Long Layover With Kids: 8 Ways to Survive

Long Layover With Kids: 8 Ways to Survive

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When you hear the words, long layover with kids, do you just cringe? For those of you who’ve experienced a layover between flights at an airport, think about how tired you are and what you do. Now imagine that same level of fatigue after an eight-hour or longer flight while you wait five hours for your next three-hour flight, and add in two grouchy kids. Doesn’t that sound like fun?! Not so much.

Today I’m going to give you 8 things to do to survive a long layover with kids. In addition, you are going to feel super-awesome because you planned beforehand and won’t have a breakdown in the middle of the Toronto Airport (or wherever you’ll be). This is truly a win-win!

Recently, my family of four traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia by air. This lengthy trip involved two layovers each way, and it’s stressful enough on your own, much less while you’re trying to help your kids get through it! First, we stopped in Toronto, Canada for five hours, and then in Warsaw, Poland for fourteen. Bragging moment, I was super-proud of my kids and how they handled it. Now, I’m going to give you ideas for both the long and short layovers. Here we go!

Long layover with kids pin

8 Ways To Survive A Long Layover With Kids

1. A well-packed carry-on bag the child can carry or pull

This is so important! You will all be tired so don’t overpack the 4-year-old’s bag so you have to carry it all the time. Admittedly, I carried my son’s bag now and then, but he could carry it himself, and he used everything in it at some time or another. For more detail on what to pack, see my post on ‘The Complete Kids’ Carry-On Packing List’.

2. Find a home base

Next, as soon as your plane lands and you’ve taken care of the essentials like finding the restroom, you’ll look for a home base. No, you’re not going to be hauling around a tent, but find your own space not too far from your next gate. Also, this should be an area with several chairs where you can park your carry-on bags, and the kids can spread out.

This spot will become your home base if one parent needs to take one child to go do something. One adult should always be at the base to watch the bags, but then you can otherwise come and go as you please. Moreover, the kids can spread out coloring books, crayons, snacks, whatever, without feeling smushed and without bothering anyone.

I even like to get food and bring it back to base for everyone so we don’t have to cart our bags (and kids) around.

3. Change of clothes and pajamas

A change of clothes for everyone and a set of pajamas are imperative to make the kids, and you, more comfortable. Maybe a child got sick on you on the last flight and you need to change. Don’t just think the kids will be the only ones whose clothes might need replacing.

If it’s night time, pajamas are a great thing to have for the kids. Pajamas are familiar and comforting, and hey! They might even get some much-needed rest and take a nap!

4. Take frequent walks 

If you’re not napping, walking around frequently, with the adults taking turns, is a great idea. You’ve been smushed up on an airplane for so many hours without moving and will just be getting on another. Kids don’t ever sit still and in one place any longer than they have to so why expect they will while traveling? Walk around, find the nearest bathroom and your favorite snack store, but get moving!

5. Airport scavenger hunt

Kids love to play games so try out this Airport Scavenger Hunt printable (scroll to the end to download) or other activity books. The scavenger hunt is awesome because it gets you moving around intent on finding the listed objects on the list. Work it as a family or individually, but make sure to emphasize the rules about staying with an adult.

Layover with kids: Airport Scavenger Hunt pin

6. Tablet with earphones for each child

I normally limit screen time at home but not while traveling! If it will entertain the child and let us rest, it’s completely worth it on the airplane or at the airport. My children were actually tired of the tablets by the time we got to the layovers and didn’t use them as much as I expected. Get everyone moving around and doing other things, but when they’re tired of that and sitting around waiting, a new movie or game will pass the time.

Long layover with kids and iPad

7. Food! 

Make sure you have or can buy snacks (see ‘30 Nut-Free Snacks For A Long-Haul Flight‘) and meals in between flights. We love to try out local foods, and even at an airport, we try to get something different. (That is unless we’re on the last leg and my four-year-old snaps and only agrees to eat Oreos or the snacks I’ve brought because they’re familiar). For example, it may sound odd, but my daughter loves sausage. She was so excited she got to have a sausage sandwich at the little cafe at the Warsaw Airport. “It was so good Mommy! That’s why they call it POLISH sausage at home, hahaha!”

