First, a big thank you to those ladies who took time to share their tips on traveling with children!! I thought there were some good ideas! Some of these may overlap but it was easier to include the responses in their entirety, than to weed out parts of each one. Lastly, I’ll include my own.
* We do not take toys along on trips. (Ohhh, that sounds mean! But let me explain) We have already let the boys take a little bag of farm toys, and within a very short time, they were dumped all over and never looked at or asked for again….. same with an abundance of books. They take one or maybe two per person, and I try to stay very vigilant that they stay picked up and not tromped on! I like to put them in a book bag or backpack. Traveling is hard on books. Again, same with school books. We would much rather have them work ahead as much as possible, and then just do catch-up work with whatever didn’t get done before, rather than take it along. For one thing, they can’t write neatly while we’re driving, and then there’s the thing of the books getting wrinkled, rumpled, torn…. It’s been a few years since we had a girl that was in doll-stage. That would seem to be ok because it’s one bigger thing-not a bunch of little things. Snacks…. again, we don’t do just a lot. I sometimes make burritos or simple sandwiches. Fresh fruit, granola bars, go-gurt. For sure, have napkins and wet-wipes.
We have a “Cabela’s bag” with various pockets, that I like to keep under my seat, with essentials: squirt bottle, comb, meds, floss-picks, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, passports if needed… The covering bucket goes under the first bench seat in the van. To pack our clothes, we’ve gone almost exclusively to duffle bags. They can squish and fit in a lot easier. Our dresses get hung by the waist over hangers. One thing we do occasionally, that I learned from my grandma, is to pass out life savers or some other hard candy, one per person. Then we see who can keep it in their mouth the longest. It kinda quiets things down for awhile.
Another huge everybody-ought-to-know tip is: story CDs! Or something on audio! It keeps our family of 10 quiet and happy for many-a-mile!!! We’ve enjoyed Little Britches and also various Adventures in Odessy, or children’s dramatized Bible stories. Oh! And absolutely No Popcorn!! It is yummy and fun, but oh my! What a mess! A friend gave us one of those tins with 3 different kinds of popcorn, right before we left on a trip, so we took it along… and yes, we did enjoy it, but…..!
We also limit drinks to water. Especially for the Littles. Older ones can decide for themselves, but it helps a lot with potty breaks! Even though you can get the cutest little “Bug Juice” and other cute drinks…. And I’m still learning to keep calm and travel on! It’s not “the end of the world” if there are crumbs and stray trash to pick up. Enjoy the ride, and enjoy your little people! They grow up so fast! -Janelle Sensenig. Texas.
* I don’t have a lot of ideas since I’m usually not very organized but something I do to organize activities in our van is to put them in a 3-drawer stacker (11” W x 9.5” H), like this,
and set it on the seat between two people. This way they can easily get to it and put their toys away again when they’re finished. The books we usually put in a box on the floor. That means they need to be handed out but that’s not very hard to do. I also take several cookie sheets along that work for trays for anything from silly putty and tractors to small puzzles. It gives them a solid surface to play on and also has sides to keep small pieces from sliding off. Note: Depending on the type of carseat, if it has handles sticking up or not, and age of child can make it a little bit challenging to balance it on there but usually it works fairly well. – Gloria Mast. Kansas.
* As far as packing for little ones… on several trips where we were gone for close to a week and most nights at a different place, I put each child’s clothes into clear Ziplock bags and labeled each one for each day. That way we only had to grab the bags for that day and haul in 1 suitcase instead of 3. That helped out tremendously! Remember to add small snacks into a baggie somewhere. Without fail, we would get to our room and they would all be hungry from being too nervous to eat at a strange person’s house for supper.
If you have room in the vehicle, packing a small backpack for each child with age-appropriate games and toys can keep them entertained for a long time. Also, a trashcan is a lifesaver!
We do not have all little ones anymore with our 5 children ranging from ages 6 – 17 so taking food along for a trip looks different now than when they were all little. When you are barely keeping after with your daily duties, to make food for a trip yet besides getting all the suitcases packed can sometimes feel like too much. Just relax, and buy your food, especially if that is an area your husband does not mind helping you out with.
