The background: I have five kids, three of them by marriage, two of them by birth. They range in age from 14-years old to 16-months old, and when we travel, we haul around a lot of stuff. I started keeping an eye out for gear and gadgets that would make our lives easier -- and by "make our lives easier" I mean "allow me to get from Point A to Point B with my sanity more or less intact." Et voila: A handy list of 10 things that I think are absolutely essential when traveling, anywhere, with kids.
1.) A great carryon for each kid: The clever Skyway backpack comes in two colors and has zippered compartments and a detachable lunch box. Awesome.
2.) Electronic entertainment: For long car trips, consider a dual-screen DVD player, preferably with headphone jacks. We have this one by Disney and it's worked well for us so far. Or, get a set of books on tape or CD, and catch up on your family "reading" as you ride. If you're traveling by plane and need a less-cumbersome option, Work It, Mom! member Leian suggests stocking an iPod with cartoons and other downloads from iTunes (thanks, Leian!).
3.) Drinks and snacks: Juice Pal
holders add handles to most standard-size juice boxes or pouches, and you (and your car) won't get soaked if your kid gives it a squeeze. As for food, well, you will need plenty of snacks. Really. Tons. The Snack-Trap
by Made for Mom keeps even itty-bitty things like cereal well contained, and you can get a special lid to convert it into a sippy cup.
4.) Comfort: Bear Hugs
are very large, U-shaped blankets that fold up into a pillow. Your child can wear the whole contraption as a backpack, but he or she might be too busy cuddling it to do so -- these things are soft (and washable)!
5.) Avoiding nausea and ear-popping pain: Motion sickness relief bands
are a drug-free way to keep nausea at bay, and EarPlanes ear plugs
can help children and adults alike. Other options: Breastfeeding your infant -- or offering him or her a bottle or a pacifier -- can help reduce ear discomfort and, for older kids, gum and lollipops do the trick (and double as bribes).
7.) Clothes: Pack extra outfits for each kid in an easy-to-reach place, and don't forget to throw in something for you to wear, too. Travelsmith has some great, wrinkle-resistant, mix-and-match pieces for adults, and you can find pre-packed, color-coordinated kid wear at Little Jet Set.