8. Book a hotel room in the airport or nearby

This is a big one that can make a huge difference in your travels. If you have an 8 or more hour layover, and you’re not trying to run into town to do some sight-seeing, I strongly suggest getting a hotel room at the airport or near-by if available. This made such a difference in how we arrived at our destination and was super-easy. Before we left, I made a reservation at the Courtyard Marriott across the street from the Warsaw Airport, and we simply walked over and checked in.

Courtyard Marriott Warsaw

We all got to shower or take baths, sleep in our own space, and just relax and get ready for our vacation. This meant we (even the kids) were refreshed and ready to go get on that last flight to our destination. The jet lag was easier to handle, and it made for a much happier family.

Be Prepared

If you’re going on a long trip anytime soon with kids, I think the lesson is to be prepared. You’ll want to prepare your carry-ons and the kids’ favorite items. Then, plan your layovers and if you can get a hotel or not, and be sure there are options for everyone in the family. No one wants a grouchy goose, so make your travels go as smoothly as possible.

Helpful hint: it takes some effort and planning!

Don’t neglect your packing list and then wonder why the kids scream and complain and drive you crazy the entire trip. It can still happen, but you can plan, be prepared, be flexible, and enjoy your travels as a family. You can more than survive your layover with kids, you’ll make it a fun adventure exploring a new place!

Download your Airport Scavenger Hunt PDF now!

Layover with kids: Airport Scavenger Hunt preview

Share in the comments below, what’s the worst or best experience you’ve had on a long layover with kids?

The Complete Kids’ Carry-On Packing List

The Complete Kids’ Carry-On Packing List

This page contains affiliate links. Kids’ Carry-On

Do you struggle at the last minute before a vacation with what to put in your kids’ carry-on? What you have with you on the airplane can be a lifesaver, just as a possible missing item can unleash a frustrated ear-splitting series of wails from a small traveler. Then, of course, come all the stares from the passengers around you. Many do sympathize, but several years ago all I could see was judgment and glares. Now, I don’t really care what others think, and the focus is on how to calm and reassure my child.

My recent tale of kids on an airplane

This summer we were returning home from an international trip and at the end of a twelve and a half hour flight. If you want to picture it, I sat in between my two kids in a row of three seats by the window. In addition, my husband sat just across the aisle. This was the second flight in a series of three to get us home and so far the kids had been awesome. Queue trouble.

The dreaded seat-belt sign

First, the seatbelt sign was turned on, and my worn out 4-year-old stared at it a second and then went into panic mode. “Potty! Potty! Mommy, I need the potty!” Now, at this point, it didn’t really matter what I said to him or how I reassured him. Quick as a flash he had his seatbelt off and was clawing me to get into the aisle. We’d already learned the toilets were locked when the seatbelt sign was lit up, and after what felt like an eternity of screaming a flight attendant came by. She looked pointedly at my struggling son and said, “Ma’am, I must ask you to put the seatbelt on. We’ve begun our descent.”

The Request

Now, I’m a rule follower and want to support flight attendants and put safety first. However, I don’t think our elevation had changed at all, there was no turbulence, and we were not anywhere close to landing. Everything I tried to make the child comfortable and sit back down in his seat failed. He continued to scratch and scream, and he’s a strong kid! Another attendant walked by looking irritated, and I said, “Could you please unlock the door to let him go to the bathroom? He’ll calm down and be fine if he can just use the restroom.”

“Ma’am. The seatbelt light is on,” he began, and then just adopted an expression of incredible inconvenience. “Come with me.”

My son did his business and was back in his seat with his belt on, now a perfect angel. The anxiety over, he waited for us to land. I know my son, and it didn’t matter he was in a pull-up for the flight for just such a situation. Basically, he was tired, panicked, in one-track mode, and couldn’t think of anything but getting to the bathroom. I breathed a sigh of relief and turned to check on my daughter, whose eyes widened looking into mine, and at that instant, she threw up all over me.

