A Survivor’s Guide to Travel Abroad (with Kids!!)

We survived the big holiday trip (just barely)! While it’s still strewn throughout my brain and my living room, I give you my travel tricks for a global adventure with little ones. Personally tested and honed over the last few years of living flying distance from grandparents and siblings. 

1. Snacks!! I bring way more than I should actually need.  Inevitably one will suddenly hate raisins, something will spill, or one will sleep through or reject a meal and need back up.

Adorable Emirates Children’s Meal

2. Extra clothes! My mom always insisted we bring extra clothes on board. I now know it was because of me, and now my kids – pukers. Let’s pretend for a moment we don’t have that problem. There’s still turbulence or spills, unpredictable cabin temps and don’t forget all those sticky snacks I brought. Finally, I have sort of bad travel karma – I’ve experienced delayed bags on numerous occasions, most notably for both my brother’s engagement party and my honeymoon. The biggest snafu though, is the Husband’s first trip to India when they NEVER returned our luggage! Now I pack at least a weekend’s worth in my hand luggage.

Glasses, not contacts when I fly!

3. Baggies! Now what to do with all those extra clothes: I have learned to pack each full ensemble (pants, top, undies, socks) in a gallon zip top bag. Sounds OCD, right? Let’s just say I’ve experienced the joy of trying to contain a smelly soggy mess mid-flight. Zip tops are great for keeping the backup outfit together, and for sealing the messy clothes away till I’m home.

4. Electronics! Now, hear me out. We do typically limit screen-time. But, I also believe that sometimes, it’s about survival. To me, that means making a long travel day as painless as possible and as such I fully stand by the TV free for all. They’re happy and occupied. I can’t really ask for more when we’re in the air for 5 or 8 or even 15 hours!

Don’t you want to watch Frozen? Again?

So why bring electronics? For any other time when you just need the kids to be content: immigration lines, waiting at the baggage carousel to say nothing of sudden flight delays or when you’re all wide awake at 3 am.

5. Activities! Have you flown abroad lately? It’s kind of awesome! Ok, the cabins are cramped, the loos are microscopic, and maybe you’re sitting next to a snorer. But still. Those teeny screens in front of each seat are a magical and seemingly endless source of movies, shows and music! Last year for the Little’s first big trip, she watched Frozen at least 8 times, while the Big belted along to the soundtrack.

The Emirate Kid’s Pack is Awesome!

However, a few low-tech activities did come in handy at big family dinners and in toy-free homes. I go for small, light and portable, and I’ve never had to look beyond the dollar section at Target for stickers, coloring books, or even small toys. And in the 3-4 age range, holiday window clings are great – my daughters happily stuck and re-stuck those little gel pumpkins to the windows and tray tables of our seats.

6. First Aid. The kids suffer from varying levels of motion sickness and sensitivity to cabin pressure. After the Big spent an entire 17 hour flight last year puking or sleeping, I went out and bought it all. Doctor approved Benadryl didn’t work for us. Dramamine makes a ‘natural’ version but if you read the fine print it’s just ginger! Skip. I have regular Dramamine but haven’t yet used it. For now, I pack at least one sucker (we like the Vitamin C pops from YumEarth, or pectin throat pops from the pharmacy, both for the low sugar aspect) for each landing and takeoff.

The Big likes wearing ear plugs even though apparently it doesn’t really help. Hey, placebo effect, right? Oh, and the big winner – Sea-Bands. We call them Magic Bracelets and oh shoot, I see a marketing opportunity – cute kid-friendly acu-pressure bands to replace our boring black and grey ones!

7. Fluids. We all know we should skip caffeine or alcohol while flying. I agree for the most part, because duh, science. However, I’m also all for surviving (enter coffee) and if at all possible, having fun on the flight (hello, wine with my twinnie!!). We pack water bottles for the kiddos and this time I even brought one for me. Emirates planes have water filling stations between cabins and the hook on my seat was a great way to keep my bottle handy.  In the meantime, yes, we all enjoyed wine with dinner. And yes, the twinnie and I enjoyed another glass when we were both awake in the middle of the night – we argued it was Christmas Eve!

Dinner and drinks!

8. Moisturizer. I can’t really tell you where this came from, but I somehow decided that much like the constant water drinking, I was also going to moisturize frequently. I brought a hand cream (I like Ahava lately), and some night cream samples. Call me crazy, but when we landed, I didn’t look or feel as tired as I should have, and it was nice to walk through the airport feeling slightly human after an overnight long haul flight with kids. Maybe it’s all in my head. But it made a long and grueling trip that slightest bit nicer so that’s good enough for me.

The Big and me killing time before a flight

It’s quite possible I have other pearls of travel wisdom to share, but my jet lagged brain is cooked so that’s all I got for now. What are your favorite travel tips?? Not that I plan on sticking my kids on a plane ANY time soon…

One thought on “A Survivor’s Guide to Travel Abroad (with Kids!!)”

  1. In all seriousness, all of the things that you talk about here made travel to and from a very very far off place a lot more enjoyable. The kids were happy and maybe even excited to be stuck on a plane forever, and airports were a hundred times better than they would have been otherwise.

    Everyone out there…read these tips, use them, be happy!

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