How to survive traveling with kids

Stop avoiding that family vacation! Traveling with kids doesn't have to be torture.

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  • When you have kids, traveling is difficult. While it might be faster to fly somewhere, flights are expensive, and they mean more time confined in one place. While driving may be a good solution financially, it's also overwhelming to think about spending that much time in a car with kids. Here are some ideas to make traveling with your kids something to look forward to.

  • Go at night

  • Traveling at night increases the chances of your child sleeping through at least part of the trip. Red-eye flights are usually quieter and darker. If you're on the road, the smooth ride of the car can help your child drift off instead of being stimulated by what's outside the window. One downside to traveling at night is drowsy driving. Make sure you get a lot of sleep the day before you leave, and if you get tired, pull over. For sleeping on the plane, invest in some good neck pillows and, when you arrive at your destination, make time to catch up on sleep you may have missed.

  • Activities

  • Your child will need activities to keep him occupied for long periods of time - preferrably ones that will not be too messy and end up all over the floor. There is nothing more frustrating than having to contort your body every five minutes to pick up a favorite crayon or action figure. Magnetic books, Magna Doodles and tablets are great car/plane toys with potential hours of entertainment and virtually no mess.

  • If your kids are older, give them journals and disposable cameras to record their experiences from the trip. Let them take pictures of the things they see, and encourage them to write down what they did, where they went and their favorite (and least favorite) experiences. Once your trip is over, print the pictures and add them to the journals for the best kind of keepsake - one that's full of memories.

  • Snacks

  • Snacks are vital to having a good trip with your kids, but it can be hard to find snacks that will not make a huge mess. Some good choices are mini pancakes (warm them up before you leave and keep them in a thermal container), baby carrots, fruit snacks, sandwiches, string cheese, apple slices and pretzel bites. Avoid messy foods like crackers, cookies and popcorn. Though you cannot take liquids on a plane (with the exception of pre-pumped breastmilk) you can bring empty bottles and sippy cups to fill with water or juice you purchase once through security.

  • Movies and music

  • Face it. We all do it. Movies are just such an easy way to kill a couple hours. With tablets and iPads, it is now easier than ever to watch movies while traveling. There are also countless kid-friendly apps (several for free) to entertain your child. Some are even educational.

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  • Most kids love to listen and sing along to music, and they definitely have opinions about what music to listen to. While you may not want your kids singing at the top of their lungs while on an airplane, music is a great way to keep them entertained while in the car. Make sure your CD player, iPod or radio is ready to go with kid-friendly music. Try Disney music, songs in "the top 40" and movie soundtracks.

  • Consider frequent stops or longer layovers

  • With kids, it is inevitable that you will need to make more stops, especially if your little ones are newly potty trained. Kids need time to stretch their muscles and work out some energy. Plan to stop at places with play areas or lots of space for running, and know you will probably have to spend at least 20-30 minutes there. It's hard for kids to sit in one place for more than a few hours at a time.

  • If you have a particularly long plane ride ahead of you, consider a long layover. Most airports have play areas for kids to release pent-up energy. You may even consider an overnight layover. This may seem like a waste of time, but you can take advantage of doing something fun in your layover city. This is a great way to see unique parts of the country you otherwise would have missed. Plus, the next leg of your trip will be much less stressful once you're refreshed.

  • Any trip longer than a few hours will seem like an eternity with kids, but if you plan ahead and implement these simple ideas, your trip will go much more smoothly. For more suggestions, Read:Road trips without the road kill

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Megan Shauri graduated with a bachelors in anthropology and a masters in psychology. She is a mother of twins.

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