21 Tips for Traveling with a Nervous Child


Family vacations are supposed to be a time for fun, relaxation and adventure; a time to make fun and lasting memories that you can all look back on and cherish. However, if your child is nervous of travel, it can be more of a nightmare filled with tantrums and tears than anything else. But, you know what? It doesn’t have to be that way! You can, with the right prep, return your nervous child to an adventurous one and ensure your next holiday is more plain sailing than stormy seas…

Pre-Trip Preparation

1. Talk About the Trip

One of the best ways to ease travel anxiety in children is to take the time to actually talk to them about the next trip you’re planning to take. Do this well in advance of your departure date, and they will get more and more used to the idea as time goes by.

How should you talk to them? Start by describing where you will be going and all of the fun things you will do and see there. Then, move on to talking about what you will need to do at the airport, how the plane will work and do on. The more they know, the less fear of the unknown they will have.

2. Visual Countdown

Who doesn’t love a good countdown? Marking off the days on a calendar or creating a fun visual board can turn the wait into an exciting countdown to D-Day. This not only builds anticipation but also gives your child a clear sense of when the trip will happen, which can help them feel more prepared and in control.

3. Involve Them in Planning

This might sound like a recipe for disaster but giving your child a voice when you are planing your next family holiday might be the best thing you ever do for your trip. Yous see, when a child has a say in something and is able to help plan things, then they will naturally be more excited to participate in it. So, if they want to take a day trip to the zoo while you’re on holiday or spend a weekend at the beach, try to accommodate them if you can. It’ll mean they’re truly along for the ride instead of being dragged on holiday despite their protests.

Packing Essentials

4. Comfort Items

A familiar plush toy can work wonders for a nervous child. This isn’t just any old toy—it’s a piece of home, a security blanket in tangible form. Make sure this essential buddy is on your packing list, preferably in your child’s carry-on or hand luggage so it’s always within easy reach.

5. Surprise Packs

Every parent knows the value of a good distraction. Prepare little packs of goodies to be handed out at different stages of the trip. You might include a new book, a small toy, or a puzzle. For older children, consider items like a journal to write down their experiences, a disposable camera, or travel games. These surprises can help shift their focus from anxiety to excitement at key moments.

6. Favorite Snacks

Never underestimate the power of snacks when you are traveling with any children, let alone nervous ones. Hunger can make anyone cranky and less able to handle stress, and this is even more true for children. Pack a good supply of their favorite snacks, balancing treats with healthy options. Think cut-up fruits and veggies, granola bars, or string cheese—snacks that are not only tasty but also stabilising.

As the departure day arrives and excitement builds, managing the journey itself becomes the next hurdle to clear. Whether you’re cruising at 30,000 feet, rolling on the rails, or hitting the highway, here’s how to keep the travel day from unravelling into chaos.

During the Journey

7. Dress Comfortably

First rule of travel club: Dress comfortably. Tight, restrictive clothing can turn even the shortest trips into a nightmare, especially for kids who might already be anxious. Opt for loose, breathable clothing and layers that can easily be adjusted for temperature changes in cars, planes, and airports. And remember, comfy shoes are a must, especially if you’re navigating large terminals or tourist sites.

8. Regular Breaks

If you’re driving, you are definitely going to want to plan for regular pit stops. Kids need to stretch their legs and burn off energy. The same goes for long train rides or layovers at airports. Use these breaks for bathroom visits, a quick snack, or just a few minutes of playing a tag or catch. It breaks the monotony and helps dissipate pent-up energy.

9. Games and Activities

Prevent boredom and keep anxiety at bay with a list of travel-friendly games and activities. Classic car games like “I Spy” or “20 Questions” are great for older children, while colouring books or sticker books might be better for younger ones. Also, consider travel versions of popular board games, or download interactive game apps designed specifically for kids.

Use Technology Wisely

10. Favorite Shows and Apps

In this digital age, a tablet or smartphone can be a lifesaver. Load it up with your child’s favourite shows, movies, and apps before you leave. Make sure you have headphones to avoid disturbing other passengers. Screen time rules might be relaxed during travel, especially if it helps keep the peace.

11. Apps for Anxiety

There are several apps available designed to help soothe anxiety in children. Apps with calming music, bedtime stories, or guided breathing exercises can be particularly useful during long stretches of travel or if your child starts feeling overwhelmed.

Managing Airport Stress

12. Early Arrival

Airports can be stressful environments for adults, let alone children. Arriving early can help alleviate the rush and reduce stress. This extra time allows for a more relaxed check-in, security screening, and even some exploration of the airport with your child to make them feel more comfortable with their surroundings.

13. Explain Security

Security checks can be particularly intimidating for children. Explain the process before you get to the airport, so they know what to expect. Let them know that it’s just like a superhero checkpoint, making sure everyone is safe to fly. You can even make a game out of putting items in the bins or taking off shoes.

As you navigate through the challenges of the journey, remember that keeping a calm and positive demeanour yourself will help reassure your nervous child. Kids often pick up on parental anxiety, so staying relaxed can help them stay calm. In the final section, we’ll explore settling into your destination and post-trip reflections to ensure your family vacation is memorable for all the right reasons. Stay tuned for more tips on how to make your trip an enjoyable and stress-free experience for the entire family.

On Arrival: Settling In

Upon reaching your destination, the real adventure begins—but so does the challenge of adjusting to a new environment, which can be tough for a nervous child.

14. Keep a Familiar Routine

Wherever you land, try to establish some familiar routines quickly. If bedtime stories are part of your nightly ritual at home, continue them during your trip. This helps to signal to your child that some things remain constant, no matter where you are in the world.

15. Unpack Essential Items First

Help your child settle in by unpacking their favourite items first, such as their plush toy or special blanket. Setting up a familiar space with their own belongings can make a strange new hotel room or rental feel more like home.

16. Dealing with Meltdowns

Even with the best preparations, meltdowns can happen. It’s natural and okay. Handling them with patience and understanding is key.

17. Recognize the Signs

Be on the lookout for early signs of distress. If you notice your child becoming overwhelmed, intervene early by providing comfort, distraction, or a break from the activity.

18. Create Quiet Zones

Find a quiet corner or a less crowded area where you can retreat with your child if they feel overwhelmed. Sometimes a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle can make a huge difference.

19. Post-Trip Reflection

After your adventure, it’s important to reflect on the experience, both to acknowledge the successes and to learn from the challenges.

20. Reflect on the Experience

Sit down with your child and discuss the trip. What parts did they enjoy? What would they like to do differently next time? This can be a valuable learning experience for future travels.

21. Reward the Efforts

Don’t forget to celebrate the journey! Acknowledge your child’s bravery and resilience. Whether it’s a small treat or a fun day out, make sure they know their efforts are appreciated.

traveling with a nervous child can test your patience, but it’s also an opportunity to teach your kids valuable life skills like resilience and stress management, so it is definitely worth taking the time to actively engage in the process and do what you can do to make them feel better about traveling Not only will it make for a much easier journey, but it will also help you to build bonds and bring up a happier, healthier, stronger child in the future.

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Size guide

Size Waist Length
12-18 Months 18" 8-9"
2T 19" 10"
3T 19 1/2" 10"
4T 20" 10"
5T 20 1/2" 10 1/2"
6-7T 21" 11"

Youth size guide

  X-Small (YXS) Small (YS) Medium (YM) Large (YL) X-Large (YXL)
Chest 31 34 36 38 40
Width Measurement (inches) 15.5 17 18 19 20
Length Measurement (inches) 19.5 21.5 23 25 26.5
Size Equivalent 2-4 6-8 10-12 14-16 16-18