How to Make Traveling with Babies and Kids Of All Ages a Success – Plus! The Essentials for Road Trip Entertainment

plane_s_gSusie Walton not only raised four boys, she’s traveled the world with them! Now the author and Redirecting Children’s Behavior Coach (oh, and Los Angeles Lakers’ Luke Walton’s Mom) gave Breezy Mama HER tips for vacationing with tykes of all ages. Plus, get the Breezy Mama packing list, toy suggestions and travel tips!

Susie’s Suggestions
Travel Toy Guide
What to Pack
What to Leave Home
Breezy Travel Tips

Questions for Susie

You have great planning trip preparations in your book “Key to Personal Freedom: How Myths Affect Our Family Lives” (click here to purchase) – for those that haven’t read it yet, can you discuss the best approach in preparing children for a trip?

Depending on the age there are different options. For older kids (7 on up) let them help in making choices on what to do and who to see while on vacation. They can Google the location, send away for information or get ideas from family members who may live in that area. What one family did was they each picked two things they wanted to do or see and then each family member was put in charge of making sure that family member got what they wanted. A lot of creative ideas came up as a result and they were so excited to get them accomplished that it left them with a lot of down time to relax and not feel the rush so many vacations can bring on.

On a personal note, when I was ten my parents took four out of the ten kids in my family to Minnesota (we lived in Los Angeles). They knew how interested I was in national parks so they had me pick a national park to visit on the way and on the way home. I wrote away to Jackson Hole, Wy. and Carlsbad Taverns, N.M and got all the information to make it happen. It was so cool for me (especially being the middle, #5 out of ten) to get to do this. I have never forgotten it!

For the younger child I would wait until a week or so before you tell them about the vacation otherwise you may be sharing everyday . . . “how many more days until we go?” Then you can sit them in your lap and Google the area you are going to so they get excited about it and gives them something to look forward to.

For the kiddos who do not do well with transition be sure to let them know of places that are familiar to what they know such as a beach, pool, church, park, zoo, anything that they know. This will help calm their nerves about being at an unfamiliar place and make the transition smoother.

Also, you mention for airplane travel to bring a little backpack for each child with quiet games, books, snacks, and toys. Two questions on that:

First, for books and toys, is this compiling a few of the child’s favorites? Are their particular toys you found more successful?

color_travelHave them bring a backpack and have them give it a special name such as ‘my self quieting bag’ or special bag: whatever they choose. Then have them put in a couple of their favorite books, crayons and pad of paper to journal or color throughout their travels. Toys should be easy and not noisy, such as a small etch and sketch, race cars, video (age appropriate), string: simple is the key!

Second, any recommendations for specific games and snacks that you had success with?

Games are optional but when it comes to food do your best not to have snack food that contain corn syrup or food coloring or any caffeine drinks. All of that lends itself to hyper activeness in many kids which you really do not want or need especially when traveling. Also give them protein throughout the travels as that will help keep their sugar level in check. I guarantee that taking these precautionary suggestions will support you in a calmer child.

My 3 and 5 year old are fine if I set them in front of a DVD player on an airplane NOW, but I really struggled with both before they were three. Long plane rides gave me a run for my money ages 18 months to age 3. The trips were worth the effort though! Do you have any sanity saving advice for under age 3 now that I have a third child who’s 11 months?

Under three is interesting when it comes to traveling. Once again have them have a bag of their own.. let them help you pack it, snacks included. Some kids like to pack a little photo book of family members. Remember, developmentally, that age group is in their power stage so be sure to give them power by asking them what they want with choices. Be sure they get a good night sleep and keep the snacks healthy and yummy.

Any other tips to help families have successful trips together this summer?

It is very important not to fill your vacation with a million things to do or people to see. If you are staying at a hotel have people come see you and meet them at the pool. Or in cities where there will be a lot of visiting relatives do your best to meet them at parks versus houses so the kids can be outside running around and playing. Make the time as kid friendly as possible. On another note you and your partner need time alone to so be sure to set up at least one date night or afternoon (just the two of you!!) especially if you have relatives in the area.

