The holiday season is upon us which means holiday travel is coming too! It’s always helpful to have tips to make travel easier, especially if this is the first time (by car, plane, or even train!). To help, we take a look back to an article written for the WarmLine publication Gourmet Parenting.  Though it was written in 1985, a lot of these tips are still relevant today (just sub in cassette stereo or tape for Sirius Radio or CD.,, you’ll get the idea).  Enjoy this Throwback Article!




Traveling with Your Little Ones


There was a time in all of our lives when, if we decided to go somewhere, we just packed a small suitcase, hopped in the car, and left.  Now we have to rent a U-Haul to carry all the equipment necessary to travel with our young children.  We also have to make provisions for their short attention spans, potty facilities, and perennial hunger and boredom.  Taking all this into considerations, it is a wonder that any of us travel, but travel we do.  So in the interest of your families sanity, here are some tips.


1. When going on a long car trip (several days in length), try buying one small surprise gift for each child for each day you are on the road.  When you reach that time during the day when the kids have exhausted all possibilities for being entertained or quiet, pull out the surprise.  Suggestions include a coloring book or a little car – anything which would help entertain them and beat the boredom of the hours they are sitting in the car.


2. Help your child prepare a small bag or backpack with his own special playthings in it.  This could include a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, crayons, books, etc.


3. Take a thermos of cold water.  Juice is too sticky and messy if it is spilled.


4. If you have a car cassette stereo or a portable cassette player, bring along your children’s favorite story tapes and music to sing along with in the car.  If the kids are enjoying the music but start to get too rowdy, turn the music off and tell them that you will turn it on again when they settle down.  Kids generally love to raise their hands, so you can tell them when they are ready to settle down to raise their hands and you will know it is time to put the music back on.


5. Emphasize to your children how important car safety is.  That is why they wear seatbelts.  Other safety factors include talking in quiet voices, not wiggling and bouncing on the seats or kicking the back of your seat.  When children get too rowdy, pull over to the side of the road; stopping will sometimes help calm them down.  This works especially well if you are going someplace special.


6. Give your children soft toys in the car.  Hard or pointed toys can hurt if they are thrown forward if the car stops quickly.


7. Games where the children are looking for something out the window are a distraction for boredom.  Have them count trucks or different colored cars or look for the alphabet on signs.


8. Kids love to eat, so snacks are a good way to cut boredom.  Some good snacks are Cheerios, raisins, animal crackers, carob malt balls, yogurt-covered peanut clusters, etc.  Try to keep your snacks unsticky without too much sugar.


9. When traveling any distance (an hour or more) we take each child’s lunch box and thermos.  The thermos is filled with water since someone invariable gets thirsty at a time we don’t want to or cannot stop.  We also include a snack in the lunch box as something for them to look forward to later.  A food that is not gooey or will not make a big mess in the car is a good idea (i.e. raisins, dry cereal, hard cheese).


10. Auto Bingo (for all ages 3 and up): Auto Bingo is a great game to place while traveling long distances with children.  You can buy regular Auto Bingo Cards at a toy store or you can make your own.

  • To make your own:
    • Draw two large bingo squares on an unlined piece of paper.  Draw pictures in each square of things commonly seen while traveling and label each picture. Make several photo copies of the sheet and use one bingo square for each game.
    • You can mark off what you see with a pencil or crayon.  This eliminates the use of pennies or beans to mark the card which would be a mess and very frustrating for children in the car.
    • When one person spots an item, he/she names it and marks it off on his/her card.  Once an item is spotted and named by a person and marked off on his card, no one else can use that particular item for their card.
  • This game has kept my child occupied, happy and quiet for a very long time on trips as he stays on the “lookout” for the items on his card.


11. Snacks can be made more fun by wrapping each of them individually into little presents.  Throw them into a large bag, and when your children start to get restless, have them reach in and pull out one of the goodies.  You can also wrap up little toys this way.


12. For the very young child, finger foods can be placed in an egg carton before the trip and should provide endless mixing and eating pleasure.


13. When traveling in the car, figure your optimum travel time for a long trip and then double it.  That way, no one is flustered or disappointed when you don’t make a rigid time schedule.


14. Try not to travel for more than two hours at a time.  Get out and stretch your legs for awhile at a rest area or park.  If possible, plan your lunches at a park instead of a restaurant.


15. Some good in-car toys are Colorforms, dolls with long hair to comb and brush, Etch-a-Sketch or magnetic pencil boards, crayons or markers and plain paper, electronic toys such as Merlin, stickers, etc.


16. Fix a travel box using a plastic rectangle cake pan with a tight-fitting lid.  Cut a piece of black or white flannel to fit inside the cover to use as a flannel board.  Then cut out shapes of objects, letters, etc. and the child can make his own story board.  Keep all the small pieces in a baggie inside the box.


17. When traveling with a bottle-fed baby use powered formula.  Take along clean bottles and nipples and hot distilled water in a clean pump pot.  That way you can mix bottles as they are needed and no spoiling or heating problems are encountered.


18. Colorforms work just as well on windows as they do on the Colorform boxes.


19. Here are some excellent tapes which are fun for everyone to listen to:

  • Singable Songs for the Very Young by Raffi
  • Disney’s Children’s Favorites
  • Let’s Sing Finger Plays by Tom Glazer
  • Activity and Game Songs by Tom Glazer


20. Traveling by airplane is even more confining than traveling by car and even more tension-filled for the parent, especially if your child has a tantrum.  Here are some special considerations for air travel.

  • Along with your child’s favorite toys, bring his night-time “blankey” or teddy because there is a good chance he might take a nap on the plane.
  • Bring your child’s favorite snacks in little baggies.  Airplane food doesn’t always appeal to small children.
  • If earphones are available, take advantage of them.  Small children love to tune in the channels and listen to a variety of music.
  • Try to request seats that have more leg room so your child can stand in front of you.
  • Try to travel on the slow days and off-hours when there is less of a chance for the plane to be fill. Try to request that the seats next to you remain empty.
  • The attendants are happy to warm up bottles for you if you request it before they start serving a meal.
  • Chewing gum is very goo for keeping ears clear.
  • If you have a nursing baby or a baby still on bottles, give him his bottle during landing and takeoff.  It will help keep his ears clear.
  • Keep special toys or treats hidden from the child and pull them out one by one so that the child won’t get tired or bored with having them all at once.
  • Check with the airlines in advance on seat belts for children or using your car seat in the airplane.


It is always a good idea to make a list of the things that your forgot on previous trips.  Then you can keep your permanent list in a suitcase that you always use or in some other place where you are sure to find it for your next trip.  That way, maybe sometime you will go on a vacation and it will run smoothly and you will not have forgotten something!