It’s that time of year again—Nanas and Pop-Pops all over the world await their darling grandkids’ arrival with twinkling eyes while traveling moms and dads head for the airport with dread in their hearts. For between us weary parents and our (multiple) glasses of mulled wine, there is a long, strange trip ahead.
Yes, somebody WILL have a meltdown…let the travel experts at eBags help ensure it’s not you, with these essential products and kid-friendly travel tips.
1. Stow Your Stress.
You know that part in the airline safety schpiel about the oxygen masks…the one that implores you to take care of yourself first? It’s a strategy that applies to your entire trip, not just the portion you spend on the plane.
Your kids are not only sensitive to disrupted routines, missed naps and new environments—they’re quick to pick up on your panic, whether your flight has been delayed or you’re experiencing a DEFCON-5 diaper blowout. If you can find a way to make each little blip into an adventure, your kids will be much more likely to roll with the changes, too.
MUST-HAVE: If there’s EVER a time to have a really great diaper bag, it’s during your holiday travels. We love a messenger style for airline trips (hello, hands-free happiness) and the unique fold-down front pocket of the Ju-Ju-Be Legacy B.F.F. Convertible Messenger gives you easy access during emergencies.
EXPERT TIP: In the event of the aforementioned in-flight diaper blowout, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Calmly press the call button, and ask the flight attendant to bring you two garbage bags—one to contain the mess, one to wrangle any messy clothes you want to keep—and a handful of paper coffee pods. The latter, you’ll distribute to the anyone sitting near enough to be bothered by any unwanted aromas.
2. Tech it Up a Notch.
You can be a no-tech, no sugar parent the other 51 weeks of the year—the holidays are all about indulgence, and a few hours of pixel-perfect entertainment for your kiddo will dramatically improve the flight experience of everyone seated in your row. Trust us: nobody will judge you for this decision.
MUST-HAVE: Does your tolerance for smeary fingerprints goes WAY up when you become a parent? Yes. Do you still want little Charlie to have his very own tablet? Also yes. Get the Samsung Galaxy Tab E Lite Tablet, which comes pre-loaded with STEM/CORE-aligned content and has a sturdy built-in bumper.
EXPERT TIP: Our resident traveling parents have found that on the road, it’s ideal to have a balance of new games/programs and old favorites. Let your child help choose, so he/she knows what to expect.
3. Let Littles Help.
More on the subject of giving your kids a voice in the packing process: most kids take great comfort in simply being heard, so allow yours to be involved in what they’re bringing along. Help them make a list of toys, games and comfort items, then supervise them as they pack them into their very own bag.
MUST-HAVE: Give your kids autonomy and lighten your own load by letting them carry their own “personal item” on board—the Wildkin Pack-N-Snack is perfectly sized and carries munchies, too.
EXPERT TIP: As tempting as it is to to get a wheeled pack for your little one—we don’t recommend these for smaller travelers, who are both less aware of their personal space AND less coordinated when towing a heavier load. Get a lighter pack they can carry on their own, which will limit what they can bring, too.
4. Expand Your Horizons.
Even if you’re past the diapers-and-bottles stage, it pays to be prepared for everything—including the unlikely event that your darlings will behave perfectly the entire flight. Pack your own bag well, not only with extra layers for you and your crew but with a good book and a decadent in-flight snack.
MUST-HAVE: Travel bags can be a bit like old-school maps—once they’re opened, they’re *never* quite the same. Allow for in-flight disorganization with an expandable tote like the Vera Bradley Grand Traveler; it will give you extra cargo for dropped teddy bears, blankies, airport souvenirs and more.
EXPERT TIP: When you move into a dedicated bag for a particular trip, make sure you don’t sacrifice the daily “Mom’s Emergency Kit” items you carry in your day-to-day bag. What goes into mine: lip balm, Motrin (adult and child), two days’ worth of daily medications, a stain stick, kleenex, cough drops, band-aids, wipes, a mini toothbrush/toothpaste and hand sanitizer. I keep mine in eBags Padded Pouches, which come in a set of three different sizes. There isn’t a single item I haven’t used.
5. Sleep with the Angels.
First rule of parenting: when THEY sleep, YOU sleep…even on an airplane. So the minute your little ones nod off, you should be right behind ‘em. If you need noise-cancelling headphones to do the trick, it’s a worthy investment; Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones are the gold standard, with crystal-clear sound and a comfy over-ear design to block out everything standing between you and your Zs.
MUST-HAVE: If you (or your kids) have trouble falling asleep in flight, try setting the mood a bit with the Lug Nap Sac Blanket & Pillow. This essential 2-in-1 travel companion, constructed of the coziest fleece, lets you snuggle up with a blankie AND a pillow. When you’re not using the blanket, it provides the cushioning for the pillow; to use both at the same time, simply blow up the pillow insert. Nighty-night!
EXPERT TIP: Still can’t fall asleep? Massage a few drops of lavender essential oil into your pulse points or your temples. This ultra-calming (and universally inoffensive) scent is known to soothe the nervous system, helping to reduce any anxiety that might be preventing you from dropping off; it also helps to stimulate circulation, which is a welcome benefit during long flights. Pick up a bottle at your local health food store before your flight—it’s safe for both you and the kids, and most vials are under an ounce.
While pursuing her graduate degree in Creative Writing at CU Boulder, Staci took a part-time job crafting trip itineraries for an extreme travel company—and so embarked upon an adventure that continues to this day. In the ensuing two decades, her passion for journey and destination alike took her everywhere from the Far East (backpacking in Cambodia) to the Wild West (wrangling horses in Colorado). Work and family permitting, Staci is devoted to her ongoing quest to find the perfect taco and the perfect point break. Fair warning: if she finds them in the same place, she’s probably not coming back.