5 All-Star Tips to Make Traveling With Kids a Little Less Bumpy

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Updated March 21, 2014
Mom lifting up and playing with her daughter in a tree-lined park.
Image: Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images

This post was written by Kori Gardner Hammel, one of the women on the chARTer Nannies team. She’s founder of the band Mates of State and tours with her daughters and the band full-time.

My kids are now 6 and 9. I started touring with them when my first was 10 months old. We’ve done everything from flying 4 times a week, to multiple 10-hour van rides to living on a tour bus. We go back and forth between home and the road. Either on tour or on vacation, traveling can present the same difficult toddler and preschool behaviors as staying at home with your kids. There will be tantrums, refusal to eat anything good, separation anxiety, and bedtime troubles. But there will also be moments of pure joy, belly laughs, made-up kid songs, showing your child faraway places for the first time and that rewarding feeling that every parent refers to (after they mention the sleepless nights). The only difference is, you have to accept whatever surroundings you have as your own. You have to treat it like normal in order for your kids to act like their normal selves.

1. Keep up with your routine. From the inflatable baby tub, to the portable white noise machine from home, to the morning family walks or swims. The time zones may have changed but the routines remain the same. This doesn’t mean you need to bring a pack-and- play, two strollers and a small refrigerator on long road trips (been there, trust me, scale it down). Our “routine” life on tour:

2. Come prepared (with snacks!). It only took two van rides and one airplane incidence of toddler barf for me to realize apple juice leads to motion sickness. Real food before moving actually helps prevent your child from vomiting on the sound guy in front of her OR into the air-sickness bag she just decorated with 100 crayon hearts. Get to airports extra early and sit down for a meal-even if the meal ends up being oatmeal and smushed bananas. You will have a much easier trip if everyone boards the plane without needing a snack while you are still shoving your overstuffed duffle bag in the overhead compartment. Hit up grocery stores and stock up on healthier, cheaper options than restaurants for every meal.

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3. Give yourself a break. The shock of new surroundings and people and the constant go feeling doesn’t really settle until 2-3 days into a trip. I found that on tour my kids’ behaviors skyrocketed for the first few days to the point that I would think “This is the tour where it’s not going to work out anymore. We can’t do this again.” And then, magic, three days in, the kids would excitedly say things like, “Where are we going next?” and the baby would be sleeping better than at home.

4. Get a little “Type A” when you need to. Two year olds can earn a sticker every time they get into the carseat without arching their backs-the stickers alone might be all they need. Three year olds can earn 20 stickers and go pick out a new book or truck or…stuffed animal. We have probably 50 stuffed animals from puppy charts we made on the road with my daughter for staying in her bunk at bedtime, or not throwing a tantrum when I stepped out of the room. Stuffed puppies only worked for one of my kids. My other daughter would use her rewards for pedometers, stopwatches and pens. The kids love taking ownership over their progress, they put the star on the chart and it’s self-affirming.

5. Just go with it. Sometimes we forget one of the best parts of parenting-getting to think like a kid again. In Florida we decided to take a long walk to the grocery store. We collected leaves and rocks in little hotel cups tied around our necks with ribbons. By the time we were done shopping, there was a torrential downpour and the kids were tired of walking anyway and huuuungry. Instead of stressing over it, we plopped down, played games, and had a picnic with our groceries right there until the rain stopped. A teacher I know tells her students “If you say you are bored, I will say you are not creative.” Reuse plastic water bottles to decorate the inside of the van. Make fairy houses on walks. Have acorn-throwing contests. Pass a piano keyboard around the car and take turns making up songs. Drop a bunch of beads and pennies right before going on a treasure hunt and the kids think they’ve hit the gold mine. Paint rocks and make little rock families, then take family portraits of the rock families. Be creative.

Most importantly, think like a kid and have fun.

Got any travel tips you swear by? Share 'em!

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