We won’t ever be prepared for absolutely everything.

Why do I share this story? We can’t be prepared for everything, but we can help our kids limit the risk of panic and frustration by packing a well-thought out kids’ carry on bag.

Be assured your kids will be ready and entertained on their next flight when you use this kids’ carry-on packing list.

Kids' carry-on pin

The Complete Kids’ Carry-On Packing List

1. The Bag

 
When selecting a bag for your child choose something they can carry themselves or pull on their own. Don’t get one that’s too big you’ll end up carrying it the entire trip.

2. Stuffed animal or blanket

Bring that one favorite stuffed animal or blanket. Your little one may need the extra comfort and a friend to talk to!

3. Tablet or iPad (with a good case)
 

Yes, yes, I know. This is the one time I let the kids play on the iPad or Kindle and do not try to limit their screen time. My goal is to get through the trip, and screens are a HUGE help.

Before you go, make sure your devices are charged and cords are packed where you can get at them. Also, download a bunch of new movies, shows, or games last through your no internet flight. I highly recommend Shaun the Sheep.

3. Headphones

You will want to test out the headphones for your kids before you go to be sure of sizes. In addition, in order to prevent fighting, it’s important to have a set of headphones for each kid (and a tablet for each if possible).

4. Coloring/activity books

       
My kids don’t use these too much on the plane, but they were a big hit for killing time during our layovers between flights. It all depends on the kids’ moods at the time.

5. Crayons (triangle) or Twistables, colored pencils
 

I love these triangular crayons because they don’t roll around on your airplane tray table. They still can fall to the floor obviously but are much less likely to, and I’ll take that!

6. Pencil pouch with pencils and pens
 

I admit I chose these pencil pouches for me, but you can get just about any color and style in the school supply area of your local store. They’re awesome for keeping those individual pencils and pens, erasers, or whatever the child deems necessary.

7. Travel journal or My Quiet Book

Travel Journal preview for kids' carry on   
Click here to take you to the post to download!

An older child can fill out the basic information and begin their travel journal for a trip, and for a younger child, something like this My Quiet Book is fabulous. You can tie shoes, button buttons stick things on, and it’s all attached to the book so you drop and lose nothing.

8. Mad Libs and joke books

          

First of all, it’s always good to laugh. Secondly, if your kids are laughing as you roll your eyes in your mind, it’s a lot better than a tantrum in the middle of the airport or plane. Have fun with it!

9. Book(s) to read

   
I always have a book to read with me on an airplane, and it’s always good to encourage reading time for kids. Get them engrossed in Harry Potter, and you won’t have to worry about them until the flight’s over and the book needs to be put away. So load up that Kindle or bring the physical book, but read!

10. Post-it notes

Post-it notes may sound like an odd necessity to you, but they’re great especially for younger kids. My four-year-old thinks it’s a huge treat to draw creatures on all his sticky notes and then put them up all over the chair, window, airplane tray, and any other spot he can find. It takes a lot of time…FABULOUS!

11. Origami book and paper

     
Origami is hugely popular in our family, and the kids love to do it at any time so why not on an airplane? It’s entertaining, takes up time, and you have a paper crane or boat at the end of it. You can also tell them about the Japanese legend that says the one who folds 1000 Origami paper cranes will be granted a wish. And…go!

12. Games – UNO, a deck of cards, Skip-Bo, etc.

     

Card games are great for waiting to get on the airplane and a fun way to get the whole family interacting in a positive way. Who doesn’t like UNO?

13. Travel pillow

You always debate whether or not to splurge on using your packing space for a travel pillow. I think it depends on the person and how long your flight actually is, but my daughter loved hers on our last several flights. We were all able to rest a lot better with them, and I believe it’s worth the space. Make sure to get the right size of pillow for each person. I know from experience my adult-sized pillow will not work for my four-year-old.

