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9 Tricks Parents Use to Make Traveling with Kids Less of a Hassle

Use these tips for a stress-free family vacation.

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Keep things familiar

“Travel is inherently stressful,” says Seth Kaplan, managing partner of Airline Weekly and father of a 16-month-old girl. “You can’t change that travel is different from the bedroom at home, but to the extent that you can make it familiar is helpful.” He suggests keeping kids busy with books, tablets, and other portable playthings they’re used to seeing at home.

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Pick your plane seat strategically

Letting your kid take the aisle seat on a plane will make standing up and down even easier, and being near the bathroom is convenient when your little one needs a potty break. Sitting in the back seems like it would hold things up while you’re trying to hurry off the plane, but it will make things easier in the long run. “It’s almost not a bad thing to not be part of the rush to get off,” Kaplan says. “You just don’t want to be in a rush where you might forget something. Calmly look around you.” Leaving your cell phone off until you reach the terminal can also help you stay focused in the frenzy, he says. Find out secrets your pilot won’t tell you here.

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Travel during nap time if you can

If you know your kids get drowsy at a certain time of day, try to be in the car or plane during that time. Instead of getting squirmy and bored, kids will be able to snooze the time away.

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Pack travel-safe snacks

Chocolate melts and a sleeve of crackers can get crushed. Kaplan opts for healthy options like blueberries and suggests keeping dry snacks like chips and crackers in a solid, durable container instead of using the sleeve they come in. “The trade-off is you don’t want to lug yourself down with too much stuff,” he says. “It’s tricky because you don’t want to pack things so compactly that they don’t hold up.”

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Empty your pockets before going through security

Before you reach security, take your keys, loose change, and phone out of your pocket and slip it into a pocket on your luggage. This way, instead of scrambling to gather all your family’s belongings, you’ll only need to worry about putting shoes, liquids, and your laptop in the bin, Kaplan says.

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Consider renting or borrowing

Although airlines will let you check a car seat for free, Kaplan says he tends to rent one at his destination for about $10 a day. “If you carry a car seat through the terminal, that’s a huge thing to lug,” he says. If you’re visiting relatives, you might be able to borrow a crib or other gear from their neighbors or friends. If your hotel doesn’t have what you need, some third-party services offer rentals, or you can always buy cheap items secondhand and then donate them back when you leave to save space.

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Give older kids rolling luggage

A rolling suitcase will be much easier for a child to carry than a duffel bag, and a backpack is even easier. You’ll have less to carry yourself, and they’ll feel more adult when they can contribute. Here are items you probably don’t need to pack on vacation.

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Pack each day’s clothes individually

Instead of throwing all clothes loose into one bag, pack outfits for each day in their own gallon-sized zip-top plastic bags to make it easier to know if you have enough days’ worth of clothes. The bags can double as laundry bags once you’ve worn the clothes.

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Sign up for TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck lets you get through security without taking out your laptop or liquids, or taking off your shoes, belt, or jacket. A five-year membership costs $85 for adults, but kids under 12 can tag along with their parents without their own membership. “It vastly minimizes the risk of losing something at the other side of the X-ray machine, and kids are happier because you get through security a lot faster,” Kaplan says. “If you can afford it, it’s sure nice to have for the next five years.”

Sources: Parents, Parenting, WalkingOnTravels.com

Originally Published in Reader's Digest