This is the fourth in a series about Traveling with Kids. As we approach the hectic travel of the holiday season, we hope you will find these tips useful. Check out all the previous posts, including tips for traveling with babies and toddlers.
Traveling with older kids can be all sorts of exciting. And I’m not talking about exciting in just a great, fun, we’re-going-on-vacation kind of way. I’m talking about the stressful, worried, anxious, what-if-someone-throws-up-or-gets-lost way. Traveling should be fun and it can be, but kids are always so unpredictable. I’m here today to tell you that traveling with older kids can be quite a bit simpler than it is with younger children.
Traveling with babies and toddlers is pretty stressful, especially when you take into account feedings, diaper changes and breakdowns. Whether you travel by air or by car, you’re bound to deal with a meltdown or 10, maybe a blowout (diapers, hopefully not tires) and leaving behind a special toy, blanket or binky. Once you get past those years there is some light at the end of the tunnel and I firmly believe that as parents we have a huge influence on what sort of travelers our kids will be. Why not start teaching them to travel well at a young age?
5 Tips for Traveling with Older Kids
1. Prepare them. Whether you tell them a month ahead of time or just a few days, let them know the plan and answer any questions. My 7-year-old needs to know the details, probably because he’s anxious like his mama. So I tell him. I go over our plan of travel for the day and if needed I reassure him about things. My 12-year-old is very easy when it comes to this one because she’s 12. Both kids love to fly, which makes it a bit easier on us too.
2. Let them help. If I’d let him, Cohen would pack his backpack full of toys. But let’s be real, who wants to deal with a bunch of little pieces when you’re on a plane or sitting in the car for hours? Not me and definitely not my husband. So we give him a limit, 3 toys (nothing big). He gets to pack his carry-on and we have him write a list of what will go in it. The list has a section for “3 Toys,” “3 Books,” “Something else to do” (think iPod, iPad, coloring books & crayons, pencils & paper, etc.), hoodie/sweater, and change of underwear (because you never know). As for the 12 year old, she can bring basically the same, though she doesn’t usually bring along any toys. Traveling with older kids means that you can do a little less packing if you give them some responsibility.
3. Comfy clothes. Any time we travel, whether it be by air or car, we have the kids wear comfy clothes. Anything that is stretchy, loose fitting, easy on and off and can be layered is good in our book. Typically Brookelyn will wear leggings or workout pants with a t-shirt and then a sweatshirt or hoodie on top of that, as well as athletic shoes. Cohen will wear warm up pants and a t-shirt with a sweatshirt or hoodie over the top as well. And, we go for shoes that are easy on and off too, because sometimes it’s just more cozy to be able to slip your shoes off. And at age 12, Brookelyn has to remove her shoes for airport security already.
4. Something to look forward to. Traveling with older kids typically includes less meltdowns and mess but as the day of travel goes on we begin to hear, “Are we there yet?” mostly from Cohen. This is when the fun stuff he has packed in his backpack really comes into play. We encourage the kids to have fun and get out the toys or coloring supplies they brought with them. And, we give them something to look forward to (mostly Cohen). It might be something as simple as lunch/dinner at their favorite place, an ice cream cone, a stuffed animal that is in the suitcase underneath the plane, seeing a friend or relative upon landing or reminding them of the “fun place” they are headed to. Any amount of time on a plane (and most anything over a couple of hours in a car) is enough to make a wiggly child ready for some fun or something special. When we travelled last week from Wisconsin to California (a 4-hr flight), Cohen was great but really losing patience in the last hour or so. But, when I reminded him that as soon as we landed we’d be heading to In N Out for lunch, his mood changed. He perked up (as did Brookelyn), behaved and was happily watching out the window to see if we were landing yet.
5. Their own luggage. Each of our kids has their own suitcase and it’s got a print on it, so that it’s easy to find! They got to pick out their luggage and they are responsible for carrying it through the airport, into hotels, etc. When shopping we made sure that they could easily pull the suitcase while wearing a backpack. On this trip Cohen wore a backpack, pulled his suitcase and also carried his own low-back booster seat with no problems! This is such a great way for kids to learn to be responsible for their own things. Both kids have always been pretty proud of their luggage and like that they get to have their own. And, it makes it easier on Matt and I when we’re traveling (or, like this last week, on me- traveling with older kids, alone) and have numerous bags with us. A bonus too, is that when we’re sitting and waiting to board the plane Cohen loves to watch out the window for his suitcase to be loaded onto the plane!
If you’ll be traveling with older kids over the holidays, I wish you best. Maybe these tips will help, I hope! Of course they can be altered for different ages of children. Or, check out the other posts about traveling with kids!