Yes traveling the globe with 4 kids is as absolutely crazy as it sounds! Not that long ago I just simply avoided it all costs. Heck we found going to the grocery store with our tribe overwhelming, I sure wasn’t taking them on an airplane! Not to mention school life doesn’t exactly support being on the go.
So when we decided we were no longer waiting to see and experience the world…because we finally realized life is too dang short, we needed to figure out how to do this with kids….4 of them! At the time the girls were 8, 6, 5 and we had a newborn boy! So through a lot of trial and error I continue to learn something new on each trip, and it seems to be the #1 thing I’m asked. “How do you travel with all those kids?!?!” Hopefully you find some of these hacks helpful! I cant wait to see you enjoy this amazing planet as a family!
1. Mindset and my own preparedness
Mindset is my secret to success with most things and traveling with kids is no exception. Preparing ourselves mentally is just as important as packing our bags.
There is 2 parts in how I do this:
First I talk about our upcoming trip obsessively.
“I’m so excited for our plane trip, I cant wait until we get to ____.”
“What are you most excited about when we get to___?”
“Do you think you will want to sit next to the window or on the aisle this time?”
“I cant wait to play car bingo on our road trip next week!”
I prepare for the type of travel and the length by comparing to other trips.
“We’ve got a long car ride, it’s going to feel a lot like when we go to Oregon to see grandma and grandpa”
“Our plane trip is short and sweet, I bet you watch 1 movie and we will be there”
The more detailed I am, the smoother it goes, especially for the younger ones. This is especially important if your kiddos are not used to traveling yet. The whole process can be overwhelming….. knowing what to expect eases the anxiety.
The 2nd part is I prepare MYSELF
Honestly I mentally prepare for the worse and set very very low expectations!!
They are kids, there are a lot of uncontrollable variables with travel, and I go in with a complete survivor mentality.
“Don’t let a kid go missing”
“Dont get thrown off a plane”
“Try not to have a public breakdown”
Here’s the deal: when I expect my kids to be perfect angels I’m disappointed every time, because that is a really unfair expectation. I also cant control other people, delays, traffic, accessibility to food we actually like, etc etc.
I keep it super real and my kids almost always surpass what I mentally prepared for.
And in those moments your 2 years old gets airsick all over the lady in front of you, 2 hours into a 10 hour flight ……you were already mentally prepared for the worse flight EVER and can handle the death glares from the rest of the plane LOL!!! ( I have to laugh about this or I will cry)
Take off and landing wreck havoc on little ears. The pressure change that happens during take off and landing is super painful for a lot of kids. Even my 7 year old can cry from the pain at landing. Having something to suck on helps dramatically. With babies I would nurse or give a bottle at these times, binky’s work, chewing gum and hard candy to suck on for the older kiddos can be helpful also.
3. Car seats
Ok I don’t see a lot of people doing this, and I know its can be a total pain to carry around but this is my #1 hack and total lifesaver flying with a toddler. ( If you have a toddler that is super well behaved and can sit still for like 4 hours at a time, feel free to skip this)
Bring the car seat on the plane! It has to be FDA approved (most are) and it has to be placed in a window seat, but I promise the extra hassle is worth it once you have taken off!
We had an Orbitz car seat that attached to the stroller and was incredibly convenient for the airport….recently we ditched the stroller, strapped a handy car seat transporter to the seat (like below) and just pull Brax behind us. Aaron recently realized it fits all the way down the aisle of a plane like this! You dont have to lug the 60lbs of car seat and baby onto the plane… which is what we have been doing.
Car seats are familiar and typically give a sense of security. With proper entertainment there is never a thought of needing to get up and run around the plane, because we never get up and run around a car.
4. Timing and Exercise
This is not always controllable, but booking a flight based on your kiddos schedule can be life! Mine will usually sleep on a plane so I love red-eyes or flying at naptime. Same for long road trips! We will wait to leave until nap time or drive at night. I also find it incredibly important get in at least 20-30 mins of run around time at the airport before boarding. Yes I’m the crazy mom chasing her kid at the airport up and down the escalator over and over, and I’m loving every second! I know we are getting out that physical energy before being in a seat; sometimes for a very long time. Let them run thru the terminal, climb all the stairs and ride the moving carpet as many times as they want! It’s way better then trying to get wiggles out in a tiny airplane seat.
* We have been late to flights before and not gotten this time and it has been a nightmare.
5. Backpacks and snacks
As my girls are older they have been carrying their own backpack pretty much from the beginning. All 4 kids have a tablet of some sort for movies and games, along with headphones. Our bag contents change constantly but typically also include sensory toys of some sort (fidgets, putty, squishy’s etc…) Coloring/writing supplies, reading book and small figurines.
Snacks snacks and more snacks!! I try to pack healthy options, applesauce pouches, fruit, our favorite graze sticks and organic cheese puffs. I encourage the kids to pack what they want because they are more likely to eat it when it’s their choice.
Ssshhhh! I also have a secret bag full of the lollipops, gummy bears and special chocolate for bribing ( Nope I’m not above a good bribe during a long trip LOL)
Here’s the deal: traveling with kids will never be as easy as traveling without them, especially when they are still little. For us the extra work and hassle is totally worth the adventure and memories we are making each time we set out on a new journey! The education is priceless every time we step on new land and experience something we simply can not experience at home. I can not promise your kids will be perfect travelers but I can promise that it can become easier and feel less overwhelming with a little preparedness and not expecting perfection.
Safe and happy travels!!
Be sure to tag 5 Hour School Week in all your great adventures and share your favorite travel hacks with us!