14. Snacks (Mom will have back-ups in her carry-on)


Snacks are a must to get through a flight. We always bring nut-free snacks when on an airplane, and there are some great options out there without having to pay a fortune at the airport snack bar.

15. Wipes

This one is fairly self-explanatory, but they’ve saved me so many times. I always have a pack of Wet Ones in my purse!

16. Play-doh

An odd choice maybe? I thought so at first, but Play-Doh worked out really well on the airplane. It was fun sculpting and making snakes, and the kids were really good about keeping it on the tray table.

17. Make sure Mom has changes of clothes for everyone AND motion sickness medicine.

Kids' Carry On packing list preview

Do you need snack ideas for a flight?

Long-Haul Flight Snacks

There you have it. The complete kids’ carry-on packing list. When I got off the airplane in Los Angeles to go through customs with vomit all over me, I was grateful to have a well-packed kids’ carry-on bag. We were able to get through the airport, change, calm everyone down, and make it to our next flight without further problems. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference. Have a great flight!

30 Nut-Free Snacks For A Long-Haul Flight

30 Nut-Free Snacks For A Long-Haul Flight

This post contains affiliate links. 30 Nut-Free Snacks For A Long-Haul Flight

My family, including our 4-year-old and 8-year-old, is preparing for some intense travel this summer. I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m a planner so even though it’s a few weeks away I’m in full panic list-making mode. My current focus is food and snacks, yes snacks. When you have three long flights, including two lengthy layovers one-way, and a child with a serious allergy, snacks are a major issue. Therefore, I’ve been collecting ideas and possibilities and came up with this list of 30 nut-free snacks for a long-haul flight.

Where are you going that requires over 24 hours of travel time each way?

We’ll be traveling to the beautiful country of Georgia and landing in the capital of Tbilisi. My husband is from a town just a couple hours west of Tbilisi so we’ll be visiting family and acting the tourist as we head to Batumi, a rather fabulous city on the Black Sea. If you’re ready for some amazing food, wine, beaches, culture, and welcoming people, this is the place for you.

Comments from the children about Batumi:

“Mommy, what is a dolphinarium? They have one. I want to go there.”

“So Mommy. Do I have to get in the water? I don’t want to swim in the sea, but I can make a sand castle, right?”

“Do you think we’ll see some jellyfish?”

Yes, traveling with kids is always an adventure and an education. I love being there when they experience new things for the first time and see their eyes widen in excitement before they start bouncing up and down. However, for Mom, safety is always one of my major worries on any trip.  You know, right up there on the top of the list is food safety when traveling abroad, especially when a child has a major food allergy.

Why should I be concerned if my snacks have peanuts in them on the airplane?

First of all, my child does not have a peanut allergy, but she does have another allergy that can be equally as deadly. Personally, I do not understand how anyone can justify bringing peanuts or any nuts on an enclosed airplane. One would hope the airlines and anyone who feels their need for a bag of peanuts on an airplane is no problem has never had close contact with someone with a life-threatening allergy.

It’s sort of like me saying, “Here is some iocane powder I’ve instantly dissolved into our drinking water. It is odorless, tasteless, and one of the more deadly poisons known to man. I’m not affected by it because I’ve ingested it in small amounts and have built up an immunity to it. I like the idea of it. Therefore, it is my right to put it in our water supply. Anyone who is poisoned by it will just have to deal with it or go live in another town.”

Be aware of allergies on an airplane

Does this make sense in any way, shape, or form? No, of course not, but for some reason, the idea of eating a bunch of nuts on an airplane and breathing them on your neighbor and the rest of the occupants of the plane as the air moves around the cabin does not even cross most minds. It is not as if you can turn a life-threatening allergy on or off with the flip of a switch. Moreover, the insensitivity, ignorance, or insistence of those not affected is simply a dangerous form of discrimination. I could go on and on with this topic, but we’d better stop there and look at some nut-free snack choices.