But the more we took food along, the more frustrated I would be when we would stop to get a bite to eat. All the time we spent in the restaurant or even the drive through could’ve easily been spent at home throwing together a few snack baggies or sandwiches!
Also, each family’s traveling style is different. My husband likes to get on the road and mostly stay there until we get to our destination. Other husbands and families prefer stopping for a ½ hour break every 2 hours and enjoying the journey as they go. So, each wife needs to just work with what her husband enjoys.
So, here are some food ideas that work for our family:
For road trips—
Breakfast burritos. We often leave early in the morning, so it is nice to have egg burritos put together the night before and then just reheat then in the oven or microwave the next morning before you head out the door.
Egg casserole. You can also assemble an egg casserole the night before and let it bake while you are loading the last of your things. This is actually not as messy as it sounds. Pass out paper bowls and distribute to everyone.
Baked oatmeal. Prepare this the night before and bake in the morning, so this also is easy, although a little messier if you add milk to the mixture and not at all handy for little ones.
All of the above, I put into an insulated casserole bag and it will stay hot for a good hour. The initial investment is well worth it when you think of all the money you are saving!
For other meals, we will often pack cold sandwiches or wraps or just chunks of meat and cheese, kept cold in an ice chest. In the summer, it is a high light to stop off at a rest area or picnic area of a state park and enjoy our lunch there. While we often spend as much time there as at a restaurant, we all think the trade off of fresh air and the ability to run around makes up for the simple fare.
Or, if time is short, we will stop for $1 sandwiches or a bucket of KFC chicken (although this is messy in a vehicle) and then just enjoy the other food I packed along.
Fresh veggies and fruit always taste good on the road. Baggies for each child can make sure they are getting their allotted amount. We also freeze-dry fruit, so that makes a very handy, mess-free snack.
Protein balls are often in our vehicle and a treat we all enjoy.
Cheese sticks and nuts help to tide hungry people over until the next meal. (or just to stave off the boredom of traveling)
If we pack a complete lunch, I like to stick in a bought treat that we normally do not have at home – small bags of chips, gummies, chocolate candies, lollipops, etc. It also helps out with not having to make everything.
With a family our size, we all have our own personal water bottle, then we can just buy a gallon (or 4!) of water and refill as needed. A squirt container of water flavoring (Stur, etc.) adds spice to the humdrum of ‘boring’ water.
For flying –
Frozen water bottles… this one has been a life-saver for our family of 7. I freeze the water bottles at home, put them in an insulated bag for the 2 hour drive to the airport, then either take that as a carry on or put it over into a back pack. They do allow frozen water bottles through security and each time we guzzle ‘free’ water; I think of the $2.50 per can we are saving.
Also, any jerky, beef sticks, veggies and fruit, cheese sticks, crackers … any food you take along will save you from the exorbitant prices in the airport. Although snacking all day can make you feel blah, so we often end up buying one meal of more solid food or just something warm and nourishing to fill in.
As a young mom, you will probably look at the list and think, “Nope, not doable” … and it might not be! Just give it a few years and you will be surprised at how the children change their tune about McDonalds. Most of ours groan and say, “Mom, didn’t you pack our sandwiches? Those cheeseburgers give me a belly ache!” So, that has been an incentive as well!
And as far as the crumbs, well, we’ve just resigned ourselves that it is part of having a family! The stress of trying to keep the vehicle clean was too much, so we just try to clean it well once we get home…. but that doesn’t always happen either! -Krystal Shirk. Ohio.
* I like to do laundry 2 days before a trip. That way when I am packing the day before we leave, I actually have something to pack. If we will be staying at a place for 1 night before we get to our destination I like to pack a separate bag of 1 set of clothes for each person and 1 set of pajamas and what diapers etc I’ll need.
Always keep a nightlight in your travel cosmetic bag. I never forget it that way, and I am always so grateful for it!
I am a nursing mom so when we travel I find myself sitting in the back a lot. It has surprised me at how the temperature can be either too warm or too cool. So being aware of the temperature for my littles can make a big difference on their traveling comfort and behavior and the best way to know what that is is to sit back there!
