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Weekly Doses of Pop-up Psych

We all make cringey mistakes and deserve to move on, rather than feel confused or regretful after an icky social situation. Each week, I will dissect a murky social, life cycle, or pop culture topic to help you understand, learn, and move on. As a former academic, I am a super-picky consumer of research (and you should be too) as well as the content I create and share, so those new solutions, data and/or additional resources have certainly met my approval.

Surviving Travel with Young Kids: Tips for Keeping Everyone Sane and Happy

Please don’t be sitting near me is the typical silent wish when you see a young family at the gate waiting to board the airplane. As much as we love and embrace little ones, there are certainly contexts where we would prefer to not be among them, such as traveling in close quarters.


Traveling with little ones is about as predictable as spinning the roulette wheel-you never know where they will land. Will they play, read, and sleep or scream their heads off? Let's shoot for the former so you, your kids, fellow passengers, and the travel staff can have a smooth and peaceful trip.


Traveling is a life skill


Traveling exposes us to all types of surprises: delays, canceled trips, poor conditions, dealing with limited information, as well as language and cultural barriers. It teaches us to think on our feet, roll with the punches, and emotional intelligence.  Traveling for any person can be full of hassles, so throwing squirmy kids into the mix can be a nightmare. Rather than wait until they are older, let them experience and learn to cope while they are traveling with you so they know what to do when they are not with you.


Keep everyone sane and happy for travel by getting to the airport or train station one hour earlier than usual.


Everything takes longer when toting little ones.  Between going through security and long bathroom lines, so build in extra time. You never know if there will be delays in the trip itself, so extra time is essential to wear them out beforehand.  Airports and train stations are so exciting, so it’s literally an activity before boarding. 


Keep everyone sane and happy for travel by wearing them out before the trip.


Thankfully, most larger airports have a play area for kids to run and climb before they have to be contained for hours.  Find out where they are located in the airport before going so you can create a game plan.  No worries if the airport or train station does not have a play area. They are both very stimulating between taking walks, people watching, looking out the window at the airplanes or trains as well as the shops and signs.


Keep everyone sane and happy for travel with snacks, bottles, sippy cups, and binkies.


Adults chew gum and suck on hard candy to alleviate the ear pressure.  Littles can’t do that, but need to cope with their own ears so swallowing, drinking, eating, and sucking will help. Insider tip: if you can’t buy bottled milk in the airport, Starbucks and other eateries that have milk for coffee or milkshakes will fill your bottles and sippy cups (the price will vary). Bring a thermos and bottles/sippy cups for short flights during takeoff and landing. Pack more for longer flights. Include a lunch box/cooler with ice packs to keep everything cool and fresh for the milk and other snacks. 


Keep everyone sane and happy for travel by saving screens for the end.


Anything can happen, like being stuck on the runway or a train stopping in the middle of nowhere for a few hours. The more choices, the better. Let them go through all the other options before technology. If traveling were a baseball game, screens would be third base because what is better than reaching the destination?  Nothing! An activity book will be more exciting before a movie rather than afterwards. The younger their age, the less exposure to screen-related activities. Also, landing in the middle of a movie or video will keep them engaged, so they might not notice turbulence or feel as bothered by the ear pressure.

What is in your essential toolkit when traveling with children?

Hi Beautiful Readers and thank you for reading this! I'm Dr. Joanne Broder, Media Psychologist, Author, and Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Please consider me to help you write your memoir, blogs, speeches, e-books, as well as coach you on your dissertation or thesis.  Click here so we can connect!

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