Menu Close

How to travel with kids so they don’t drive you insane

Best kids on the plane One of the {many} nice things about writing this blog is that it gives me the opportunity to reflect a bit. I often find myself browsing through our photo library, and I feel so lucky to have captured so many wonderful moments (even a few not-so-wonderful ones like this, and this).

An e-mail exchange I had with Maya’s Mom (she does have a real name, it’s Ann) about traveling with kids had me looking up this shot.

In this particular photo we are flying back to the Bay Area from Nice last winter. At the end of the flight we had an older woman stop us, all smiles, to say how great our kids were(!!). They hadn’t been perfect (none of us ever are, on principle), but they had played, and napped, and had fun without anyone throwing any major tantrums or fits.

I think I know why. We were prepared. Simple as that.

When we fly, each kid gets to pack a carry-on backpack with Three of their favorite books, and One special toy.  After they’ve gone to bed I add the Mommy Touches & they aren’t allowed to peek before we get to the boarding area:

  • Decks of cards for playing solitaire, poker, go fish, crazy eights…
  • Dice to play math games. Roll ’em and add, multiply, subtract… depending on the child’s age.
  • Coloring books & new pencils
  • New notebooks to chronicle their trip
  • Assorted craft items that don’t take up a lot of room like origami paper, and scratch papers.
  • A couple snacks they like (raisins for him, granola bars for her)
  • A pack of Starburst candy each. This is for take-off and landing to help with the ear pressure — the last thing we want is to begin, or end, the trip in pain and in tears.
  • Two more books each that they haven’t read before

Each kid gets items that are just-for-them, as well as things to share and play together or with Mom & Dad. The only rule I set for all this is that they can only take one item out at a time (so Mama isn’t on her hands and knees at the end of the flight, searching for some tiny thing that’s probably wedged in a seat where no one will ever find it again).

The point is that travel is a Big Adventure for a kid to go on, and we do our best to keep it that way without letting them go over the edge from happy-excited to over-excited. That is not fun.