Traveling with children is a formula for stress. Crying babies on the plane, tired kids whining at the airport, jet lag — not to mention all that gear to lug around. But if you’re organized, you can minimize snags and maximize the fun. And much of the organizing is in the bag — inexpensive, resealable plastic bags, that is. (You’ll see.)

My husband and I are grandparents now but have logged tens of thousands of miles of worldwide travel with our children. Here are some things we learned along the way.

Related: Germ-Free Flying

Before

you go

Picture

your trip.

Prepare your kids for travel with

pictures of people you'll see and places you'll go. Consider buying a few inexpensive cameras the kids can use to keep them occupied and help them remember things they saw on the trip.

Involve kids in the preparations. One way is to help them make small gifts for people you'll be visiting.

Plan

for play.

Make activity packets with books,

paper and crayons or washable markers packed in resealable plastic bags. Hit

a local dollar store and fill a bag with small toys that do not make noise,

like coloring or sticker books, games, a deck of cards or glow-in-the-dark

sticks. Bring out just one at a time once you’re on the plane as surprises to

entertain restless tots.

Scholastic offers printable and online games.

Also make tickets,

tokens or vouchers redeemable for a variety of small rewards or a little

souvenir that children can earn for good behavior.

Related: Travel Abroad Checklist: 8 Documents You Need

Schedule flights strategically. If your kids can sleep on the plane, consider a flight that coincides with their nap time, or even an overnight flight.

Book the right seats. Book your tickets well in advance so you can get the seating arrangements you prefer. If you're traveling with a baby, request bulkhead seats and one of the bassinets that attach to the wall.

Plan for emergencies. Wherever you go, have a plan for what to do if you in the unlikely event you and your child are separated. Show children a specific easy-to find location at airports, museums or markets where they can safely stand and wait for you to find them. Also talk to them about how to find a security person who can help them locate you.

Use your phone or camera to photograph each child in the clothes they are wearing that day for easier identification by others if they wander off.

Pack practically. Packing light is key, but it’s tricky when kids are

involved. Avoid packing what you can easily buy

at your destination, like extra diapers. Pack a bag for each person — don’t

share. Finding what you need once you arrive at your destination will be easier

if everyone has their own bag. Also, to streamline the process of kids getting dressed

each day, consider packing and labeling

each day’s outfit in a resealable

plastic bag.

In your carry-on bag, pack a complete change of clothing for your child. Put some moist facecloth or wipes in a resealable bag for quick cleanups.

Make a list of

everything in each suitcase, and put a copy in each suitcase so you can refer

to it when packing to go home — it’s a good way to avoid leaving things behind.

Related: The Worst Clothing Mistakes American Tourists Make

Investigate whether it makes sense to rent larger items (like a car seat or stroller) once you’re there instead of bringing your own. If you’re renting a car, you can check whether the car rental company will provide a complimentary or low-cost car seat — but it may be safer to bring your own.

Pack some large and small plastic bags. Large black plastic trash bags can

block out light in a bright room or provide a dry surface to sit on. Plastic grocery

bags can hold shoes, laundry or other soiled items. Pack some

compression

bags

to

reduce the space your clothing takes up if you need to make room for souvenirs

and gifts on the trip home.

Airport

advice

Explain

the airport security process to kids.

Do this before you go to the airport so your children understand their

treasured items will leave their possession and go through a security scanner. Warn

older children that joking to security personnel about things like explosives

could delay the trip —

or

worse.

Related: Baby on Board: The Best Way to Fly with an Infant or

Toddler

Lighten your load. Put your jackets in your checked luggage once you are in the airport and pull them out when you arrive at your destination. This saves space and simplifies getting through security.

Add wheels. If you don’t check your stroller, it will have to go through the security scanner. However, the inconvenience may be worth it because it’s handy for transporting baby gear when dashing between flights. Then you can check it at the gate.

Keep baby’s ears comfortable. Nurse or give her a bottle during take-off and landing to help ease air pain. Or, if she uses a pacifier, encourage her to suck on it. A child age 4 or over can suck on a lollipop or piece of hard candy.

Related: Lost Your Passport While Abroad? Here’s What to Do

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Linda Fasteson is an award-winning writer with who specializes in travel tips for Baby Boomers. In addition to her Sunday newspaper travel feature stories, Baby Boomer Travel and Travel Deal columns, and website, NotableTravels.com, she has been a panelist for major publications and international tourism boards and is a contributor to a variety of magazines, forums and reviews.