Have you prepped your home for while you're on vacation?

Read through my homeowner’s travel prep checklist to make sure you’ve covered it all!

30 Nut-Free Snacks For A Long-Haul Flight

This is a good list including many of the options we like to use for snacks. These are nut-free options great for aiplanes, school snacks, or any child with a nut allergy. However, please, please, PLEASE double-check labels before eating if there is an allergy present. Sometimes company do change procedures and they can then produce items on the same equipment or in the same facility as nuts. I hope you try some new ones out. The pink titles and pictures of the items link to Amazon in case you want more information. Enjoy!

 

  1. Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks. My kids love most Annie’s snacks, but not all are nut-free or not made in a facility with other nuts. Be sure to check your labels! 
  2. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. Always a classic and sure to distract kids for a few minutes.
  3. Enjoy Life Not Nuts! Mountain Mambo Seed and Fruit Mix, Gluten, Dairy, Nut & Soy Free. I absolutely love this brand. Not only do the snacks taste good, but they are marketed as gluten, dairy, nut, and soy free. These are perfect nut-free snacks for a long-haul flight, and healthy too! 
  4. Enjoy Life Not Nuts! Beach Bash Nut Free Seed and Fruit Mix, Gluten, Dairy, Nut & Soy Free. Bonus! Another flavor! 
  5. Don’t Go Nuts Nut-Free Organic Snack Bars, Whitewater Chomp. Try the Blueberry Blast and Boogie Board Bash flavors as well! 
  6. Enjoy Life Baked Chewy 1 Ounce Bars, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free & Soy Free. Again, try out the different flavors to find your favorites.
  7. Newtons Fruit Chewy Cookies, Fig. 
  8. Nature’s Bakery Whole Wheat Fig Bar, Raspberry. These are so good! I love to eat these as an afternoon snack. 
  9. Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars. 
  10. Black Forest Organic Gummy Bears Candy. Try the Black Forest Organic Fruit Snacks too
  11. Annie’s Organic Variety Pack, Cheddar Bunnies and Bunny Graham Crackers Snack Packs. 
  12. GoGo squeeZ Applesauce On The Go, Apple Berry, 3.2 Ounce Pouches. These are great because they’re healthy fruit and at 3.2 ounces just under your 3.4-ounce airport limit.
  13. Little Duck Organics Tiny Fruits + Veggie.
  14. Triscuit Crackers, Original. 
  15. Nature Valley Cinnamon Granola Crunch. My husband loves Nature Valley granola bars, but the usually have peanuts and other nuts listed in the allergen information. We recently found this granola crunch with the only warning being for soy and love it. It’s a great snack or fun to put on yogurt for breakfast. 
  16. Trader Joe’s Jumbo Raisin Medley. Raisins are a great snack on the go! I have found some of the major brands producing the individual serving boxes are produced in the same facility or on shared equipment with nuts. So, check your labels carefully! This is why I usually end up buying the store brand of raisins, and as an added bonus they’re cheaper! Now, this jumbo raisin medley is something different and just rather yummy so that’s why it’s made the list.
  17. Brothers-ALL-Natural Fruit Crisps.
  18. Made in Nature Organic and Unsulfured Tree Ripened Dried Apricots. Apricots can be tricky! When you buy a bag be sure they’re not packaged in a facility with peanuts or tree nuts.
  19. Oreo Sandwich Cookies Variety Pack.
  20. Rold Gold Tiny Twists Pretzels.
  21. Enjoy Life Plentils Single-Serve Variety Pack.
  22. MySuperCookies Organic Whole Grain Cookies. 
  23. Plum Kids Organic Fruit Mashups, Mixed Berry.
  24. Mott’s Unsweetened Strawberry Applesauce. 
  25. Skeeter Nut Free Mini Cookies, Variety Pack.
  26. Made Good Granola Minis Chocolate Chip.
  27. Cascadian Farm Organic Granola Bars, Chocolate Chip Chewy Granola Bars.
  28. Stretch Island Fruit Leather.
  29. CLIF KID ZFRUIT – Organic Fruit Snack – Strawberry.
  30. SunRype Apple Blueberry Pomegranate Fruitsource 100% Fruit Bar. 

