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Mastering Travel with Young Children

Clay Coomer | Nov 1, 2018


My wife and I have co-created two small humans since 2013. Being parents of two-under-two presents its own set of day-to-day challenges but bar none, nothing is more challenging than traveling. Planes, trains or automobiles: it simply doesn't matter - it's all difficult.

If you're a parent, I'm sure you can relate. If you are about to be a parent, listen up. I'm about to help you out.

I'm not an expert

I've only been a father for a little over two years so I'm not going to claim to be SuperDad, The Travel Expert. But, I would like to provide a quick rundown of the travel my wife and I have done with our kids to give contextual background:

  • Our inaugural trip: Houston to Orlando (plane)
  • Houston to Indianapolis (automobile)
  • Indianapolis to Washington D.C. (plane)
  • Indianapolis to New York City (plane)
  • Indianapolis to Destin, FL (automobile)
  • Indianapolis to Charleston, SC (plane)
Not included: upwards of 25+ trips from Indianapolis to Dayton, OH. We've gotten pretty good at that two hour car ride but it was tough in the beginning. [Knock on wood]

My Top 10 Best Pieces of Advice

Before I dive in, I want to share a quote with you my wife and I came up with that sums it all up:

"Preparation is your best defense."

Not all those who wander are lost.

1. Organize the diaper bag

You'll inevitably have a diaper bag (or two) so be sure to organize, stock and clean it before you leave.

2. Prepare bottles

If your infant or toddler is taking a bottle, have your bottles prepared and in the diaper bag. Word to the wise: if you're formula feeding your baby, pack at least two bottles pre-filled with water only. Go out and buy the Similac On-The-Go packs. You're welcome.

3. Pack your child's favorite snacks

If you're traveling by car it would behoove you to pack a small cooler. That way you can pack those snacks that need to remain cold, i.e., GoGurt, lunch meat, cheese, etc. When traveling by air, zip lock bags will be your best friend to compartmentalize snacks. A few fan favorites in my household are Cheerios (duh), animal crackers, graham crackers and apples.

4. Use technology as a distraction

iPhone, iPad ... whatever screen you have, make sure it's readily available. If you're a parent who opts to not let your kids view screens, ignore this advice and make sure to bring "I'm sorry" gifts to the people you're sitting next to on your flight.

5. Download their favorite shows beforehand

If you do use an iPad or iPhone as a distraction, be sure to download your kids favorite shows before traveling. In the event that Wi-Fi is not available on the flight or in the car, you'll need to have access to videos which don't require Wi-Fi to play. Currently downloaded on our iPad: two hours worth of "Elmo's World", "Frozen", and "The Muppet Movie" circa 1979.

Additional tip: make sure your phone or iPad is FULLY charged before leaving!

6. Clear space in the middle seat

While traveling in the car for long distances, it's naive to think your kid(s) will remain quiet and/or entertained the entire trip. Sometimes, the parents have to step in and provide entertainment or comfort to their child even when the car is moving. Obviously I'm not suggesting that you remove your kids from their car seat. But I do advise clearing a spot in the middle seat so one parent can climb back to be a distraction.

7. Laps clear and have comfort items ready

To avoid DEFCON 5 situations on an airplane, be sure to have your lap cleared and ready for a child to sit in it. Depending on the duration of the flight, your son or daughter will probably be playing "musical laps" if you're traveling with your significant other. Additionally, keep blankets, bottles, pacifiers, stuffed animals or whatever comfort item your child needs nearby.

8. Bring a few small toys

Remember the opening quote? ... Preparation is your best defense. If the iPad/iPhone isn't working and you moved on to comfort items and they still aren't having it, keep small toys in the diaper bag as an alternative. When my son was littler he loved jingles keys and sophie - per the image at the top.

9. Turn on the Guided Access feature on your iPhone and iPad

This was a breakthrough for my wife and I. Think about it: you hand a toddler an iPad to play with what's the first thing they'll do? Touch the screen. Which, as you know, if the right section is tapped will turn off whatever they're watching.

Insert Guided Access. Go to: Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access. From there, you turn it on and set a pass code that controls the use. Click here for more information.

10. Take your time. Relax. And be positive.

Traveling is stressful. Traveling with kid(s) is... a lot more stressful. If driving, take your time. If your kids get unruly, simply pull off at an exit or rest area and let them burn off some energy. Lastly, try and relax and be positive. I learned this one the hard way. Getting frustrated and having a negative attitude will only make things worse - for you and your spouse!

May your travels go smoothly

Traveling with young children won't always be pretty.

I truly hope this advice helps as you're preparing for your next trip. There's nothing like arriving at your destination with a huge sigh of relief. "We made it. We are here." It's a great feeling especially when the travel experience is a good one. The aforementioned pieces of advice will help make the process good more smoothly.

Best of luck and please keep Seven Corners in mind if you're considering protecting your trip! → Click here to learn more. ←

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