We are a family that loves to travel. Whether we venture out as a family of five, a smaller subset, or even solo, we are always on the go. Our journeys have taken us to Asia, South America, the Caribbean and all across Europe. We have gone on long trips, short trips, plane trips, boat trips, road trips…..we have pretty much done it all. I have talked to countless mamas that are terrified at the thought of traveling with their littles, and I’m here to tell you that you can do it! If you break the trip down into manageable steps, you might just find that you not only look forward to family adventures, you may even have some fun while doing it. Really. Over the years, I have learned some tips and tricks that will hopefully make your holiday travel a little less stressful. Remember, the most important thing is preparation. So if you take the time to plan in advance and follow my tips, it’ll make the world a difference.
1. Stick to Normal Routines
It always helps to stay true to your child’s daily routine. One of my top tips when flying is to book your flight according to when your kids usually nap or sleep for the night. When flying overnight, we make a ritual out of changing into our PJ’s at the airport and getting the kids excited for a “sleep over”. It helps the kids know what is expected and calm them down when you’re in for the long haul.
2. FedEx is Your Friend
If you are going to be traveling for a week or more, we recommend shipping a box of essentials to your destination. You’d be amazed at how much room diapers, feeding supplies and favorite snacks take up in your luggage!
If you are only traveling for a few days however, keep it light and only bring what is truly necessary. Keeping luggage pieces to a minimum is essential, but admittedly tricky to do when trying to cram more than one family member into the same bag. One of my favorite tricks is to use vacuum-seal travel bags to make more space and keeping things organized, eliminating the stress of finding things on the other end. You can also use these bags to pack 2 days of clothing and essentials for each traveler in their carry-on bag. Lost bags during peak holiday travel times is not uncommon and not fun AT ALL. It’s best to be prepared.
3. Keep the Kids Busy!
Believe it or not, I’ve actually been able to read a book or magazine while flying with my littles with a little advance preparation. Pack a backpack for each child and fill it with surprises. Wrap each “gift” 5 times and prepare a simple scavenger hunt to go along with it. Use simple things like, “find a lady wearing polka dots”, “someone in a blue hat”, “a red and white plane”, “a cloud that looks like a duck”, you get the idea. For every 3 things they find, the kids get to unwrap a layer of their gift! Not only does this keep the kids busy, it promotes collaborative play between them. Score!
In addition to the gifts, always bring a charged i-Pad (perhaps try loading a few new apps they haven’t seen before), kid-approved headphones, coloring books or our favorite, dry-erase boards and Crayola Color Wonder Pads, travel-sized games like Connect Four.
4. Diaper Duty
If you are still changing diapers, I highly recommend Training Wee Wee Pads for pets. They are amazing as disposable changing pads, (we all know those public changing tables are not the most sanitary of places!) and also great for any spills or spit-ups that happen along the way.
5 & 6. Rollin’ With Your Homies
Wheels… I can’t get enough of them! With kids under five, always bring a stroller. Not only is it useful for the long airport gate walks but also for navigating through the streets of your destination. You end up walking so much more when on vacation than you normally do and little legs have a hard time keeping up. Our saving grace is the YOYO stroller by Babyzen. It’s carry-on approved (it fits down the aisle!), and can easily get you through the narrowest of streets in any given European city.
For older kids, we love the amazing creations behind the pull along luggage from Trunki or Jet Kids. The latter has the added feature of turning into a bed…game-changer for the babies/toddlers! Both have ample room for the kid’s to pack their belongings and either scoot themselves or have you pull them along.
7. Wear Layers!
Something (or someone!) always spills when we are on the road. It’s always good to layer up on clothing to battle those inevitable messes. I usually have 2 tanks (yes, 2! Just peel one off if one gets messy!), a T-shirt with a cardigan or a top with slits if you are still breastfeeding. Remember to keep it comfy and chic however so your clothes are wearable beyond the plane. It’s all about mixing and matching and making as many outfits with as few items as possible!
It’s essential to bring snacks in your carry-on to keep kids busy and also cover you if you get delayed. We like to pack squeeze pouches, granola bars, non-mushy veggies and fruits like celery, carrots, sliced apples, as well as nuts and little sandwiches. Sturdy packaging is key! Leakproof bento boxes are wonderful for bringing a variety in a compact way. We also find items designed for camping are generally really great for any type of travel. One of our favorites are the Ecoart silicone collapsible bowl and cup – It is a major space saver and always comes into good use.
9. The Gift of Time
Give yourself t-i-m-e. There is nothing worse than rushing to catch a flight with kids in tow – it just throws everything off from the start. The biggest piece of advice (partnered with doing the extra prep work) is to add an extra hour to your routine. Having the extra hour to get through traffic, the extra long security line and anything else that will inevitably pop up, is definitely worth it.
10. Traveling with Kids Doesn’t Suck!
To make your trip extra sweet, don’t forget to pack the kiddies a lollipop for take-off and landing. The pressure change can be really painful for them (and you!) and the extra swallowing helps to keep plugged ears to a minimum. We’ve started using POP-rings as they tend to stay in their hands and off the chair (or their neighbor) better than a traditional lollipop.
With a little advance preparation, I promise your trip will be so much better than you have envisioned. And if for some reason, it isn’t, at least you’ve created family memories and hopefully a few funny stories to share for years to come. Happy Travels!!!
Alexandra Gizela has been in the fashion and entertainment industry for over 25 years, having started her career with the Ford Modeling Agency at the age of eight. She went on to graduate cum laude from Skidmore College where she double majored in Business Administration and Anthropology. It was here that she first became fascinated with Andean culture, specifically the centuries long traditions of weaving and hand-knits; this is what served as inspiration for the debut collection of her infant and children’s accessories line, Cabbages & Kings.