We’ve been traveling a lot lately – four of the last five weekends we’ve been out of town. We didn’t do this intentionally – it just happened.
The truth is we’ve never been ones to let our kids keep us from doing something. Though traveling with kids can be hard, a well organized parent will go a long way to keeping it enjoyable.
Here’s a few tips for your adventure:
Make lists! Lists help my frazzled travel brain keep up with all the little loose ends that I might forget. Last year when Evie was 3.5 and Alvy was 18 months old we all went to Puerto Rico for a week. I made this worksheet to help me plan our packing.
In the two weeks leading up to the trip, before I could actually start packing, I started brainstorming things we might need to take with us. It helped me plan how we were going to manage the kids and the things I would need to take to make sure the trip was successful. It was much easier to do this in the morning over a cup of coffee while my brain was fresh instead of while I was rushing around the house in a panic looking for Alvy’s other shoe.
Know your destination. Get on the internet, call the hotel, ask friends. Find out as much as you can about your destination. Does your hotel room have a pullout? Rollaway? Crib? Refrigerator? Continental breakfast? Coffee in the room? Restaurant in the lobby? Find out as much as you can so you can prepare for your stay. An informed parent is a prepared parent!
Choose fewer bags! It’s much easier to juggle one larger bag than three smaller bags. Even for easy weekend road trips I take my rolling suitcase and pack the kids stuff in with mine. To keep everything separated I use packing cubes. The ones I got are from REI but you can find similar ones at Target.
If you don’t want to buy packing cubes go get some mesh bags used for washing sweaters. I got some for $2 each at the grocery store. They’re also great for putting dirty laundry in your luggage.
Keep necessities close at hand. When we fly, I use my backpack as our diaper bag and put the Sugar Snap Files in to keep everything organized. They keep stuff from falling to the bottom of the backpack and getting lost, which happened a lot prior to using them. When I need to change Alvy’s diaper, all I have to do is grab the “Dipes + Wipes” file and I don’t have to lug my whole big backpack to the bathroom. The more I use them, the more I love these silly files.
To keep messes at bay, I take a few baby wipes out of the package prior to leaving the house and put it in a zip top bag so I can put them in an outside pocket of my bag or in the seat back pocket on the plane. They’ve come in very handy when I’ve had to break out the emergency bag of mini Oreos to make it through the last 15 minutes of a flight – Momma needs supplies ready to clean up the aftermath, lest the plane window get smeared with Oreo hands!
For road trips I always keep napkins in a zip top baggie in the glove box, along with bendy straws stored in a toothbrush holder.
Pack food! Hungry kids are cranky kids! Snacks, stuff for sandwiches, cereal, etc. anything you can eat in a hotel room will save you money. Though eating out with kids is possible and sometimes enjoyable – no one wants to go through that kind of stress three times a day.
If you are flying and can’t take food with you try to visit a grocery store when you reach your destination so you can stock up.
Utilize the car seat! If your kid is over two and has their own seat take your car seat on the plane. Not only is it safer but they’re used to sitting in it for long periods of time and it’ll keep your two year old from wanting to climb on you for four hours. If you’re flying with a lap child, before you board the plane ask the airline staff if the flight is full. If it’s not, they’re likely to let you take your car seat on board with you and relocate the passenger beside you so you can strap your child in an empty seat.
Take toys! Bigger toys are better for car travel and are easier to find in a messy hotel room. Small toys are better for plane travel.
If you’re traveling by plane with more than one child remember that you may be split up. Each child needs their own bag of entertainment. When we fly each of our kids take their own backpacks which which are full of age appropriate toys for the flight.
Protect their sleep! Take books they are familiar to them, any loveys they’re used to sleeping with and stick as closely to their sleep routine and schedule as you can manage. A well rested kid is a happy kid! Does your kid take afternoon naps? Plan your day around the nap – have fun in the morning and retreat to the hotel room for an family siesta then head back out in the evening.
A word on hotel cribs…they can be questionable or they can be awesome. There’s really no way to know until you get there. If your child is particular about their sleeping environment and you’re not flying I’d advise you to take your own crib if you can.
Manage your expectations! As with anything related to children they are unpredictable. Realize that you can’t take them to a nice dinner or on roller coasters. Don’t plan on doing something that you can’t do as a family. Know that maybe you won’t be able to go on that 10 mile hike through the rainforest and opt for the 45 minute tour instead.
With a little careful planning and organization, traveling with kids isn’t just possible it’s enjoyable! There will be rough patches and it won’t be easy but it will be worth it in the memories you make! Go pack your bags and get ready for an adventure!
What are your favorite tips for traveling with kids? Do you have any favorite travel hacks?