Lesson: Preparation is Key!
For the time of transit:
☆ Good luggage is key!
Backpack for the adults (keep hands free for kids!) and mini-backpacks for the kids once they can walk. A rolling carry-on with 4 caster wheels can be pushed by a toddler or pulled by an adult with a minimum amount of effort. Trunki suitcases are great for toddlers/preschoolers who are perhaps too big for a stroller but too small yet to reliably walk through airports on their own.
In the kid's backpacks include a snack and small drink as well as a toy or two so they can access it when they with.
☆ Clothes - One change of clothes per person in the carry-ons. Infants and messy toddlers may need two. Even on train trips there can be spills that end up on mom and dad!
☆ Diapers - 1 for every 2 hours of travel door to door. Knot-a-bag (or similar item) is handy to have for bagging up not only dirty diapers but also wet clothes and garbage.
☆ Food - Aim for healthy snacks and mini meals. Plan to eat about once every three hours. I could the night time travel hours as well and it usually evens out with snacking a bit more during the day, less at night.
☆ Towel/blanket - Take a quick-drying towel for each child. We use them as travel blankets most of the time but they also double as towels in the case of a spill or accident. These are really lightweight and take up a small amount out space. They can also be easily washed out in a sink and dry in less time than a regular towel.
☆ Wet wipes - Never leave home without them!
☆ Friend to hug - Bringing along a stuffed animal or doll to hug while traveling through new places can help kids to feel comfortable in the midst of the transitions. We have special, smaller travel friends who visit our house before a trip so the kids are familiar with them before they hop into the backpack to travel along.
☆ Travel Activities - One per hour of transit (or one per hour of the longest flight), each in it's own bag
I should let you know before you read further that I'm not a fan of packing electronics for kids, especially young kids, to use while traveling. We do take our ipads/ipods etc. along but they are only brought out as a last resort. The two main reasons for this are that kids don't need them to be entertained and watching a screen, any screen, for hours on end isn't good for them.
This system came about after receiving a lot of advice from experienced travel parents. It has been a lifesaver!
During the months leading up to a trip I put together little bags with items from the 100 yen shop / $1 store. We now have a box in the closet full of these travel bags so when we have an unexpected trip (family funeral) or a long meeting to attend I can just grab a few activity bags to take along. Keeping these things separate from the regular toys is key to keeping their sense of mystery!
Here are links to some of our past travel bags:
Travel Bag Activities
Plane/Train Entertainment for Toddlers