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Staying sane while traveling with small children

Traveling with small children can take all the preparation of a full-scale military operation. But don’t lose your marbles yet! Check out our time-tested travel tips and everyone in the family can kick back and have a good time.


Adjust your expectations

You’re boarding a plane with one or more small children. Don’t deceive yourself. This experience is bound to be a few clowns short of a circus (minus the cotton candy and delighted audience). Gone are the days of lazily perusing magazines while you wait for your cocktail and peanuts. Say hello to madness and mayhem.

Instead of spending the entire trip freaking out as your little acrobats attempt to lick every surface in a 5-foot radius and sing Old MacDonald at top volume while your 87-year-old seatmate covers her ears and mutters obscenities under her breath, adjust your expectations. Traveling with small children is supposed to be Big Top-style entertainment. Don’t expect any less.

Learn more sanity saving tips for traveling with babies and toddlers >>

Come armed and dangerous

With the right amount of planning and preparation, there are still plenty of things you can do to make your trip a little less of a side show and more relaxing for everyone. First things first, come armed and dangerous. And by that, we mean full of dangerously awesome in-flight entertainment for kids.

  • Snacks. Kids love snacks. And obviously, the last thing you want is to get stuck in a confined space with a hungry toddler. Bring lots of fun and healthy portable goodies like mini-sandwiches, fresh cut-up fruit, crackers, trail mix and other family faves.
  • Coloring Books. Prepare for your voyage by buying a couple of brand-new coloring books, preferably ones with stickers and other fun activities. Another good option is a Water Wow Doodle Book, which uses a magical water pen to reveal colorful pictures with no mess.
  • New Toys. Every parent knows the magic that new toys can bring. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg with fun options like Silly Putty, googly eye glasses, vampire teeth, match box cars, miniature Lego kits and other dollar store favorites.
  • Kids Apps. If you have an iPad or smartphone of any kind, make sure to load it up before your trip with some super fun apps for kids.
  • Videos. When all else fails, there’s always the mind-numbing benefits of TV sedation. Pack up your portable DVD players and a selection of your children’s favorite cartoons.

Check out our picks for the best family-friendly movies >>

Follow the rules

Make traveling less stressful by checking the TSA guidelines ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is show up to the gate with a gang load of items in your carry-on that are not allowed. Currently, medications, baby formula and food, breast milk and juice are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding the standard 3.4 ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Consider bringing a collapsible single or double stroller that can quickly and easily transport your little ones through the terminal. Not to mention, this is also a great way to cut down tiny toddler escape artists.


Before you travel, check TSA rules to ensure they haven’t changed. Tossing bottles of liquid at the airport is no fun for anyone!

Be Flexible

Last, but not least, be flexible. Traveling can be a stressful experience for anyone, young or old. If your little ones are acting out of sorts, do your best to stay calm and be understanding. And if all else fails, you can always bring along a couple bottles of Children’s Nyquil. Those will definitely do the trick. (Kidding!)

More travel tips for parents

5 Tips for a fun family road trip
7 Tips for healthy eating at the airport
Tips to make traveling with children easier

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