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Learning Laboratory: Travel with little ones

Lily on the beach in Cape Cod

We live far from family, so travel is a necessary part of seeing relatives. Add in a couple amazing opportunities (a free place to stay in Cape Cod, an internship for Mike in England when Emma was a baby, Emma’s arrival in Scotland while Mike and I were both studying there), and we travel quite a bit with our kids. Here are a few ways I’ve learned to make our trips more enjoyable:

  • Pack light, when possible. We bought three inexpensive car seats and shipped them to Mike’s mom’s house so we don’t have to bring those along when we visit her. I have also shipped diapers to her house. My parents already own car seats for their 11 (soon to be 13!) grandchildren to use on visits.
  • Always bring hats and mittens, if there is the slightest chance of snow. We got stuck in a surprise snow storm at the end of April when we were in Utah for my sister’s wedding, and this was one thing we could not find on store shelves. Our kids would have been much happier with them, and they don’t take up much space in suitcases.
  • Bring surprise entertainment for rainy days and other unexpected delays. Coloring books worked well in Yarmouth on a rainy day.
  • Find fun, kid-friendly activities along the way. Reciprocal museum memberships are great for this! We got free museum entry at wonderful children’s museums on all three trips we made this year this way!
  • We enjoy the trip more when we go at our children’s pace.
  • When my kids are grumpy on a trip it usually means one of three things: they’re hungry, they’re over-stimulated, or they’re tired.
  • Help kids meet relatives by telling them about them in advance – and reminding them of previous visits.
  • Help relatives meet kids by letting them know a few things the kids like. For example, knowing that Johnny loves the color green and bears makes it much easier to break through his initial shyness.
  • Good baby carriers are lifesavers.
  • So are good strollers.

What are your best tips for traveling with little ones? I’m still trying to work out how to prevent a Johnny meltdown the next time we fly – any tips?

learning laboratory at mama smiles

What are you learning in your home? Last week Elisa shared her successful conquest of a very long lawn – and a tip that may have saved us a lot of trouble a couple years ago when we had a too-long lawn! =)

MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

9 thoughts on “Learning Laboratory: Travel with little ones”

  1. So do you guys live in Cape Cod or vacation there–yes, probably a very lame question, but just wondering–assuming you vacation there. It’s a place I would love to visit!

    I am learning travel tips from you:-). Even though I have little ones, as you know, we are blessed to have grandparents around the corner and we haven’t been brave enough to travel with our little ones yet other than day trips–we take the easy way out–almost embarrassed to admit that!

    YOU on the other hand travel so well with your kids and always seem to have a blast doing so!!
    .-= Susana´s last blog ..Favorite Thanksgiving and Fall Crafts and Books =-.

  2. Elisa | blissfulE

    I love the hat-and-mittens tip – those two essentials even with a light jacket can make a suddenly cold situation much more bearable.
    .-= Elisa | blissfulE´s last blog ..babywearing and a laundry basket =-.

  3. We always try to do a load of laundry when we stay with relatives. This means we don’t have to pack as much and we usually go home with a few clean outfits.
    .-= Quadmama´s last blog ..Im Not Trendy =-.

  4. I think you’re the master, so I probably don’t have much advice to offer you. I like those little cheap Dover books for flights. I kept giving him “surprises” from a backpack the whole flight (sticker books, connect the dots, etc.). In the beginning, we’d get a nice long use out of each surprise, and near the end of the flight, he’d want another after 5 minutes. I also brought my laptop the last time I flew, preloaded it with some games, and took out some new DVDs from the library, and that worked well.
    .-= lynn´s last blog ..The Robot Book- Review- Craft- and Give-Away =-.

  5. Yes, new things are good! We usually get a new video and books from the library. You have to watch them a little closer to make sure they come home with you but it’s a good cheap way to get new stuff!

    My child has a one track mind, which is FOOD FOOD and more FOOD, so we always have snacks. And a water bottle. Otherwise you may be stuck somewhere with little cash and a hungry kid…
    .-= Amber Liddle´s last blog ..Halloween in Milwaukee! =-.

  6. Great tips. I usually staple together little books of construction paper and let my kids make their own books on trips. I give them ziploc bags with stickers, crayons, and those self inking stampers and the construction paper books all together. That will usually occupy them for a long time. I also like Bendaroos for traveling; my kids will play with those for the longest time.
    .-= Christy´s last blog ..From Halloween to Thanksgiving =-.

  7. I am always amazed with how much you travel with three kids. Usually surprise toys and books work well for long flights, and we generally try to fly red eye in one direction since it worked well for us. This is also the only time when Anna can watch as much video as she wants (or until the laptop battery lasts).
    .-= Natalie´s last blog ..What My Child Is Reading – October 30- 2010 =-.

  8. Such a great list! I think a lot of parents are intimidated by traveling with children. I know it can be difficult at times but I’m so thankful that we travel as much as we do. Joshua recently shared that he just wants to be home schooled and travel the world! He’s my homebody so I was surprised but I think it comes from traveling together as a family.

    The thing that has saved me on airplane rides (long ones, very long ones) is I always pack something new to bring along. I don’t pull it out until I see that it is needed. It might be a small toy, coloring book, book to read, or something. It sure has helped! One time it made a long layover in Frankfurt go by quickly!
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies =-.

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