Getting Through a Family Vacation With Kids: Helpful Tips!

In exactly four days, our family is embarking on our first big adventure as a foursome – a Disney cruise to the Bahamas. We are fortunate enough to join the entire family (20 people!) to celebrate Manfriend’s mom’s 70th birthday. I can’t wait to share photos and a recap of our experience.

Kara’s guest post below on successfully traveling with children could not have come at a better time. Kara has been on every cruise and adventurous getaway you could imagine. I’m grateful to have her tips below, and will certainly keep them in mind as we pack, fly across the country and cruise on the ship! Thanks for your insight, Kara!


Getting Through Layovers With Your Sanity Intact Getting Through a Family Vacation With Kids: Helpful Tips!

Vacation. Has a nice ring to it, but what mother is ever really on vacation? Traveling with your children is often more work than going to work. But, hey, we do what we can to take care of those we love. One of the most dreaded portions of the trip is the layover: that chunk of time between flights when you have to get the whole family from one gate to another (sometimes even changing terminals) and keep everyone occupied until it’s time to get on another airplane. With a lot of planning and a little luck, however, you can make it through the layover like a champ.

Pre-Trip Planning

When you pack your carry-on bags you’ll need some basic supplies:

  • Pack easy to eat snacks to prevent low-blood sugar meltdowns.
  • Don’t forget some new or fresh toys and activities. Try coloring books, download games to your tablet the kids haven’t played yet, a new small toy or action figure— whatever will keep your kids busy for a little while. Put the standard run of toys or activities in your child’s bag, but hold some back in yours.
  • Toss in a pack of baby wipes or antibacterial hand wipes. Airports and airplanes can be dirty places and being able to do a quick clean up where you are instead of a big bathroom run will save your sanity.

Start with research. Once you’ve booked your flight, check out how long your layover will be. If it’s over an hour, you’ll need some activities to keep you busy. Head to the internet and find out more about the airport you’ll be stopping over at. Many major airports have play areas for kids. Phoenix Sky-Harbor has areas in a few different spots. Orlando has a saltwater aquarium in the food court— and arcade. San Francisco also has some aquatic creatures to look at, as well as several museum exhibits throughout the facility. Knowing where you’ll be and what you have at your disposal will reduce stress significantly.

The Terminal

Presumably, you’ll want to take advantage of early boarding for families with young children. In that case, be at your gate about half an hour before boarding is scheduled to start (that’s printed on your ticket). If you have items that will be gate checked, feel free to check with the gate agents, and make sure you don’t need any new tags. They can be your best friends, so be nice to them!

Plan for a big bathroom break before you board. If you had a long layover, usually about 20 minutes before boarding is sufficient. Once you’re at the gate waiting to board, this is a fantastic time to rearrange carry-on bags getting rid of any trash, and find all the things you’ll need to have at the ready. Be sure tickets are accessible, gum is ready for takeoff and any entertainment items are ready to use.

If you’re looking at 90 minutes or more to departure, it’s a great time to get away from the gate for a bit. Use that research you did to find a place for the kids to run off some excess energy, stop for a meal and sit somewhere more comfortable than cramped gate chairs. If you’ve settled in anywhere, take that time to charge your tablets, phones, e-readers and portable game systems. Outlets are hard to find and harder to get access to while you’re waiting at the gate, so if you find one— make use of it!

Don’t be afraid to grab a luggage cart for a long layover, the cost is low enough to be worth the sanity you’ll preserve by having bags on one cart.

What tips do you have for managing a layover with kids? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

-Guest post by Kara Stevens

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