Traveling with Young Children
I love traveling. It doesn’t matter where I am going, it doesn't matter if it's winter or summer, just as long as it involves me packing a bag. Luckily for me, I've been able to do my fair share of globe-trotting with my hubby. However, after the birth of our first child, we were a bit worried that our little bundle of joy would slow us down. Five years later, plus the addition of another bouncing baby boy and a darling little girl, we now have several trips under our belts. While I’m not claiming to be a travel expert, I have learned a thing or too along the way. So here are some of my favorite tips & tricks, listed in no particular order.
When flying, check out SeatGuru prior to purchasing tickets. There you can view the layout of the plane, & using their color-coded system identify “superior” and “substandard seats.”
Personally, when flying, I usually prefer the bulkhead. More often that not, it means more leg room and I can put the “little ones” down on the ground to play, without fear that they’ll try to climb under the seat in front of us. If your flight serves a meal (rare these days) make sure to request children’s meals.
When checking in for a flight, always ask if it’s full. Often times, if it’s not full, they can make sure you’re sitting next to an empty seat. (Trust me, if you’re traveling with a lap child, this can make a huge difference.) And generally, when the call for “pre-boarding” comes, I just ignore it. Unless you have a lot of stuff that you need to carry, I prefer to stay in the boarding area for as long as possible. If you’ve got little ones, this is a great opportunity for them to run around and get all the wiggles out.
As you probably already know, once your little one turns two, you have to buy them their own seat. (Actually the FAA strongly recommends purchasing seats for babies too because they are safer in turbulence.)
But if your kiddos are anything like mine, sitting still isn’t their greatest talent. The first option is to bring their car seat on board the plane. This idea is good, especially if you’ll be driving in a car later and ill eventually need it. Another option is to rent a car sea at your destination and bring along the CARES Airplane Harness for the flight. Personally, I prefer to use CARES. Often times I’m traveling alone and hauling the car seat along just isn’t an option. The CARES Airplane Harness fits in my travel bag, can be installed in a jiffy, and keeps my little guy in place. Awesome!
Keeping the kids busy, is one of the most important and difficult tasks of traveling. I like to pack each of my boys their own little backpack full of (quiet) toys & books. Some of our favorite items include: mini Magna Doodle, Touch & Feel Books, Eye Spy bags, mini Aqua Doodles (for really little guys that can’t quite grasp the pen, use a baby wipe!), GALLOP! a scanimation picture book, Coloring Books & Crayons, and Chalk Mats. Older kids might also enjoy: Travel Bingo, Card Games, Car & other Travel Games, Road Trip Trivia, Travel Game Board, or any of THESE printable travel activities.
Before you book your hotel, be sure to check out TripAdvisor to get the real low-down on your hotel. Read reviews from real people. I have actually changed my mind about staying at certain hotels based on reviews. And when booking, be sure to ask for a crib or an extra cot, to accommodate the little ones. Or, if you want to bring your own, the phil & teds traveler is a great option.
Packing is always my downfall. Now matter how well I plan, I always seem to bring way too much. Try to pack as light as possible. (I know, easier said than done.) The Universal Packing List is handy little tool. Answer some questions about your trip, enter some details regarding the kind of list you’d like and presto--a customized list is generated just for you! Another dandy helper is the Pack This! pad… “An exhaustive checklist of everything you could ever need.” For those of you with kids old enough to participate in the packing process, I love THIS idea of a visual packing list.
When traveling within the United States, I generally pack just enough diapers/ formula/ baby food/ etc. to last a day and then pick up what I need when I get to my destination. Sure, I end up having to stop at the grocery store, but it definitely helps lessen the load.
However, I have learned from experience, to take any and all necessities (diapers, formula, food, etc,) with me when traveling abroad. (Amazingly enough, not all diapers are created equal. and finding a grocery store at Lake Como can prove more difficult than you ever imagined.) Recently though, I’ve stumbled across the website Babies Travel Lite… they will deliver diapers, formulas, food & more to travel destinations worldwide. Sounds awesome!
Besides the kid’s backpacks, I take my own carry on. I prefer Harvey’s Carry On. It’s the perfect dumping ground for all my stuff: a change of clothes for the little babe (they get dirty sooo quickly) and a spare shirt for me (usually I get dirty too. Plus, if you just happen to get stranded somewhere over night, and they’ve already loaded your luggage, it’s nice to have a fresh shirt to wear.) A few diapers, formula, etc. (if necessary), and no matter what age your kids are… lots of baby wipes. My iPod is always loaded with the kiddos’ favorite music and movies (I always have some kid-sized earphones on hand.)
Make sure, to bring extra pacifiers, or any other comfort item you kids might love, and any necessary medications, including children’s Tylenol. (Once again, you don’t want to be stranded overnight or delayed without your necessary meds.) Don’t forget lots of yummy treats to keep the kids from getting hungry and always bring a sippy cup for the littlest travelers. My kids love fruit snacks, granola bars, string cheese, pop tarts, and I always have a few little extra surprises on hand that I can pull out, in case of emergency.
Although I usually take a stroller of some sort, I always use a baby carrier to hold my littlest one. My latest favorite is the Puj Baby Go Sling. It keeps my little guy close, while keeping both of my hands free. Whatever you choose, a baby carrier can make your life so much simpler. Several years ago we visited Turkey, Greece & Paris. My oldest sat in the stroller and I “wore” the baby… way better than having to haul a double stroller around.
The most important thing to remember when traveling is to be FLEXIBLE. No matter how much you plan, you can’t prepare for everything. Planes will be delayed & canceled. You might get lost, or travel time might take longer than you anticipated. So, when the unexpected happens, just roll with it. Remember, when it comes down to it, it’s not the destination but the journey that is important.
Now go see the world, but don’t forget to send me a postcard!
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