When we flew to Kenya (think 21 hrs of flying time alone one way) my baby was 11 months old. He liked to go to sleep with music playing. We bought a child’s fleece headband headset and connected it to my phone with some music he was used to. Instead of putting it on him like a headband, what worked for him was to just lightly hold the speaker part of the headphone lightly against his exposed ear as I fed him and as he slept! It was $12 well spent for us. He could sleep through the unusual noises and pilot’s announcements etc. – Mim Gingerich. Arkansas.
* It takes me a long time to pack, so I like to start 2 days before. If I feel rushed, I feel like hunkering down to a turtle’s pace because it looks too hopeless to get everything done in fast track. And I definitely make lists! Then as I get that particular bag packed, I cross it off the list. There are some things I just keep in the suitcase- a night light, a Bible, a phone charger, and my homemade ‘dirty clothes’ bag.
I also make a list of the refrigerated /frozen items I’ll need to grab the next morning. In case you’ve not tried it, lists bring peace to the mind that’s bouncing in 5 directions all day long!
The pills/herbs bag, the snack box (non refrigerated items) and miscellaneous items I may be taking, are all bags I like to pack 2 days before if possible. I may have gifts for someone or maybe I’m helping with food at our destination etc. Gathering all I can 2 days before helps! Then the day before we leave, I wash clothes and pack bags. We’re blessed with a garage so we usually load up the evening before. That helps so much!
In the bathroom bag I keep toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, body wash, contact supplies, a comb, hand mirror, a soap pump, (yes, because I can’t stand to use antibacterial soaps for a whole weekend, so I take my own Castile soap!) and a few more things. There’s not a lot more to add yet when I’m preparing for travel. Keeping another set of bathroom supplies is definitely worth it and I’ve found it sooo helpful! You can go on and finish up packing and don’t have to wait to finish the bathroom bag, till you’ve brushed your teeth just before you head out the door!
As far as food for us. We usually leave early morning with hopes the children go back to sleep for awhile! I pack Juice Pus shakes, or yogurt parfaits, muffins, protein balls, cheese sticks, fruits and such like for our breakfast and snacks. I pack some salties, but not too much because of the junk factor. I’d rather have more real foods like fruits/veggies and nuts along. We do like the veggie crisps that I find at Walmart. It’s like chips made out of rice flour, beans and veggies. The brand is Off The Eaten Path. I like to keep small disposable cups in with the snacks then dish out snacks in the cups. It’s much easier for little hands to hold.
Jerald likes to drive with plans to get there! No ambling around. So when we make our potty or food stops, we try to be prepared before we stop. Get shoes/jackets on, clear out your present clutter, books or whatever you were doing, and be ready to jump out. For lunch we love Chipotle for a delicious, healthy, ‘fast food!’ I always get a bowl, and the children love their quesadillas and mini oranges. They have good sized portions too! We might do Subway or Wendy’s sometimes. I like to target places with taste worthy salads. We don’t eat McDonald’s. Greasy junk food and traveling just aren’t a good combo if you ask me! Unless we need breakfast, sometimes we’ll get their oatmeal bowls or yogurt parfaits.
We take some books, coloring books and crayons, Josie’s doll, and a few blankets and pillows. I keep their books/toys in a basket. It sounds organized but the truth is it doesn’t stay like that. It never fails that we have things strewn around and stuff gets piled on top of the basket!
We each have our water bottles by our seats, which, again, sounds ideal but honestly, Reece likes to throw his sipper cup down on the dirty floor. Why is it so fun to do that?! But of course, I haven’t tried doing that myself so am I missing a simple joy?? 🤔
We have also found audio books to be an asset for more peace and joy while driving. Even Reece and Mom seem to do better!
I’ve also learned I must watch my attitude or we all have a bad day traveling! Trips are high stress for me and I dislike them. It’s nice to see family and friends and enjoy the occasions but all that’s involved in the from here to there, and there to here, is not so enjoyable! If I complain, the children will be grouchy too. Josie was even starting to say she hates trips too, so I knew I had to improve!! Praying and asking God for strength and patience is so very important! We also usually ask for God’s protection at the beginning of a trip but do we remember to stop and thank Him for that safety at the end of a trip?!