My husband and I have three boys under the age of seven. We travel throughout the year and usually around the holiday season. Car trips (while still not pleasant) are less stressful for me only because I know that a meltdown will not be an inconvenience for another traveler. This is the reason that just thinking about taking my family on a flight can make me break into a sweat. For the most part, my kids are really good during traveling but I consider them a bit like animals; they can be unpredictable.
Over the years I have had much experience in traveling (especially air travel) with young children. Here is my list of the best ways to keep kids busy and happy as you travel.
1. Portable DVD, laptop, or other video device
No, I do not make it a habit to let my kids zone out for hours watching anything usually but during travel, all bets are off. It is a special occasion, that’s it. I don’t care if you have to beg or borrow (but please, don’t steal) one of these devices from someone you know. If you can get one, make sure it is charged and you are loaded with shows for them to watch (Don’t forget headphones for your little ones. The free airline kinds are not a great fit for kids). And when you pack, don’t forget to bring a book for yourself. You might even get to read it.
Do not leave the house without packing food for your kids. This is the only guarantee that you will have decent snacks throughout your travel. I usually have fruit, fresh veggies, pretzels, and other healthy options as well as lollipops and the emergency bags of M & Ms. Be careful not to bring drinks (even the smallest juice boxes have always been taken from me as I pass security.) I also stay away from bringing yogurt and applesauce since I have actually had those items taken before too. There are new rules about taking breast milk through security so double check before you fly if this applies to you. Be sure to include a frozen ice pack if you have cheese or anything that should stay cold. I prepackage everything in small ziploc baggies and am sure to have them in a carry-on that is stowed under my seat instead of overhead.