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Planes, Trains and Automobiles - 5 Mistakes to avoid while Traveling with Kids

Updated: Mar 18, 2023

Traveling with kids. Do you dread it? It is completely overwhelming to you? Traveling with kids CAN be stressful and overwhelming. I've been there, but I have also learned a lot along the way!

When we moved 1800 miles away, my husband had already moved to start his new job, I had my mother- in- law fly with me because I wasn't sure I could handle 2 kids

(16 months and 3 years old) on a 4 hour flight being 4 months pregnant. Little did I know

almost 3.5 years later, I would fly solo with 2, 3, and now 4 kids multiple times a year. This past summer, we(let's be real, I) decided to drive 5200 miles from Colorado to New Jersey to Florida back to Colorado (this was one of the craziest ideas + executions I've ever had!). My husband isn't able to take a full month off of work so he traveled from CO to NJ with us, flew home then flew to FL but drove from FL to CO with us. I drove from NJ to FL, about 1100 miles, with my 4 kids alone. Luckily, we had some great places to stop

along the way. I see you Delaware and UJB + UB. 👀

Now that you know some of my travels, let's dive into 5 mistakes to avoid while traveling with littles and what to do instead!

  1. Not buying your child under 2 a seat on a plane. I know the financial burden can be hard but for safety reasons, and your sanity, it's always best for each child to have a seat on the plane. Have I made this mistake, yep! I flew with my 3rd daughter when she was 6 weeks old as lap child and again at 8 months old. I swore it off when she wouldn't sit still at 8 months old while I was trying to mange my 2 year old and 4 year old at the same time. Putting your young kiddos in a car seat on a plane is a GAME CHANGER! They have a safe place but also a place to sleep for those longer flights, and your hands are free!

  2. Bringing all the snacks. Here me out - I thought that I needed all the snacks for airplanes and for car trips (even shorter ones). I spent so much time (and money) trying to make Pinterest worthy snacks that would also entertain my kids. FAIL. ❌ It is so much more fun for my kids to pick out a bag of chips at a rest stop or the store at the airport. It gives them a feeling of control, which when you are traveling, little moments like this are HUGE for them! You can absolutely bring a few snacks but don't make your carry-on strained by trying to bring all the snacks. For car trips, packing a few snacks from home is great too, especially fruit and/or fruit and veggie pouches. Or for car trips, you can pack lunch to save money but stopping at a rest stop to eat them is always a good idea.

  3. Choosing a flight because it's the cheapest. I have taken early morning fights, mid morning flights, and afternoon flights. My now 7 and 4 year old STILL bring up the time I had to wake them at 4:30am to go to the airport. For us, waking them early did not translate to them sleeping on the morning flight. Choose flights around nap times, they might not sleep for the whole flight or a full normal nap time but they do sleep!

  4. Driving overnight so the kids sleep. While this may make logical sense, it doesn't make practical sense. If you are not used to driving for 8 straight hours or being awake all night, then why would you drive through the night? It's also best that you stop every few hours to stretch, bathroom breaks, diaper changes, babies need to nurse or need bottles, kids get hungry. When we did our big road trip, we were in the car for 7 to 10 hours each day, including stops. We needed those breaks as adults, my kids even more. We made up fun games at each stop to get the extra energy out (running around a tree, jumping jacks, freeze dance etc). There are lots of car activities and games you can play. We also allowed devices because hello, my sanity needed it, especially driving alone 1100 miles. bonus: We ate breakfast at the hotel, stopped and sat down for a lunch somewhere (hello roadside fast food - I banned fast food for 3 straight months after this trip 😅) and then brought dinner to our hotel room from a local place.

  5. Not bringing comforts from home. While it's great to travel light, bringing comforts from home for babies and for toddlers can make a huge difference in nap and bedtime routines! Bringing swaddles, sleep sacks, white noise, portable black out curtains, a lovey, a stuffie, a favorite bedtime book, pacifiers, and sheets for a hotel crib or hotel pack n play (call ahead to see what they have) are great ways to make the new environment feel a bit more like home for your child. It will also help make your nap-time and bedtime routine feel familiar to them.

There are lots of opinions on how to travel with kids, and it takes traveling a few times to figure out what works best for YOUR family. These 5 mistakes are easily avoided to make the trip a bit less stressful. My best piece of advice: TAKE THE TRIP. Seeing family or experiencing new places with your children far outweighs the travel time.

With the holiday season fast approaching, and many families traveling to see loved ones, I don't recommend traveling during my 2 week 1:1 coaching program. You can, however, start with my free sleep assessment BEFORE you travel so when you return home, we can start working together. Let's make your house, a Restful Haus.

Wishing you restful sleep,

xo Danielle


About Danielle: Danielle is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Coach and founder of The Restful Haus, where she helps families 1:1 with their children ages 0-6 years old. She is a New Jersey native and currently resides in Colorado with her husband and 4 daughters (ranging from 18 months to 7 years old). She enjoys spending time with her family, the Jersey Shore, music, traveling with her husband + kiddos and on the rare occasion, sitting down to read a murder mystery book.

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