What can I do with 30 nut-free snacks for a long-haul flight?

Pick out a few of these nut-free snacks for a long-haul flight and pop them in a Ziploc bag with each family member’s name for their carry-on. This will divide the load, and you can decide exactly how much you’ll need. My examples in the pictures may look excessive, but when your travel time is over 24 hours without any certainty of nut-free options, a mom likes to play it safe.

Happy Travels!

I hope your travels lead you to exotic, educational, and enjoyable locales! Take some time away and come back to daily life refreshed and a better person. But above all please don’t forget to be kind! Think about the lives of those around you on the airplane, at the beach, and serving you at the restaurant. Be thoughtful and respectful of the locals of the places you visit and the other people around you, and make no mistake, your kids will take note. They will copy what you do, and the world will be a better place because of it.

Where are you vacationing this summer? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Give me some good places to start imagining future travels!

*Iocane powder is not a real poison. It is a reference from the film ‘The Princess Bride.’

The Ultimate Homeowner’s Travel Prep Checklist

The Ultimate Homeowner’s Travel Prep Checklist

This post contains affiliate links. Homeowner’s Travel Prep Checklist

Homeowner's Travel checklist

So you did it! You booked that big vacation for the entire family to go to Provence, to London, or to Florida for three weeks this summer. Of course, you have your itinerary, ideas about where to eat, what to do, where to stay, and all that jazz. You may even already have your suitcases and carry-ons planned. However, have you thought about your house, your home and all that will go on there while you are away?

Use this ultimate homeowner’s travel prep checklist to safeguard your home while you are away.

We all love to prepare for a vacation but can often forget about what will go on at home while we’re gone. Make a thorough plan for while you are gone so you can enjoy your vacation with the peace of mind everything’s been taken care of for you back home.

Homeowner checklist preview

Don’t be surprised or caught in the last minute panic. Of course, I will be in a panic about something, but let’s limit it as much as possible, right? Just enter your email below, and the document will be sent to you to download. Then come along with us as we continue to prep for summer travel!

Need a journal for kids to reflect on your travels?

Get your free kids’ travel journal from Explorer Momma.

Here is my ultimate homeowner’s travel prep checklist

Homeowner's travel prep checklist

When you leave town do you take care of your home necessities?

  1. Stop your mail.
  2. Put a hold on any newspapers.
  3. Find a pet sitter or reserve a pet care location.
  4. Find someone to water plants inside and outside the house.
  5. Give your contact info to a trusted neighbor who can keep an eye on things as they come and go or have a friend or relative check on the house every few days.
  6. Find a house-sitter if necessary.
  7. Make sure the sprinkler system is set.
  8. Change your thermostat settings so your heater/air conditioner isn’t constantly running while no one’s home.
  9. Turn off and/or unplug computers, coffee pots, blenders, or other electronics.
  10. Contact your home security company if you have one to let them know when you’ll be gone.
  11. Schedule or reschedule any lawn care and the bug or pest control as needed.
  12. In winter plan for someone to complete necessary snow-removal.
  13. Cancel dairy or food home deliveries while you’re gone.
  14. Pay all bills due while you’re gone or set them to pay at the appropriate time.
  15. Set timers on outdoor and indoor lights used consistently in the evenings.
  16. Straighten the house and make beds, wash dishes, and unload the dishwasher before you leave so you come home to a calming and welcoming space.
  17. Call credit card companies to let them know where and when you’ll be traveling.
  18. Leave copies of passports and other important documents where someone can locate them for you in an emergency.

Click on the pictures to compare outlet timers and wifi smart plug outlets on Amazon:

There is so much to think about when you’re traveling, especially with kids. As a homeowner, we have to think of all the things we’re leaving behind and still have to take care of while we’re away. Make that house a home for your family and make a plan! Use my homeowner’s travel prep checklist, and limit your risk of utter and complete Home Alone panic while you’re on that airplane to Paris.