Enjoy…. Have a happy and relaxed summer…..
Susie Walton, Family Coach and Author (see bio below)

breezy_deal1 Breezy Mama Travel Toy Guide:
Note: I find if I introduce a new toy, I have a lot more luck keeping the kids entertained longer. This can also mean storing a toy and bringing it out again especially for the trip. Breezy Mama Alex recommends hitting the .99 cent store and handing out a new toy every 1/2 hour. Consider 3-4 small ones and rotating. Some other great toy suggestions:

Age 0+
– Book boards (click here for ideas)
41EMVzx+dML._SL500_AA261_– Laminated photo cards – choose your baby/ child’s favorite relatives and friends and laminate their photos so they have a stack of cards. This is a great way to introduce relatives they are traveling to see for the first time. Sound difficult? Check out this adorable Baby Einstein, chew friendly album and fill it up with favorite photos – click here.
– A little bag with a zipper. Alex’s mom brought this on the airplane when her son was one–ingenious. He kept putting things in (she had given him a new car with it), zipping it up, unzipping it, and then taking it back out. You can imagine how long this process took–which meant he was entertained for quite a while.
– Books with Magnets–the pages of the book have a background–you put the magnets on the pages to complete the scene. Here’s a wide sampling from Amazon.
– Chalk books–the book comes with chalk and pages that are chalk boards–easy for a little one to color in. Here’s one by Eric Carle.
– Music Eggs (make before you leave)–Fill a plastic Easter egg up with rice, then secure with a piece of tape. Magic for a wee one.
– Magnetic stacking toys. Alex’s mom is responsible for this gem as well. The ones she brought had animals which stacked up–easy for a little one to do, and no falling down if you hit some turbulence. Click here for an example.

Age 3+
– Books (click here for ideas)
51wvQh0aWtL._SL500_AA280_– Magnets — my daughter will spend literally hours on the options from Mudpuppy with several different “scenes” and outfits like this “world traveler” — click here. Or check out the “monster” boy friendly option — click here.
– Coloring books
– Colorforms — easy to pack and a great occupier, click here.
– Sticker books
– Portable DVD Player (click here to purchase)/ Movies (out of their original cases and in cd covers, click here. For movie options, click on the titles to purchase: Cars, Enchanted, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, The Little Mermaid, Toy Story, Madagascar and check out a few of Alex’s picks by clicking here)
Travel Lap Desk for car trips; Has a hard surface for playing on and is perfect for holding all the essentials.
– Mini Sketch — click here.

Age 7+
– Books (click on the titles to purchase: Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Miles to Go, The Graveyard Book, Goldilicious, Elephants Cannot Dance and per Susie’s tip, have your child look at the travel book of your destination to learn more about it and to find activities he/she is interested in)
– Magic Pen books. The pages seem blank until you use the magic pen to reveal what is hidden. These are great for the younger kids as well–the older ones contain things like riddles and crossword puzzles. Here’s an example of one for kids ages 9 – 12.
– Portable DVD Player (click on the titles to purchase: High School Musical, Kit Kittridge, Harry Potter)
– Nintendo DS — click here.
– Deck of cards for Go Fish, War, etc. —click here.
– iPod — for basic music, click here or for downloading TV shows, movies, music and more, click here.

