Long road trips with kids aren't always fun fests. But they are doable, and at times even enjoyable. As Shelly Rivoli, author of the blog TravelsWithBaby.com, says, "The vacation begins the minute you leave the house." Our tried-and-true tips:
At security you'll be expected to:
In preparation, we suggest you all wear slide-on shoes and little to no jewelry. To limit your juggling, try to use one big sack as your carry-on rather than a purse plus a diaper bag plus a bag of toys.
The good news is that breast milk is considered a "liquid exemption," which means you can bring more than 3 ounces on board as long as you are traveling with your child. (If your child isn't with you, the 3-ounce rule applies.) This also applies to formula or juice, canned baby food, and teethers filled with gel or liquid. If you're bringing these items on board, separate them from the cosmetics that you're carrying in your quart-size plastic bag. Declare you have breast milk (or formula, etc.) at the security checkpoint. To print out the official rules to have in hand, log on to tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/children/formula.shtm.
Looking for a place to nurse in an airport? Find a quiet gate near your assigned one, or try one of those Internet booths. Some airports also have a kids' play area where you'll find a lot of understanding parents.
With baggage restrictions, how do you get baby gear to your destination? Options vary depending on where you're going.
Insider Tips from Flight Attendants
When it comes to traveling with kids, flight attendants know best how to keep them comfortable and entertained. Here, advice to follow.
Stay warm. "Dress a child in layers or bring a blanket. Planes are so cold these days, and a lot of airlines don't offer blankets anymore -- you don't want your kid to shiver the whole time."
-- Erin Howes, United
Try arts and crafts. "A child can make a picture for the pilot, and we'll hang it up in the galley or the kitchen. Kids get excited about this. They know it's for the pilot and that we'll display it. So they really concentrate on making it, and that eats up a lot of time. Also, you can make hand puppets out of barf bags. Just draw faces."
-- Julieanne McDermott, American Airlines
Walking around is okay. "Try to do slow laps around the airplane, maybe once every hour. This keeps babies happy."
-- Angela Greener, Virgin Atlantic
Readers' Air Travel Tips
"If you're nursing, get the window seat so your husband can shield you with a blanket. Feeding baby during takeoff (or giving her a paci) will help pop her ears."
-- Mara Ehret, via e-mail
"The airport is the place where I let my 19-month-old toddler move around so he doesn't become antsy on the plane. He likes to visit the food court and to watch the planes through the window. And I've learned to pack light so I can follow him while he wanders from gate to gate."
-- Elizabeth Campbell, via e-mail
"I stocked up on small toys, books, crayons, and coloring books, along with diapers and a change of clothes. Each kid had his own backpack. They felt so grown up. A big hit was Barrel of Monkeys. Other kids on the flight liked the game too!"
-- Kim, via e-mail
Readers' Car Tips
"Last year we drove from Michigan to New Jersey. At the end of the trip, we left New Jersey at 8 p.m. and took turns sleeping and driving throughout the night. Eleven hours later, we were home."
-- Lisa Shenton, via e-mail
"I drove nine hours alone with my baby. I lowered my expectations about how quickly we'd get there. On one five-hour leg, we stopped halfway and had a picnic on a grassy area next to a restaurant. It took an hour but helped him tolerate the ride better."
-- Liz Morey Campbell, via e-mail