Enjoy your travels this summer to the fullest!

Also, I’d love to hear where all you’re traveling! Put a comment in below and let’s get excited about those plans to explore!

Free Kids’ Travel Journal Printable

Free Kids’ Travel Journal Printable

How would you like to have a super easy activity for the kids on your next vacation? What about one that involves reflecting on their day and writing and drawing about their impressions and experiences? Look no further! I love this free Kids’ Travel Journal printable, and so does my daughter. With this notebook, she is able to keep track of what she did each day, how she felt, and her favorite aspects of it. In addition, there’s a reflection page that lets kids write or draw the weirdest thing from the vacation, the funniest thing, or what they’d like to do next time, etc.

Why do you need a Kids’ Travel Journal?

First of all, I would suggest all travelers keep a journal. Why, you ask? There are so many times your are in the moment and the sights, impressions, feelings, and experiences are all crystal clear, and you may think you’ll always remember them exactly that way. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and as time passes some of those start to muddle. Moreover, if you take the time to write out what you are seeing and experiencing you can go back to that at a later time. Then your mind will more easily recall all those senses from your journey and make it a reality. I love to go back and re-read my travel journals and look at the photos together from that time.

A kids’ travel journal is important for all of those same reasons, but more as well. When a child writes out in sentence form about their day and what happened it causes their mind to process it in a new way. They will see it from a different perspective and remember it through that writing and also drawing. Furthermore, journaling one’s adventures and feelings is a skill to be learned and practiced. I find it calms you down at the end of the day, and we all know traveling can be exhausting! Make it part of the routine each evening before bed, and the relaxing familiarity of it will help to comfort kids. Inevitably this makes the entire trip more enjoyable for everyone!

Free Kids' Travel Journal

10 Tips to Get Kids Excited About Learning

Are you looking for more ways to get get kids involved in learning? Check out another recent post from ExplorerMomma.

Download your free kids’ travel journal here

Kids' Travel Journal preview

I hope you enjoy the travel journal, and your kids will get a lot of use out of it! Happy travels!

Passport Power: Passport Tips and Tidbits

Passport Power: Passport Tips and Tidbits

This page contains affiliate links.

Do you have some great passport tips? This past week I received two delightfully thick envelopes in the mail containing none other than fresh passports for my son and daughter. I don’t know about you, but when I hold that little blue passport book in my hand a thrill runs through my bones. Pictures of locations all over the world flash through my mind: Paris, Machu Picchu, an African safari, the Pyramids, the Sydney Opera House. There is such power and freedom that comes with a passport! (Since I’m from the U.S. this focuses on tips and links for a U.S. passport.)

The Possibility and Power of a Passport

I may be dating myself, but do you remember the Sandra Bullock movie While You Were Sleeping? I admit I love this movie. It is a witty, fun, romantic comedy I tend to watch every Christmas season. There is a scene where Lucy (Sandra Bullock) is walking with Jack (Bill Pullman), and she pulls her passport out of her bag. She longs to travel, and when he asks where she would go she immediately and decidedly says, “Florence.” She doesn’t have the funds or the ability to go at the present, but she is a dreamer and that passport means enough to her to have it with her all the time.

That is the power of the passport! It represents what could be. It might mean miles to fly, trains across Europe, or winding bus rides to exotic locales. Who doesn’t dream of walking through fields of lavender in Provence, riding a camel through the Valley of the Kings, or taking in the beauty and symmetry of the Taj Majal?

Putting the Power to Use

Next, you book your flight, get on the ferry, or drive across a border. When you hand your passport to the official for the first time in a new country there is a pride there, a sense of adventure, as well as anticipation in seeing these new places and cultures.