To pack:
51aD8TfZpUL._SL500_AA280_ – Small toys to travel with (consider a backpack for children as Susie suggests — like this one, click here.)
– Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. Nothing keeps a kid happier than food he/she never gets to eat. Listen to Susie on the sugar front but get creative with sugar-free gummy bears, granola bars, string cheese, pistachios that’ll keep them occupied –you name it. This will keep kids entertained for hours (or at least minutes!).
– Stroller (can serve as high chair and changing station, too)
– Comfort items (lovey, pacifier, sound machine)
– Enough diapers/wipes/travel diaper rash cream/protein snacks in the event of a flight delay (consider buying more once landing) or in the event of traffic when traveling by car
– 2 sippy cups or 2 bottles; enough formula until you can buy more
– Highlands Teething Tablets – I just never leave home without them. Consider leaving home Children’s Tylenol, etc. and purchasing only if necessary on your trip (I can’t even count how much money I’ve wasted on bringing these items along only to have them leak into my luggage out of the ziplock back they were “safely” stored in)
– Car seat for plane travel: check in for free as soon as you arrive at the airport
– Portable DVD player: choose 3 movies and take out of the case and put in small carrying case (see suggested movies above).
– Walking shoes (have kids wear on the plane – saves packing space AND they will be doing some walking)
– Two pairs of pants, two pairs of shorts, four t-shirts, one sweatshirt – buy detergent once there and wash clothes as needed.
– Swimsuit/hat/ sunscreen/rash guard (consider purchasing pool floaties and other toys once there)
– Not going to a hotel? Pack-n-play
– Toiletries: toothbrush, small travel hair brush, travel shampoo and conditioner (consider skipping if going to a hotel), deo for you.
– Socks and Undies for you and for big kids
– PJ’s
– Camera/charger
– Travel size hand sanitizer
– Masking tape–use it to cover up electrical sockets in the hotel, and it can work as amusement for little kids while traveling.
– Go through a mental list of your morning to night routine and pack anything that isn’t too bulky or can’t be bought when you arrive at your destination.

– Baby monitor: since you likely will be in the same room, skip it.
– Portable high chair: use the stroller
– Nightlight: If necessary, I just leave the bathroom light on and the door slightly open, but have never needed this.
– Crib/pack’n’play: if your destination offers them
– First aid kit: most hotels have bandaids, etc. Call ahead to check. If not, bring only travel sizes.
-Play Dough: Alex has had it taken away by airport security. For car travel, it’s too messy.
– Go Go Kids Travelmate: Airlines store your car seat for free. I have met very few people who are satisfied with items such as the Go Go Kids Travelmate. Instead, again, bring your stroller. It’s great because you can also store your snacks and carry-on items as you wait for your flight after you have checked in your car seat and have those hands free.

beach_sleepbreezy_deal1Breezy Travel Tips:
1. Leave at the child’s nap time or bed time if possible for car trips. This provides some peace and quiet for all! However, don’t kill yourself driving all night – remember, you don’t want to be tired on the trip! See suggestions for games, toys, etc.
2. Make your child feel at home. Whatever you can do when traveling, do it. For me, this means bringing along a favorite blanket, love object and their sound machine they sleep with. When they are cozy with those items, they forget they’re away.
3. Adhere to you child’s sleep and eating times! I have learned this one the HARD way. Just because you can hold off until 9pm until dinner, does NOT mean that an over-tired, hungry child can.
4. Do not expect to relax. Terrible, I know. However, if you don’t plan on it, you can be pleasantly surprised if you actually get to. Kids do not stop being kids just because you have left town. With time changes, exhaustion from traveling, etc. you may even have more work cut out for you.
5. Sit down as a family and discuss expectations. After reading Susie’s book, I followed her advice on this. For example, we were going to Palm Desert and I knew my 3 and 5 year old would want to be in the hot tub, and we let them know ahead of time this wouldn’t be allowed in the heat. It saved a lot of battles once there!
6. Make sure to plan together as Susie recommends. Kids have ideas of what will happen on the trip just as adults do! If on a trip you go to every year, you and your husband decide to eat somewhere different, make sure to include the children so they aren’t upset when their expectations aren’t met if they were looking forward to that activity.
7. Stop and take “run around” breaks when possible. For car travel, find a park along the way to grab lunch and picnic or even just a restaurant. On planes, try to walk the length of the plane with your child as much possible.
8. Don’t over-kill on the packing. Remember many items can be bought when you arrive if needed. This is especially good to keep in mind with airplane travel with all the baggage restrictions. Definitely pack enough snacks and diapers in case of a flight delay, but otherwise consider buying items such as milk, etc. after landing. It took me a couple of years to realize most hotels offer pack-n-plays. Because my kids have sensitive skin, I bring along my own crib sheet. Also, we often stop at a convenience store to buy items after arriving whether flying or driving. The kids get excited to pick out a few items and we spare ourselves suitcase and car space.
9. Get creative with necessary items. For example, strollers are essential to bring along and you can push them right up to the airplane entrance where they are stored from there. In addition, they can serve as a high chair if for some reason a restaurant doesn’t offer one, and, if you pull the seat all the way back as a changing table. So, when panicking about packing, gather everything you think you need and decide what can serve as a double purpose so you can start eliminating bulky items. Remember, you will have to fit everything you bring in your car, a cab or rented car, so don’t get carried away.
10. Consider purchasing travel detergent once you arrive, too, so you can pack less clothes. Again, I was surprised to find many hotels have on-site laundry!
11. Try to say “yes” a little more. This is really the time for kids to be kids. Join in on the fun with them!

