This year we did a fair amount of traveling between France, Romania, Germany and the Czech Republic. We traveled by car most often but we did fly once and that is rare, other years we would fly more often and with have at least one lay over. Maybe we are getting old or just tired or is it because we have a company car that we chose to do more driving this year? In any case, let me tell you some things I've noticed you might find useful or at least interesting when traveling with kids.
1. Kids need to learn how to be bored
Our philosophy is that we are not here to entertain our kids. We don't own a tablet, our kids don't have regular access to our phones. On trips, by plane or by car we take just the basic paper, coloring book, crayons, a book, their favorite plush toy and one extra toy, a lego or a car. Not even new stuff or at least not necessarily, it may happen that I have some new book for them but that's not a rule. So how do they entertain themselves? The answer is in the question, they entertain themselves. They look out the window, talk to us, talk to each other, draw, color, sleep, play with each other, play with us, they play alone, we sing and so on.... Sometimes we might listen to some songs or a story on a CD, other times we listen to the radio, other times it's quiet.
2. Don't over pack
Some stuff you can buy at your destination such as diapers, milk, baby food, even clothes. We ask our parents to buy these things for us so we don't have to pack diapers into our checked in luggage. It often happens that we don't even have checked in luggage.
3.Take into account the kids' life rhythm
I try to schedule the trip around their sleep patterns. My kids are 5 and 2 and a half and they still nap after lunch so if possible and this is more easy to do when driving, we try to leave after lunch so they sleep in the car. We sometimes drive at night, my husband and I taking turns behind the wheel. Some kids sleep in the car, others don't, consider this as well.
4. Take short trips or stop often
They will get bored, you will get tired so just cut the trip so you and them can stretch your legs a bit. Stop for lunch at a rest stop on the highway, find a park with a play area for kids.
5. Reduce your expectations
Ok so you will not see all the cool stuff along the way, that's ok. Kids might throw up in the car or on the plane, they might cry, that's normal, try to enjoy the trip anyway. Also you really don't need to cook every meal, baby food is safe and the big brands widely available. It's a trip, a break from the routine, you'll get back to the good stuff at home.
6. Seat belts and child seats are mandatory
There is no discussing this rule, we explained it early on and enforce it every time. They know why it is important to have the seat belt and we generally get no comments even when the seat belt sign is on during a flight.
7. Make it interesting for them too
Explain where you are going, why, what and who you'll see along the way or at the destination. It will also make for discussion points on the trip. Find some attractions for them, a zoo, a science museum
8. Use the internet to plan your trip
We book apartments through airbnb and booking.com and use tripadvisor and other sites to prepare the trip and get advice about sights, restaurants. I find that a good preparation of the trip makes it less stressful when I'm in a new place with two hungry kids. We prefer apartments to hotels because it makes it feel more like home, we can cook some meals and it's usually cheaper to get two rooms so kids can go to bed at their regular hour and parents can still have the evening to themselves. Sometimes it can be fun to live the hotel experience and we do that too and kids love the breakfast experience.
Whatever you do, travel with your kids, they will thank you later.