Summertime is definitely my favorite time of year. From wearing light clothes and sandals everywhere, to pool and splash pad days, to endless watermelon and salads, to long sunny days – I can’t get enough. And like many families, summer is our favorite time to travel. 

We have a few fun trips planned this summer. Already in June we have gone to Chicago and Disneyland in Anaheim! Next month we have a trip to New Mexico planned and maybe a few more small trips around Texas throughout July and August. 

When we travel we normally fly on Southwest airlines. We have earned the companion pass, plus have points, and my daughter is still under two, so she flies free. Combining all these things, for our trips this summer we’ve only paid for one round-trip ticket per trip! 

My husband learned about using the Southwest credit card to get companion passes from The Points Guy. If you have never heard of him or been to his site, I suggest you check it out. He has many good tips to save money on travel using points.

I’ve talked about my family’s love for travel before on the blog (see my previous Traveling with a toddler post). We love exploring new places: admiring the scenery, trying the local cuisine, and learning about the culture. We also love returning to tried and true favorite places. This summer is a little bit of both. We’ve been to Disneyland before, but never with kids, so it was both a familiar experience and a new one. 

As you can guess, we’ve come a long way from Traveling with a toddler post. Back then I had no idea what to do while traveling with a toddler and was asking you for suggestions. Now, I’m happy to say we’re figuring this out and I have my own advice on how to travel with a toddler and preschooler. I think all kids are different, so what works to entertain my kids might not work for yours, but here are a few of the things we have done to keep our kids happy during our travels so far this year. 

  1. Get them their own suitcase – After my son turned two we got him his own suitcase for our trips. He loves it! He likes to pack all of his clothes and toys in it himself, he loves wheeling it through the airport. It is one of the best things we have done to get him excited about travel. My daughter isn’t quite ready to pull her own suitcase yet, but we plan to get her one when she turns two also.
  2. Let them pack their favorite toys – My kids each have a few favorite stuffed animals and figurines. I don’t have any problem with them bringing a few along on our trips if it makes them happy. I always warn my kids that if they bring a toy on the trip there is a chance in might get lost (my son lost a toy on his last trip, but he had been warned about the possibility, so he handled the loss pretty well). 
  3. Bring an iPad loaded with their favorite movies – Once my son was three and could sit through an entire movie, we started bringing movies on our iPad for him to watch. I bought him headphones, and he happily sits watching movies for the entire flight. This tip is great for preschool age kids and above, but does not work for younger toddlers. My 19 month old daughter will not watch the movies. She doesn’t like wearing the headphones and won’t watch the screen for longer than 5 minutes at a time. Instead, when my daughter gets fussy, we show her short videos and photos we’ve taken of her and my son on our phones along with the other tips listed below.
  4. Snacks, snacks, snacks! – Snacks are the key to keeping my kids happy. They love to eat! They can eat snacks all day, everyday. So I always pack lots and lots of snacks for them to eat on the airplane. It keeps them occupied, quiet, entertained, and happy. They also appreciate the free snacks and drinks on Southwest. My son loves getting pretzels and an apple juice each flight to enjoy with his movie. 🙂 
  5. Bring sticker and coloring books – Before every trip we let my kids pick out a sticker book at the store. The kids love playing with sticker on the flight and they’re very easy to clean up afterwards. We also bring crayons for them to color in their sticker books. This is a great non-screen time activity that can occupy them for quite a while. On longer flights I like to let my son watch one movie, then do a non-screen time activity like the sticker books and coloring. He enjoys this too! My daughter loves pulling out all the stickers and covering herself, me, and her dad with stickers. It keeps her happy and it is easy to clean up afterwards. 
  6. Plan trips during nap time, early morning, or late night so the kids will sleep – the best flights are when the kids sleep for at least an hour! You might get some time to sleep and relax too. We’ve found that when we fly early (so we’ve had to wake the kids early), or fly during nap time is when we are most likely to get the kids to nap on the plane. Usually right after take off is our best chance for the nap to happen (although occasionally my kids wait until the final half hour to hour of the flight to nap…). When naps happen I can get up to one hour of peaceful airplane bliss. Luckily my daughter has taken at least a one hour nap of each flight in both of our trips this summer! That small break really helps all of our sanities. 

    Sleeping babies are the best! 🙂

  7. Breastfeed, give bottle or pacifier to help young ones relieve pressure in their ears – We are fortunate that changes in air pressure at take off and landing has not bothered my kids ears. We usually let my daughter suck on her pacifier during take off and landing to help her ears pop. When my kids were babies I would nurse them during take off and landing (giving a bottle would also work well). 
  8. Let them entertain each other – I’m lucky, my two children get along really well. Sure they harass each other a bit, but it’s done with affection and love. 😉 So, when all else fails, on the plane we let them sit together to play and bother each other. As long as no one is crying or screaming, I’m happy. Once one kid starts to get mad, I move my daughter back to my lap and divert attention elsewhere (snacks, sticker book, etc). 

These tips have made our first two trips this summer a great success. I hope they help you on your summer vacations. Stay tuned for more travel posts. I might post about our experiences in Chicago and Disneyland with two kids.

What tips do you have for traveling with kids? I always am looking for more ways to make our travel fun for kids and peaceful for me! 🙂

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