bio_suzAbout Susie

As a recipient of the San Diego Parent Educator of the Year Award, Susie Walton is a leading expert in the field of communication and relationships with an emphasis on family dynamics. Susie has teamed with various companies and organizations such as Qualcomm, Sharp Hospital, and Children’s Hospital to develop and implement practical and positive change for youth and families.

Susie is a pioneer in parent education and has been leading seminars, hands-on workshops and full length parenting classes, instructor trainings, teacher in-services and one on one coaching for 18 years. In the early 90s Susie acted on her heartfelt belief that true positive change begins in the home and created an organization to help reduce stress and frustration in the areas of family relationships and raising children. Susie collaborated with the International Network for Children and Families (INCAF) and founded Team RCB of San Diego. Susie certifies instructors from around the globe to teach the 15 hour parenting program Redirecting Children’s Behavior (RCB) and the Redirecting for a Cooperative Classroom (RCC) classroom teacher training. All Team RCB San Diego Courses are based in both Mother Theresa’s founding principle that “World peace begins in the home” and Rudolph Dreikurs behavior management work, including that which may be found in his book “Children, The Challenge”.

Susie is also the author of “Key to Personal Freedom: How Myths Affect Our Family Lives.” (click here to purchase)

For more information on Susie and her classes, click here.

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  1. This is fantastic — the most complete travel story I have ever seen. Thank you so much! Since my parents live on the East Coast, I fly cross country with my 3 and 1 yr old pretty often. I will add a couple of no brainers but essential things. Always curb side check, spending a couple of bucks not to have to lug everything inside is worth it. Be as organized as humanly possible with your carry ons, it makes security lines easy. If you are taking a night flight, bring footed pjs for the kids (less skin to touch the plane and no worries about losing socks). When dealing with a time change, don’t try to make the adjustment in the first couple of days. My first day in Boston we generally eat breakfast at 10:30ish, lunch at 2:30ish and dinner at 7 and then they go to bed late too. I find though that they adjust within 2-3 days and then we are all set! I second the no sugar on the plane, healthy low sugar snacks (and lots of them) are the way to go! The backpack you bring on the plane for your kid also comes everywhere with us while we are visiting family members houses (who often do not have young kids), eating in restaurants, etc. I pick up small new things while on “vacation” and circulate the toys in and out so they don’t get old and uninteresting. Finally, bring your kids favorite music for car rides once there, even for other people’s cars, as everyone I think much prefers kids music to screaming kids. Happy Travels — it really is worth it!

  2. What a fantastic list! I would just add to your must bring list: baby or child carriers, for when your kids won’t or can’t ride in the stroller!

  3. Great suggestions Linnea and Laurel–thanks for adding!

  4. I have a question – aisle or window?


  1. […] traveling with babies and kids a success — Breezy […]

  2. […] traveling with babies and kids a success — Breezy […]

  3. Breezy Mama says:

    […] Tip: Need some advice on traveling with children? Click here to read Breezy Mama’s article on making traveling with kids a success. Good luck and have […]

  4. […] Breezy Tip: Need travel toy ideas for all ages? Get those and more tips from Breezy Mama’s How to Make Traveling with Babies and Kids Of All Ages a Success — click here. […]

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