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Traveling with kids IS possible! I am the first to admit, routines are both a blessing and a curse. As someone who uses routines to function, it can be intimidating to travel with little ones and uproot our routines. However, some life experiences are worth the trek! When we had one child it seemed easier to postpone travel. Now that we haven’t gone anywhere for a while, the places we need to go and people we want to see have piled up.
The solution for us has been developing a travel routine that simplifies the logistics. Advance planning gives us the best chance of family fun and reduces the risk of in-transit meltdowns. (Sure, tantrums still happen on occasion… Not only for our toddler, but for me. There’s a chance I’ll go mama bear on TSA if they give me a hard time about anything, especially if they try to take my child’s food away!!!) I have learned 12 general tips for traveling with kids that make it MUCH easier!
1. Is travel necessary?
It’s important to evaluate if traveling with kids is necessary or not. A change in daily routine is difficult even for kiddos with the best behavior. Even if your children have traveled well in the past, they won’t be perfect every time. We choose to save our travel for events and places that truly matter.
2. Home base
Do you have any pets that will need to be cared for in your absence? Will you be gone for long enough that someone will need to collect your mail? Did you notify anyone who regularly provides childcare that your children will be absent? Is there anything that will come up while you’re on vacation that you can take care of before you leave or that you’ll need to remember to do while you’re on vacation – like send a birthday card or pay the electric bill? Traveling with kids is similar in many ways, but with #MomBrain a refresher of the basics is nice! Sit down and think about what will need to be taken care of around the house while we’re away. Also, I frequently delegate this to Hubbs, as he’s much better at it 😛
3. Adult travel companion
In October, I was slightly terrified to travel with kids across the country, without my husband. However, I’m tremendously lucky to have a wonderful mom who is always up for an adventure. She came to meet us so that we could all travel together. Everything is easier when you have someone else there to help; even if it’s just someone to exchange a knowing glance with when your child is melting down. Simply having someone you can hand your baby off to so that you can bend over to get something out of your carry-on bag is a tremendous help. Another person playing with your toddler for a few minutes is wonderful. Having someone to leave your stroller and bags with in the airport so that you can use the restroom unencumbered is a tremendous value.
If you must travel alone with your children, you will manage, but should you have the option to include another adult, take it!
4. Destination bucket list
Make a list of things that you want to do while you’re on vacation, otherwise *spoiler alert* they won’t happen! This is probably true even without children, but the logistics with children make simple or spontaneous outings exponentially more complex. When traveling with kids it’s essential to evaluate, is it worth being out and about during nap time? If an activity requires a long drive, perhaps you can time things out so that your child will nap on the way. Some places don’t allow children under a certain age. Sometimes transportation will require that you have car seats. There’s a lot to consider with children in tow.
What’s the climate/weather going to be like and what activities will we likely participate in while we’re there? A tropical vacation will require a different packing list than a skiing weekend. (I love this blog for great information about specific vacations; I’ve linked to an example of skiing Tahoe with kids.) Think through events that you’ll attend and activities you’ll participate in and what you’ll need for them. If a pool will be available, even just at the hotel, definitely pack swimsuits! (Swim diapers are crucial for potty-training kiddos.) My family LOVES to hike. Any time we visit we comfortable hiking footwear, even if hiking isn’t officially on the agenda. For a warm-weather vacation, I’d call ahead to make sure the hotel provides life vests and pool floats- if not, plan accordingly.
6. Travel outfits
Traveling with kids entirely changed my strategy on what to wear during travel! I dress our toddler in comfortable and BRIGHTLY colored clothing. I can’t explain the relief I feel when I can find my kiddo more quickly! Also, consider pants that are less obvious if your toddler has a potty accident to save yourself some possible embarrassment. (Our son was wearing red fleece pants when he couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time at the airport because (*mom fail*) I took his sister to change her diaper and didn’t bring him. He was with my mom and all of our stuff and she couldn’t get packed up in time to take him to the bathroom (something to keep in mind for the future ;-))
Our infant wears a onesie for blowout protection. Should poo escape the diaper, hopefully, the onesie catches it and it doesn’t soil her clothing and/or my clothing and/or anything she may be sitting on. I love pants that have the built-in feet so there’s no risk of lost socks or booties.
Wear comfortable pants, like leggings or a material that’s easily cleaned like Athleta’s Treck Tech line). These shoes are the best! The heel flips down making them like slippers so that they can be slipped on and off, but the heel also flips up so they
I layer on a sweater with pockets. I like pockets for easy access to things like my phone, chapstick, and tissue, or tickets if we’re about to board. The sweater doubles as a blanket, if the kiddos or I need one. Consider layering on a blanket scarf to be used as a blanket to cover
I pack an extra set of clothing for EACH of us in my carry-on.
