Traveling with kids can be easier, on the road and in the airport

Vivian and Caroline ready for their trip. (Sparks family)
Tips for traveling with kids
Traveling with kids

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Traveling is typically fun and carefree, but as many of you know, traveling with kids (especially younger ones) can be its own adventure.

Ben Hill, his wife Holly and his daughter Harper.

For our family, traveling with our 8-month-old daughter has been humbling. It’s much harder than we ever thought it would be, but it’s worth it to take her places and see family we don’t often get to see.

Obviously, whether you're in the car or on a plane with your kids, it’s a little easier if you're prepared. I traveled down to the south side to talk to a Greenwood family who frequently take long car trips, to get seven simple tips from them, that you might already use, and if not, you could add them to your “travel arsenal.”

Corey, Lauren, Caroline and Vivian. (Sparks family)
All packed up to go. (Sparks family)
Caroline and Vivian ready for the trip. (Sparks family)
Vivian getting ready for the trip. Notice the separate screens for each. (Sparks family)
Vivian enjoying the trip. (Sparks family)
Caroline and Vivian enjoying the trip. (Sparks family)
Vivian playing with toys. (Sparks family)
Caroline and Vivian sleeping in the car. (Sparks family)
Caroline having a snack in the car. (Sparks family)

Lauren and Corey Sparks have two girls under the age of five. Still, it doesn’t stop them from traveling down to Florida. Perhaps that’s because they’ve learned some good lessons along the way.

First, don't set expectations so high, especially for long road trips.

"What used to be a 10 hour trip is now a 12 hour trip with the girls,” Corey Sparks said.

Since Corey admits he handles most of the driving, he also advises to break up the drive. The Sparks stop about every three hours on long trips.

"Basically based on [length of] movies,” Lauren Sparks said.

Which gets us to another tip, which is almost essential in this day and age: have tablets, movies, books and toys for entertainment.

Lauren Sparks still keeps it “old school” on drives. "We have DVD players in the car. Each one plays a specific movie, I mean whatever movie they want!” Lauren said.

She says having separate headphones for each child is a huge help, so mom and dad don't have to hear two movies at once while they drive.

Lauren warns “don't give it all to them at once.” She says her girls can only take so many movies at at time. They pre-plan the movies and books before the trip with the girls so they feel a part of the travel prep process.

The girls also help select the snacks. This tip is for every parent who’s heard “I’m hungry!” one too many times. So, pack plenty of snacks, and a variety of them. That way, the Sparks say, you hopefully stop a little less during the drive.

Speaking of stopping, this tip is counterintuitive to what we did when I was a kid. The Sparks say when stopping for meals, don't pick up food to eat in the car. You might be tempted to make the trip quicker by going through the drive-thru, but they say to avoid the temptation. The reason is there can be benefits to stopping.

“Get the kids out, have them run around, stretch their legs, burn off a little energy,” Corey said. The Sparks say maybe you'll get lucky and the kids will fall asleep for a bit.

Other Tips

Speaking of sleep, this tip might be hard for those who love sleeping in. The Sparks say they set their alarm for 2 a.m. and try to be on the road by 3 a.m. for any long road trips.

“It's hard for us because we're tired. But, it makes it a heck of a lot easier with the girls, because then they're tired and they'll just go back to sleep," Sparks said.

Sometimes their girls will sleep for half the trip and maybe that will work for you! Its worth a shot, right?

Finally, for all those parents of multiple kids, you probably know what it’s like when kids argue over an item. Well, the Sparks have a simple solution. If there's more than one child traveling with you, make sure there's one of almost everything for each one.

“That's key [for us] whatever it is, we need to have two! Double!" Sparks said.

This way, the Sparks say, they're not "fighting" in the backseat over the same thing. If that doesn’t work, and you grow frustrated try to keep this in mind: “The time's always fleeting. Even if they're crying and throwing things in the back, it won't be that way forever,” Corey said. "It's really not that bad. You're gonna get through it!"

The Sparks say they'll really be put to the test soon, because they're going to try flying with the girls to Disney World, instead of making the drive.

Ben and Holly's airport tips

As a frequent flyer with our daughter, a lot of the "car" principles apply to planes, just always check TSA recommendations before you fly so you’re prepared once you arrive at the airport.

If you haven’t invested in a light, or portable stroller that’s easy to check at the gate — try it — it’s been a big help for us! Also, if your child is younger like ours, having plenty of “comfort” items your child is familiar with: a blanket, pacifier, toy has worked wonders with our daughter Harper.

Also, always try for the aisle seat to have a little more room to maneuver if your child is sitting in your lap.

Try to sit as close to the front of the plane as possible and hope you have kind neighbors.

Make sure you know what you can bring in the diaper bag, in case they have an “accident” while on board. You can always check the TSA website for the latest regulations.

Good luck and Godspeed!

TSA Screening of Children

  • Children 12 and under can leave their shoes, light jackets and head wear on during screening.
  • Children will not be separated from their parent/guardian.
  • Remove infants and children from their carriers and carry them in your arms through the walk-through metal detector.
  • Infants may be carried in a sling through the walk-through metal detector but may be subject to additional screening.
  • Modified screening procedures are in place to reduce the likelihood of a pat-down.
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