When you have kids you take trips, not vacations. That's not my line, it's from a Huff Post article but it totally helped me to set expectations for our trips. Because let's face it, travel with kids is NO JOKE. It can be equal parts exhausting and rewarding.
Pre-kids I was a dreamer and saw over 40 countries on 6 continents. Travel happens less now but still try to at least twice a year. I'm no expert but I've logged enough miles with tiny humans and survived. So here's my advice for travel with kids: don't do it (JK). Here's 9 things I've learned to make a trip go (more) smoothly.
1. Take a stroller. Baby wearing is great for IDK like 40mins or so but then you get sweaty, tired, and need a break. If your stroller can accommodate more than one kid like ours, even better. You can gate check your stroller for free with most airlines, which means you can use it in the airport and then pass it off to the flight attendant while you board. We don't use a stroller bag but if you want to protect your whip use one like this or this.
2. Board the plane early. Most airlines let families with kids board first. This gives you a few extra minutes to get settled while the plane is empty and ensures you get overhead compartment space directly above your seats before it fills up. Convenient for when your kids asks for a million things you put in your carry on. Ugh.
3. Snacks and books are your friend. I don't know about your family but for mine snacks solve EVERYTHING. I pack a variety of snacks in travel cups and bowls (or here and here in Canada) and use them as bribes/threats during travel. Make sure there's a few treat ones for desperate times (my toddler likes these). And a new activity book (here in Canada) can eat up at least a half hour on the plane. Best money ever spent.
4. Bring kids headphones. We pack toddler headphones that my 3 year old can use with his iPad or the airplane seatback TV. He likes to feel like a grown up and it keeps him busy (read: quiet). Life saver. Oh, and Netflix lets you download a few shows now for on-the-go, so Paw Patrol on repeat.
5. Feed at take off/landing. Kids have a hard time equalizing at take off and landing. If your babe is still nursing, I find feeding them at these times helps a lot. If they're older then a sippy cup with water can help them out. If you bring an empty sippy cup (here in Canada) the flight attendant will fill it with water, juice or milk as soon as board.
6. Limit your bags. Less is better. Most airlines will give you extra baggage allowance for kids (diaper bag to carry on, 2 checked baby items) and if your child is older than 2 and you paid for a seat then they get a carry on and checked bag too. So it's tempting to bring ALL the things. But remember you'll need a hand to push the stroller and little kids WILL NOT carry their own bag (I'm looking at you Trunki). Also, trunk space in your rental car at your destination will be limited if you bring a stroller. You've been warned.
7. Plan for car seats. Unless you're taking public transport at your destination, you have two options: bring your own car seat(s) or rent at your destination. If you bring them most airlines let you check them for free in oversized luggage in a travel bag (here in Canada). Upside is that it's roomy and you can shove other things in like a Dockatot. Downside is that it can be a pain to lug to and from the airport. Second option is to rent them from the car rental company at your destination. Both cases will have you installing them in your car at the airport (rental companies don't want the liability of installing). Out of the two options, I prefer to bring my own, but mostly because I'm a control freak.
8. Do not bring a pack n play. Every place I've ever traveled to has been able to provide a pack n play for baby to sleep. Call your hotel ahead if time and reserve one (just bring a clean fitted sheet). Most hotels will have it set up in-room for you when you check in. Air BnBs also often have them available. There was only one time we didn't have access to one and I was able to find a local rental service to drop one off.
9. Schedule an activity just for kids. I always try to plan at least one special activity at our destination just for them to look forward to. On our trip to California it was surfing in Santa Cruz and the Monterrey Bay aquarium. In Whistler it was ski lessons and a tree top walk at Capilano.
Okay, those are my tips. Remember that travel is HARD for kids. There's a lot of change and new stuff can be overwhelming. They often don't know what's happening next, and nap time sometimes doesn't happen. So put on your patient pants. Try to tell them what's happening next. Drink lots of parenting juice (aka, coffee in the morning, wine after that, LOL). Enjoy the ride.
Ooh! And I'm pulling together my Top Picks for Traveling with Kids to post this week. Meantime you can shop our twinning outfits with the below links.
Give me some comment love and let me know if these tips are helpful or more like NOPE.