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Occupational Therapist Tips and Tricks for Traveling with Kids

May 1, 2024

Family at airport

Is vacation all you ever wanted for you and your little family? While a summer vacation with kids can be super fun, there are also a few tips we can share that make a few of those less-than-ideal moments move more smoothly. Traveling with kids can be made easier with a few actionable steps that make a huge difference. Get packed because we’re going on an adventure. A helpful tip adventure! 

Routines Just Make Everything Better

There’s no doubt that a quality routine can give your child needed stability in life. A proper kids’ routine is the main ingredient for taking on new challenges to come. Of course, traveling with the kids can mean that a good routine flies right out the car window. While the days may be filled with unpredictability, you can still aim to maintain regular morning, evening, bedtime, and mealtime routines. Think about what you are doing now and how you can try to keep your child’s routine consistent while on the road, on a plane, or in a hotel. If routines start slipping away, it’s okay. Just focus on the next opportunity to straighten the routine out just a bit. It can make a big difference, especially for meltdowns and tantrums. 

Planning Ahead Makes for Easier Transitions

Transitions can be tough even for us adults. So, how can you handle transitions while traveling with kids? We have one word for you. PREPARE! On top of sticking to routines, we suggest giving your child choices when a big transition occurs. Instead of saying, “no, we can’t ride that ride again” try to give a choice like “would you like to eat at Daisy’s Diner or Goofy’s Kitchen for dinner?” Additionally, give your child a countdown or heads up. “This will be our last ride this evening” or “we have 5 minutes left with this activity before we move on” are great ways to communicate a coming transition. 

Bring Activities for the “Boring Parts”

Hours in the car to hours of plane travel equals a big fat YAWN. Your kids will let you know it too. In order to pass the time with less complaint, try to bring a variety of activities for your kiddo to pass the time. Activity books, I Spy books, portable music player (or make a playlist for the trip on your phone), and sensory/fidget toys are all just a few examples of things to bring on the family road trip. Be wary about bringing toys that your child holds near and dear as these could become lost, which turns a happy trip into a devastating one. The best thing to do is to leave those at home.

Traveling with Kids From Point A to B 

For adults, getting to a destination is pretty clear-cut. Your child, on the other hand, is likely to be on Team Stop and Smell the Roses. Kids can take a lot longer to get from Point A to Point B, so pencil in extra time when traveling with kids. To make travel even easier, prepare even before you get on the road. A road trip with a kids’ packing list is certainly on the preparation menu. When you have the things you need, traveling becomes instantly easier, more efficient, and less stressful. Be sure to bring snacks and drinks on longer trips too. A child with an empty stomach may slip into temper tantrum mode, which will wreak havoc on the trip. For an incredibly thorough kids’ packing list, go here.

When Temper Tantrums Arise

Depending on how you travel and what actions you take (or don’t take) to prepare, temper tantrums can easily erupt at any place and at any time. Traveling adds extra stress because routines are disrupted, kids don’t always know what to expect, and kids are still learning self-regulation skills. The best way to deal with a temper tantrum is to try to prevent it from happening in the first place. Sticking to routines, providing choices, and letting your child know about changes prior can really make a huge difference. Before traveling with kids, don’t be afraid to sit down with them and have a conversation about what the trip will look like. How to deal with temper tantrums if they do occur? Take a look at our previous blog about temper tantrums here. 

When traveling with kids, remember that all little ones are wired a little differently. If you need to adjust plans during travel, that’s perfectly fine as long as everyone is having a happier vacation. If behavior problems get in the way, you can reach out to us to see if occupational therapy would be right for your child. Contact us today.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2022 and has been updated to reflect the most up-to-date information for parents and caregivers.