Here are 10 Things I've learned traveling the past 3 years with the Keikster, on the road and in the air that really helps us out :
One: Bringing the "essentials" is akin to bringing everything except the kitchen sink. Edit edit and edit some more! Because honestly, your kid won't be playing with all those extra toys (except his favourite plushy or blankie) and let's face it: you can get away wearing the same clothes three days straight!
Two: I think the iPad is a useless gizmo playing on everyone's lust BUT I sure wish I had one on our trip! Lugging around a heavy portable dvd player along with making sure we had enough 'plugs' for the car lighter, scrounging around looking for the movies and then trying to load it up made me want to throw the whole enchilada out the window screaming bloody murder! The iPad would have been perfect and easy to store in our backpack.
Three: If you need to bring along some books, try pop-up books! The more complicated the better. I brought along 2 but the Alice in Wonderland pop-up book by J.Otto Seibold captivated Keira's attention for an entire day's road travel! I had been reading Kristin's post on pop-up books and took out the one I had bought for Keira when she was two (I put it away when she kept trying to rip the pages). At five, she found something new and interesting every time she opened this book.
Four: On a road trip, do not buy more food than you can eat! You won't really eat all those grapes that you bought and all the kids ever want to eat is junk anyways. You'll end up with spoiled food and bags and bags of leftover chippy-do's (not to mention a gurgly tummy).
Five: For road trips only: Invest in a good steel flask or two. Of course, the one we had for Keira broke the day before we left so I had to mad-scramble to get another one but I did buy 2 flasks at Ikea for only 4.99 each on special! When you're sitting in the car for hours, drinking tepid water does not quench your thirst. These flasks were also extremely handy by the beach, at the amusement parks and walking around the city. A great investment!
Six: I forgot to bring crayons on our latest trip (eep). What Keira loves playing with and keeps her entertained for a long time are those waxy thin strips (like the kind PF Changs hands over to kids). I have no idea what it's called, if you do, please let me know! You can re-use them and they're pretty mess-free. We also enjoyed playing I Spy, however, trying to play this game while driving on the freeway with only flat farmlands around.. well, you end up guessing 'what's green and has lots of leaves mommy??'.
Seven: Remember that blankie you brought along for the kiddo? Not only does it keep your kid happy and secure but it can also double as an extra blanket on chilly nights and in an over-chilled air-conditioned hotel room and air cabin.
Eight: Invest in some lollipops or candy (be it organic or not) that your kids can suck on. I know, bad for their teeth but can help on trips. In the air, sucking on the lollipops can help with blocked ears and on the road, it saves you from hearing, 'Are we there yet?' for the hundredth time. What also helps in the air, making your kid drink from a water bottle that has a pop-up nozzle (less overspill) going up and especially, on the way down. I learned this the hard way (with a screaming Keira in ear agony).
Nine: This is a very small detail but if your kid(s) are used to sleeping with a night light, then bring it along on your trip. It helps Keira re-orient herself in an unfamiliar hotel room and she easily falls asleep. It also helps out when you wake up in the middle of the night and need to head on to the bathroom. You won't be tripping over luggage or bumping (and quietly cursing!) into the furniture.
Ten: Now this is a no-brainer but... always set aside some time before your trip and let your child know where you're going and how long the travel time to get there will be. It might seem silly but showing your kids where you're going, the route and seeing some of the sights of final destination really makes them less anxious and slightly more patient along the way (I said slightly). It was easy to show Keira the map of our road trip online and view our hotel and its surroundings using GoogleMaps.
I'm sure I'm missing out on some more great tips but these are tops for us!