Pin It
Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Traveling with Kids Doesn’t Have to be a Burden

travel-with-kids/ © Lucky Dragon -

It’s been over a year since we took any trips on an airplane. I forgot how much I enjoy the hustle and bustle of airports, even with kids, as I love their excitement over the little things: Planes! Escalators! The scale at check in!

I often hear about parents who gave up their jet-setting lifestyle when kids came along because travel was too much work. While traveling with kids definitely involves more preparation and requires more stuff, it doesn’t have to be a burden. I try to limit the amount of stuff needed to the basics (for example babies, especially ones who are not crawling, don’t need cribs—they are just fine with some blankets folded on the floor). I also adjust my expectations. Because I know we will need more time for everything, we get to the airport plenty early (which involves telling my husband the flight will leave about 45 minutes to one hour before it does) to allow the kids their own time to dawdle, take it slow and get lost in the things that interest them as well. We also don’t take a stroller with us usually, something that surprises many other parents. But seriously, we have never needed one because this is how we roll:

If your child is two or younger, then a carrier is invaluable–the ergo was our favorite from ages six months to three.

As with every trip, I set out for Michael’s (or any craft or dollar store will do) and pick up about 10 of the cheap, no more than a dollar or two items to entertain my kids on the plane. This last trip was nearly four hours on the first plane and two hours on the second, so a bit long, but luckily not as long as flying to Morocco. We would also be without electronics of any type as our portable DVD player was broken. I always hide the new toys until we get on the plane; depending on how antsy they are during takeoff (this usually happens on the second plane once the novelty of flying has worn off), I start talking to them about what fun presents are in the bag. Nothing like the promise of a present to encourage sitting still.

This time our craft/toy bag included: scotch tape (you would be amazed at how long this can amuse kids—our kids taped up their tray tables for what felt like ages but was probably 20 minutes, which is an eternity in airplane time), scissors, beads and string for bracelets, play doh, Hello Kitty activity coloring books, mini dry-erase sketch pads, stamps, stickers, alphabet flash cards, preschool question and answer flash cards (my kids like cards), and pre-cut turkey crafts that kids just have to assemble with glue. I also always throw a few books, blank paper and crayons/markers into the bag. I only bring stuff that won’t matter if it gets lost under the seat, because it inevitably does.

I also have a bag within a bag with a variety of non-sugary, non-junky snacks. I don’t want them too sugared up and restless from sitting down for so long. Previously, I made the mistake when traveling of buying all sorts of novelty snacks they don’t usually eat but love (like cheddar bunnies, animal crackers, etc.). However, now I make sure the novelty items are games and toys and the foods are an assortment of their healthy favorites (e.g., pancakes, hummus sandwiches, pomegranate seeds, plantain chips, raisins). Tip: never underestimate the amount of snacks you will need. My kids usually always finish everything and there’s inevitably something they usually like but won’t touch. On average, each toy enjoys about 20 minutes of attention span, alternated with snacks, trips to the bathroom and other games we come up with—lately my girls’ like playing hairdresser—and we made it through two flights.

On all four flights, both to and from Florida, we were complimented by all the people sitting around us on what great travelers the kids were (relief as it wasn’t always this way; I recall the grumpy boyfriend and girlfriend who glared at us for hours on a Frankfurt-San Francisco flight as my kids were so restless; or the two-hour long screaming, flailing, out-of-control tantrum one of my kids had on a flight to Santa Fe because she refused to sit during takeoff or at any other point). Truth be told, while their good behavior had something to do with the energy that went into keeping them entertained on the flight, it mostly involved their not being two anymore and the bribes offered. After flight number one, they were awarded lollipops for good behavior. When they started pushing each other in their seats or annoying one another, this worked charmingly to settle them down and keep their hands to themselves. And then they were promised an ice cream at some point during the weekend for good behavior on the second plane.

What are your tricks for good plane behavior?

© 2011 – 2013, Stephanie Meade. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:

10 Best World Maps for Your Children’s Room

Because every little global citizen needs a map

A Different World: No Longer Brown in White America

Is it racist to not want to raise your kids in white America?

Overheard on the Beijing Subway When People Don't Think I Speak Mandarin

The awesome stuff I overhear like what these two Chinese women think of foreigners.


Stephanie is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of InCultureParent. She has two Moroccan-American daughters (ages 5 and 6), whom she is raising, together with her husband, bilingual in Arabic and English at home, while also introducing Spanish. After many moves worldwide, she currently lives in Berkeley, California.

Leave us a comment!

Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!

A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
For quite sometime, whenever there were articles that surfaced the internet concerning whether it was appropriate to breastfeed in public, I was so baffled. As a Mongolian, I was so shocked that som...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
For quite some whenever there was articles circulated on the internet concerning whether it is appropriate to breastfeed in public. As a Mongolian, I was so shocked that some countries considered i...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
I live with my Czech in laws with my four children and my Czech is crap I try to learn but the baby doesn't sleep well I'm a constant zombie and the brain just doesn't work. Plus being tired makes m...
From How I Reclaimed My House from My Mother-in-Law
I am so glad I found this site. I am happy to see that I am not alone in experiencing 'family issues' after getting married. I am not from the West but I am married to a Canadian. I never truly unde...
From How I Reclaimed My House from My Mother-in-Law
[…] my most favourite article about breastfeeding called Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan by Ruth Kamnitzer. I have no doubt that Mongolians would find our social stigmas around [R...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
[…] sources and reasons for the rules of these countries too, such as China, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, and Hungary (see above re “Titanic”).  Has anyone got s...
From International Baby Naming Laws–Are They a Good Thing?
[…] Source Inculture Parents […...
From Lotus Lanterns for Wesak (Buddha Day)
If your nerves shat down your hormones , can you get pregnant by injecting a sperm in you to develop a baby . Please let me know...
From Baby-Making the Hindu Way
[…] Diwali Lantern from InCultureParent […...
From Diwali Craft: Make a Lantern

More from Our Bloggers