I remember taking a ferry from England to Ireland, being quite seasick in the process. However, that in no way dimmed my enthusiasm! Ireland is one of those magical places of green rolling hills, some of the friendliest people on the planet, and if you look and listen hard enough I think you will hear fairies zipping around to the tunes of Irish penny whistles.

Back to passports. When I got off the ferry, the official looked at my passport and ticket, asked a couple questions, and indicated I should go on through. I stared at him a moment, and froze in panic for just a second. Then I blurted out, “Couldn’t you please stamp my passport? I need an Irish stamp in it!”

His serious demeanor disappeared, and he laughed and obliged saying it must be my first time in country.

Passport Tips and Reminders

We will be traveling internationally as a family this year. I started pulling out the passports about six months in advance to review dates and ascertain what all needed to be updated. Here are some things to remember:

  1. Plan ahead!

    If you do not wish to expedite your passport processing (and pay a bunch more) or have to visit a passport agency, get those forms in early! At least 3 months before you travel is my advice, but check the State Department website for their application information and current processing dates: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/information/where-to-apply.html

  2. Fill in your application on-line

    You can fill in your application on-line and print it out, or print it blank at home and fill it in. Unfortunately, you can’t submit it on-line, but it’s very helpful to have everything completed before you go. Then you can take all the paperwork to your local post office or city hall to apply.

  3. Make an appointment

    Many locations now require an appointment to complete the process so call beforehand or check their website.

  4. Look out for expiration dates

    Passports are good for ten years for adults, BUT only five years for children under age 16. If your kids have had passports in the past, be sure they’re not expiring. I had to renew my daughter’s passport this year.

  5. Renew if expiring in less than 6 months

    If your passport is near the expiration date make sure it is good for at least SIX months after your planned travel. Some countries will not grant you entry if your passport is expiring in less than six months.

  6. Both parents must be present to apply for kids’ passports

    Are you getting passports for your kids? Keep in mind BOTH PARENTS must appear with the child to apply. If one parent cannot make it, there is another form that must be filled out and notarized. Generally, it’s easier for everyone to go together and get it done.

  7. A note on pictures

    When you have your passport photo taken wear a shirt without ornamentation or words across the front. Anything distracting may not be acceptable. Glasses are not allowed, and you will be encouraged not to smile. Also, a chair cannot appear in the passport photo behind the subject.

  8. Make sure everyone traveling with you meets travel requirements

    Does everyone traveling with you have a U.S. passport or another country passport? Make sure your entire party meets the requirements for each country you travel through. Don’t forget to include countries where you have only a layover to change planes.

    Many years ago, before my husband was a U.S. citizen, he was traveling on his Georgia passport. We had a transfer in Frankfort for a flight to Munich and then another flight to Tbilisi, Georgia. In order to get the flight to Munich we had to change terminals to the national flights terminal. My husband was not allowed to leave the international flight terminal because he did not have a German visa in his Georgian passport. We ended up having to buy a ticket out of the international terminal to Zurich, take another flight back to Munich, and continue with our scheduled last flight to Tbilisi. It was my fault for not figuring this out before the trip, and we certainly paid for it! (The Zurich airport was beautiful though!)

How do you celebrate when that little blue book comes in the mail?

When your passport arrives in the mail first do a little happy dance.  Allow some time to indulge in a little imagination spree about where you will go. Then, put it in a fire safe lock box, or some other location, where it can be kept safe and retrieved easily when it’s time for your trip. I suggest getting a passport holder to keep your tickets and passport while navigating airports, especially if traveling with children. It is difficult to dig out your documents while holding a child and pulling your carry-on so try a holder similar to this one.

Love your passport and the opportunities it opens up to you. You can see the world! Can you imagine?

Take advantage of your travel freedom, but realize it is a privilege not afforded to everyone. Learn about new places, definitely eat and drink well and locally, meet and respect the locals, learn from them, and breathe in the history of those who’ve gone before you.

I hope some of these passport tips and tidbits are beneficial to you! The State Department website is also user-friendly and has all the major details. Now get traveling!

 

 

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