BONUS TIP: If you plan to use a nursing cover or nurse in the carrier, be sure to PRACTICE before you travel. These things seem obvious, and they are once you have done them for a while, but don’t assume it’s easy the first time. Certain clothing is more conducive
7. Mental walk-through
Traveling with kids will be similar in some ways, but it’s essential to visualize each step of the process of traveling in the greatest detail you can imagine- notice exactly what the differences will be with kids along. This will help you to discover possible issues prior to your departure, which will enable you to remedy the problem so that it never becomes an issue. A good place to start is with last-minute items. What items will you need to pack immediately before leaving the house? Be certain that you have a detailed list posted near the door so that you’ll see it before you depart. That way you can double-check that you have the last-minute items that will need to make the departure with you. Additionally, share a simplified version of your mental walk-through with your toddler so he or she knows what to expect.
If anyone is hangry it negatively impacts everyone’s travel experience. Your toddler IS going to be “starving” at the most inconvenient time. Definitely pack mess-free snacks that are easy to access. Fruit and vegetable pouches are handy, but be sure to include these in the liquids bag for security. I love to have pretzels, apples, nuts, peanut butter, string cheese, protein balls, puffs, and fruit snacks are great for your toddler for take-off and landing in case he needs help getting his ears to pop.
9. Packing bags
Now that you have a list and maybe even a pile of items to be packed, I highly recommend using packing cubes. (Ziplock bags are a good alternative in a pinch.) We pack an outfit for each day of vacation, plus two extra pairs of socks and underwear and be sure to include extra pants and underwear for a potty-training toddler. Roll clothing for the kids by outfit and I use one packing cube for each kiddo. I fold the pants and shirt in half lengthwise, stack the shirt on top of the pants, followed by underwear and socks and then roll the pants up with the rest of the outfit inside them. This way I know each outfit is complete and it’s less messy than trying to find each item in a different place in my luggage each morning.
I use the folding model packing cube for my clothes and layer folded shirts and pants next to each other by
If you’ll have access to a washer and dryer and the downtime to do laundry, consider packing lighter. When you have finished packing, be sure to weigh your luggage on a bathroom scale. Nothing jacks up your stress levels like trying to repack at the check-in counter while other passengers wait or having to pay astronomical fees for a bag slightly over the limit.
10. Last-minute items
Is there a stuffed animal or comfort blanket/toy, pacifier, etc. that is crucial? Sometimes we get so used to these items in our daily lives we don’t notice them. Unfortunately, they often cannot be packed in advance, so a reminder sticky note to grab them before you leave the house can be helpful. Be sure to include any items you’ll be using that morning and will need to pack, too.
11. Jet lag remedy
This is going to sound a little crazy, but it helps. Try to plan some sort of activity for your first morning that involves exercise and your bare feet on the natural ground – like grass or the beach. Bonus points if you can incorporate saltwater, as well. This practice is called “earthing” or “grounding” and you soak up the earth’s negative charge, which reduces inflammation and leaves you feeling more refreshed. (Here’s some additional information, but I recommend trying it even if you’re skeptical!)
Exercise helps cure jet lag, so exercising on natural ground leverages benefits from both simultaneously. In the event you’re on a skiing vacation, at least you can plan a physical activity for your first morning so everyone gets some exercise. Also, drinking plenty of water can’t hurt. Traveling with kids can throw off many things, but grounding can help!
12. Other considerations
If your toddler isn’t fully potty trained, be sure to bring pull-ups. Calculate the approximate number you will
Constipation is a common travel symptom, as humans need to feel comfortable in their environment in order to relieve themselves. I pack a few pouches of prunes and feed some to the kiddos upon arrival so that they don’t become uncomfortable and can get back to their regular processing as soon as possible.
Depending on the type of trip, you may want to consider a baby monitor. When I’m going to visit family, if the layout of their home is such that I can’t easily hear when the baby wakes up, I’ll bring one. If nap time will be in our hotel room, obviously it’s not necessary.
I always bring a lactation supplement in case my milk supply decreases due to
Items you MAY NOT need to pack
Pack N Play or travel
While traveling with kids across the country to a random small town in the middle of winter for your third cousin’s wedding may not be worth it, a visit for your children to meet their great-grandparents probably is. Making sure everything is taken care of at home and ensuring you have an adult travel companion, if at all possible, are great ways to set yourself up for success. When you plan your fun activities ahead of time, it will ensure that you don’t show up to swim with the dolphins on the day the aquarium is closed. Mentally walking through the traveling process and anticipated activities
Flying with an infant and a toddler can still be challenging, but with this routine, it’s a little less overwhelming. What are your best traveling tricks for life with