A family with two toddlers boarded a Manila-bound bus from Baguio recently. The toddlers spent the entire six-hour trip screaming, screeching, hollering, crying and fighting.
They were so loud that no one could hear the movie that was playing on the bus’ video screen. Even blaring iPods could not drown them out.
It didn’t help that the mother’s attempt at pacifying her children was to repeatedly sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” out loud. She just added to the noise, making the rest of the passengers even more miserable.
One of the toddlers, Justin, spent the last hour of the trip whining, over and over again, “I don’t want cold water.” Apparently, the milk his father handed him was too cold.
It was such a contrast to the mom we witnessed during a JetBlue flight from New York to Los Angeles. She was traveling alone with her three children—two toddlers and an infant—and her husband was picking them up at the airport.
The children did not make a peep during the almost six-hour flight. The mother had packed snacks for them— fruits, biscuits and fruit roll-ups— making sure they stayed happy and quiet during the flight.
In this case, the kids outnumbered the adult, but because of preparation, the mother had a stress-free journey with her little ones.
When it comes to traveling with your children, a little planning goes a long way.
We asked some parents to spill their secrets on enjoying a stress-free journey with their kids:
“I always bring their favorite snacks, books or art materials to keep them busy when they get bored or restless. I make them listen to music or watch movies on portable players.”—Maan Chua, mom of 4-year-old Kunta and 6-year-old Kubing
What to expect
“For kids 5 years old and up, talk to them before the trip on what to expect. Like, it will be a five-hour drive which they might find long, or that they will ride an airplane and their ears will feel funny as you go up and down.
“Another tip, be prepared— bring candy and gum; bring an extra shirt in case your child hurls or spills food on themselves; bring gadgets and small games and toys. For younger kids 3 years and below, make sure they’re well-rested before the trip. If they travel cranky or tired, there is a higher chance they’ll blow up at the slightest inconvenience.
“Last tip: Manage your own emotions and reactions. When things start to go crazy and the kids act up (and this will happen for most trips beyond three hours), pause. Take a deep breath. Count one to 10 quietly. There is no sense yelling at your kids or going nuts when everything else is going crazy. As parent, troop leader, trip planner, it is your role to ensure order and comfort prevails.
“For our own trips, we rely mostly on two things: gadgets and games! We surrender my iPad and iPhone to the kids, and these keep them busy until the batteries die. Then we alternate with I Spy or the Alphabet Game (first child to spot an item with the letter ‘A’ gets a point and so on).
“Other games are Categories (say the agreed categories are ‘Star Wars’ characters; each person names one and the person who cannot give one loses or is out) and Yes, Maybe, No (where the kids try to guess what the object, person, place is by asking questions answerable by yes, no, maybe).—Mon Guinto, dad of 10-year-old Sabine, 7-year-old Matteo and 5-year-old Basti
Not too many toys
“Bring their comfort toy if they have one (my kids have bears they called Kuma and Bacon, which they must always have with them), iPad (make sure it’s fully charged), and snacks which aren’t messy to eat. Do not bring too many toys. Bring an extra bag and clothes not just for the kids, but for you, too, because they might spill their drinks.
“Don’t forget to bring alcohol, wet tissue, cotton buds, medicines, a small towel, moisturizer and extra diapers. I bring eye drops for allergies, too. Make sure they are wearing comfortable footwear. My boys like slipping off their shoes during long flights. During long trips, we sing, watch movies and sleep.”—Michelle Nishizawa, mom to 4-year-old Teruki and 3-year-old Taiga
“I hate to admit it, but the iPad is our best friend. We load it with games and videos to prepare for bored moments. We also bring his favorite books (the soft and smaller ones so they’re not as heavy). We make sure to also stock up on his favorite snacks, which in our case are animal cookies and milk, as kids tend to get cranky when they’re hungry.
“If it’s a road trip, we make sure we have CDs of his favorite songs (as well as lullabies to lull him to sleep). Lastly, the best entertainment is other people! Grandparents, aunties, etc. who will eagerly play and distract your kid are the cheapest and most effective entertainment.”—Zerl Chan Ortiz-Luis, mom of 2-year-old Zachary
“I usually prepare a big bag of her favorite books and magazines (She likes Time, National Geographic, K-Zone, Almanac for Kids), her Littlest Pet Shop Toys and I play her favorite CDs.”—Tammy Flores, mom of 9-year-old Amber
Light and right
“Pack light and pack right! Don’t forget the kids’ essentials like food, water, formula, diapers, change of clothes, their favorite toy, or better yet an iPad or video player. If the kids are old enough to distinguish the things they will see along the way, try to give them a story or trivia about it. Choose the appropriate comfortable clothing for your children and bring enough spare clothes for the trip.
“My best entertainment tools when traveling are the iPad, their feeding bottles and small things to munch on. Our eldest boy Matty is entertained by the sight of wheels turning or naming the things he sees along the way, so we help him look for the things illustrated on his iPad flashcards so he can relate the picture with the real thing.
“Andi, our youngest girl, uses her iPad to watch Disney movies or play the educational apps I downloaded for her.”—Alvin Maranan, dad of 3-year-old Matty and 1-year-old Andi
“Make a checklist of what your kid will need during the trip. Days before going, try to introduce your toddler to the things that he might see along the way. Use picture books and/or magazines of the place, to become familiar with the things the kid might see, so traveling can be fun and educational. Point out trees, clouds, a rainbow, flowers, animals and different kinds of vehicles along the way. Grab the opportunity for learning while having fun.
“Make sure you have a small pillow your kid could use, especially on plane rides where the seats are not that comfortable for sleeping. Bring an umbrella-type stroller. This is very useful for parks, walks and while at the airport because you’ll never know when kids will get tired or sleepy. I also use a toddler backpack with reins so he can freely use his hands to explore while I keep him near me and do lots of things with my two hands as well when we’re off the bus/car/plane.
“Never forget his favorite toys (small ones which you can put in a small toddler bag). For us, a puzzle is very effective for keeping Basti entertained. It could keep him busy for hours! A notebook/sketch pad, crayons and story books will keep your child seated for some time. Bring a bag of cookies and a water bottle with straw so the water won’t spill when he wants to drink while on the go. If these don’t work, give him the iPad! Also never forget a first-aid kit with antihistamines.”—Karen Ison-Abanes, mom of 2-year-old Basti
“When my kids and I are out on a road trip, I make sure I’ve got videos on board, and a resealable plastic container of snacks that we picked together at the grocery. Also, games that require our imagination work quite well! Road trip tip number one though is to always have a queasy bag, just to make sure things don’t get messy!”— Noel Rene Nieva, dad of 12-year-old Briana and 5-year-old Diego