tips to make travel days stress-free and fun

Tips for traveling with kids

Long travel days, whether by car or plane, can cause anxiety and stress for both parents and kids. Here are a few precautionary steps to take the dread out of the travel days, and even make them a little fun:

  1. SET EXPECTATIONS: Talk to your kids in detail about what the travel day has in store so they are mentally prepared. Talk them through every step from waking up early and eating a breakfast bar in the car to waiting in line for security and changing planes umpteen times. Explain how the seat belt sign works and that there will be a time when all electronics must be turned off.
  2. BRING DISTRACTIONS: Pack their back packs full with wrapped, light-weight goodies (treats and toys) so that they have things to open and occupy their attention, in addition to the much beloved portable DVD players and iPads. Crayons & coloring books, small dolls like Polly Pockets, and bendable straws like Wikki Stix are PERFECT! Check out this post on with more ideas for toys for travel.
  3. BE PREPARED FOR ANYTHING: Have an emergency pack of wipes (even if your kids are out of diapers there is invariably a need for wipes), a change of clothes (again, even if your kid is out of diapers, you just never know), a sweater (planes are FREEZING!), and pain relief. Parents – I am neither a  doctor nor an expert on flying, but I am going to venture to say that the main reason kids cry on airplanes is that their ears hurt. I always give my little ones some Children’s Motrin about 45 minutes before we’re scheduled to land to avoid the ear pain and subsequent screaming meltdowns (talk to your doctor first though).
  4. AVOID LOTS OF SUGAR: I think there are people out there who would disagree with this, but sugar induces spinouts, so on travel days I try to limit their sugar intake (even more so than I already do) and I make sure they have something substantial in their tummies before they go to town on the sweets. I like to bring small items like Mentos or Jelly Bellies that can be rationed out in small quantities (and held for bribes, see below).
  5. OFFER BRIBES! I am not above bribery. Offer incentives that your kids can cash in on once you are at your destination, especially if you took the previous advice of avoiding sugary treats during the trip. For example, “If you can go the ENTIRE day without asking ‘are we there yet’ then you can have a banana split on the first night.”
  6. MAKE IT FUN! Come prepared with a variety of games, toys, and arts & crafts. Our options are a plenty now, with the invention of iPads and iPhones, plus we all still have our imaginations. Tune in to the Fox 5 News on Monday, July 16th at 9:05am, to see my picks for best iPad games and apps for kids, as well as good ol’ fashioned, non-electronic car games to play on road trips. Yes, singing is involved.
tips for traveling with kids as seen on fox 5

Crown compliments of her Grandma Vangie as an early birthday present

Side Note: One of the car games I will be talking about it is called “Slug Bug” where you get to slug someone in the car if you see a VW Bug. I have an ongoing debate with my friend Theresa of who calls it Punch Bug. So I’m asking you all, do you call it Slug Bug or Punch Bug?


UPDATED 7.16.12

Here is the video segment from Fox 5 newscast.


  1. 1
    Chandra says:

    Slug Bug! Introduced the Alphabet game to my kiddos last week. They had a blast. It sure was a lot easier than I remember :) Of course I got stuck on X.

    Great tips. I also carry a couple empty water bottles to fill up past security as well. On our recent Southwest flight they gave the kids lids for their drinks – wish that was the case on the previous airline, maybe I wouldn’t have spilled the one on my son…& I forgot to put the extra pair of clothes in the carry on :( he was a trooper though!

    • Mary says:

      I actually thought of you and Ethan when I wrote that tip about the extra change, I might even mention you on the news tomorrow :)

  2. 2
    Brandy says:

    Slug Bug! We don’t actually slug each other, but keep track of how many we see. They’ve even learned to call out Bread Baskets (VW Buses) too. These are much more rare so they are a more impressive find. Great tips, Mary!

  3. 3

    We call it slugbug – but I have never let my kids know they are supposed to slug each other. That would cause many a problem for us!

  4. 4
    Laura F says:

    Slug bug!

  5. 5

    It is so Punch Bug. VW Buses are Punch Bus, and you get punched 2 times for those.

  6. 6
    Galit Breen says:

    Such great tips, girlie girl!

    {We have our first LONG road trip coming up so very soon – so I’m keeping this one on hand!}

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