Before you have kids, leaving the house is a breeze. You grab your bag and your keys and head to the car or the metro stop. After kids, life changes. Especially with newborns, heading out of the house for any kind of travel with kids can be a harrowing experience. Check out our travel tips for traveling long or short distances with kids to make life a little less hectic.
Travel Tips for When You Have to Go Anywhere with Kids
1. Create a Launch Station for local travel: Craft a basket or table near your exit door where you leave all of the little things you'll need every time you leave the house with kids. Whether this is a diaper bag, crayons and paper, snacks or a travel buddy stuffed animal, keep your exit strategy organized. When you inevitably run late due to you-know-who (I think my favorite one recently was that my 3-year-old refused to wear pants even though it was snowing),you'll still be able to leave within a reasonable amount of time.
You may want to create different bags for different outings, especially with very young children. You'll need different stuff for every age, but when they're tiny you'll need different items for visits to the pediatrician versus the park, too.
2. Always Have Spare Clothes: It doesn't really matter what age your kids are, if they haven't left for college yet you'll want spare clothes. It may no longer be potty accidents, but even my 5-year-old still has spills or bizarre accidents that require an extra set of duds when I least expect it. So I keep a little bin in the trunk of the car that has a seasonal set of clothes for each child, including underwear and socks. If yours is still in diapers, you'll also want to keep diapers and wipes in the car in case you manage to leave the house without the diaper bag.
3. Adjust Your Feeding Aids: Depending on your children's ages, you'll want to bring kid-friendly silverware, bottles or a nursing cover, snack containers and the like. While my kids are old enough now that I don't have to pack sippy cups and tiny forks anymore, in the early years we needed to pack all sort of fun stuff to ensure the littles could eat lunch with the adults. If you don't, you'll have some super unhappy babies in the suddenly silent restaurant. On a related note, avoid fancy schmancy restaurants for the early years, opting instead for noisy diners that filled with people who won't mind if your baby suddenly gets fussy.
4. Best Laid Plans: Most importantly, know that whatever you plan you won't always be prepared for what your kids are going to throw at you. Gather information, particularly before any long car trips. Find rest stops and parks along the way and bring plenty of snacks and amusement for the kids. Yes, this is even the time when you may want to break out a portable DVD player. But stay flexible. If you have all that information gathered, you'll have options along the way and won't freak out when something goes wrong.
5. Keep Those Carriers: Pack a kid carrier for infants who don't yet walk well and for older kids if you're going to be walking a long time. Zoo trips, trips to the aquarium or anything that involves staying out near or past bedtime sometimes requires a stroller even for a 5-year-old. For your younger children, baby carriers are great and often a lot easier than strollers since they allow you to keep your hands free.
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Image: Dustin Diaz