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How to Survive a 20-hour Travel Day with Young Kids

I’m writing this in the air halfway through our travel day to the south of Spain. Here are my tips on how we are surviving:


  • Pack light so you can do all carry-ons to prevent any luggage issues. Once Chloe went on a nursing strike the same day that my flight was bumped overnight with my pump in a checked bag. Prevent this. by following my packing tips here.

  • Get to the airport early. Most international ones have a play space. Get your kids to blow off steam pre-flight. Hell, you can even enjoy a drink with your partner while the kids play. Double win.

  • Pack a small bag of new toys for each kid for the plane. I love workbooks, some type of small building blocks, and the Melissa and Doug travel kits..

  • Be smart with timing. Take mid-day flights (if you can) to prevent early wake-ups or late nights.

Surviving the flight

  • Consider kid melatonin. It’s safe and can help with the jetlag and getting them to sleep on planes.

  • Practice zone defense. Have some time where each parent gets a break for a few hours while the other watches the gaggle.

  • Cut out the sugar. The last thing you need is kids bouncing off the airplane seats.

  • Reduce your screentime rules. If all else fails, bring out that phone. Pre-download some videos, so you are prepared no matter what the airline offers.

Own your mindset

  • Reframe the journey as an adventure. Enjoy a few things about each travel spot. It might only be buying a new small toy in the Germany airport or trying out some European snacks at a gas station in Spain, but the travel itself can be fun. Remember anything can be new and exciting for kids.

  • Get some extra snuggles in. During the week, I’d love to have more time to read an extra book, get an extra cuddle in or draw with my kids. Try to see the upside in this intense 1:1 time.

  • Lower your expectations. Your kids will melt-down. I’m sure an airplane seat is going to be kicked, most likely multiple times. It’s ok. Having realistic expectations of what is age appropriate behavior for such a long day is key to your sanity.

You’ve got this, mama! What are your best tips?


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