reaching octave levels that break the sound barrier, said Cortes. “Be wary of bringing anything that makes too much noise, but perhaps pick up some kid-friendly headphones."
8. Map out your road trip. Traveling by car with pint-size passengers can be just as stressful as flying the friendly skies, she said. “Look at your route ahead of time and plan stops at locations that will allow little ones to burn off energy, like a park,” she suggested. “In a pinch, a fast-food restaurant with a play area or even a rest stop with an open grassy area will do."