Before my daughter was born, taking a vacation was a luxury I didn’t quite appreciate as much as I should have. There really were just three steps needed. Pick a destination. Pack my bags. Enjoy! Of course, there were some bumps along the way at times, but truly, traveling with just my husband and myself meant that whatever hurdles came along we could tackle them without too much trouble. Even a day without our luggage in Belize was manageable. Good thing my carry-on included a swimsuit!
But now, with a 6-month-old to tow along, taking a trip seems a bit more …. daunting. We’ve only attempted one trip in her short life, and that was a three-hour car ride to visit family! Though I want to be a parent who shares my love for travel with my kids, the prospects of even getting out the door in the mornings are sometimes nearly impossible. How will we ever get away again? I’ve posed this question and many more to a few fellow mom friends with kids under age 5. All have been there, done that and not only survived their trips — they had fun, too! Hopefully with their tips, all parents with young kids will muster up the courage to get out and explore the world!
Pint-Sized Packing Tips
Sometimes packing for myself is a challenge, what with my tendency to bring eight pairs of shoes for a weekend trip. And this is in spite of access to helpful packing light tricks from expert travelers. Packing for a baby? That might require its own moving truck! Here’s the advice I’ve received to make it out without taking the whole house:
“Packing your kid’s clothes as outfits is a must, rather than just throwing in random shirts and bottoms.” – Lindsay Austin, mom of 2
“If you’re staying for a long period, plan to do some laundry instead of bringing clothes for every single day. Let’s be honest, at the rate that children generate laundry, you’ll probably need to do some anyway!” – Amelia Leicht, mom of 2
“Lists! I start making lists in the notes section of my phone as soon as I have a trip planned.” – Ashley Shonkwiler, mom of 3
“If you need equipment like strollers, pack-and-plays, or carseats, consider renting them at your destination. Ship any necessary items ahead of time — we’ve ordered diapers, soap, shampoo and formula from Amazon and had it shipped directly to our destination.” – Amelia Leicht, mom of 2
“We always make sure we have all security essentials (blankets, bears, even some favorite monster trucks to take to bed when sleeping somewhere different from home).” – Whitney Lyons, mom of 2
On Banishing Boredom:
“A friend told me to get window clings for the airplane so they can continuously stick them to the window. Going to try that next time! “ – Shannon Cairns, mom of 2
“When in doubt, snack. This will save your life. Literally. If you sense a meltdown, open a snack. It’s magic.” – Amelia Leicht, mom of 2
“Technology always helps. My kids each have their own iPad. Some mess-free activities that are fun and easy for kids and parents are The Crayola Color Wonder series. They are wonderful!” – Ashley Shonkwiler, mom of 3
“We like to bring the books that have a bunch of stories in them. That way you can read the whole time, and not have to worry about keeping track of a ton of small books.” – Tiffany Cassidy, mom of 4
“Pack lots of snacks and new toys to discover along the trip. We use the iPad for entertainment once all other options have been exhausted.” – Lindsay Austin, mom of 2
If you’re on the fence about whether to pack a certain item that probably won’t get used, leave it at home.
Planning Your Stay
“Bring the grandparents! We chose an extended-stay hotel on a recent trip so that we could all stay in the same room, but have our private space as well.” – Rachel Kretchmar, mom of 2
“Read the reviews! Even if a hotel or airline advertises itself as “child” or “family-friendly,” make sure you read what other parents and families have to say.” – Amelia Leicht, mom of 2
“We always take a mid-day break and go back to our room to relax and hang out by the pool. Nobody likes dragging cranky kids around. Well-rested kids mean happier kids.” – Ashley Shonkwiler, mom of 3
Preparing for Road Trips
Hitting the road with your mini-me requires packing a lot of stuff, but don’t go overboard or you might find yourself threatening to “turn this car around” before you exit city limits. Here’s how to make it out successfully:
“Only take what you need for the road, then go to the store when you arrive at your destination. Keep everything you might need during the car ride such as diapers, wipes, bottles, and a few toys easily accessible.” – Brittany Hoover, mom of 1
“Sometimes it’s cleaner to change the baby in the car than to try a rest stop bathroom!” – Lindsay Austin, mom of 2
“Do your best to plan lengthy car trips and flight times around your kids’ existing nap/sleep schedules.” – Amelia Leicht, mom of 2
“Always have snacks, activities, extra clothes and a travel potty on hand. The travel potty is essential as you never know when someone will have to go to the bathroom and there aren’t always restrooms close by.” – Ashley Shonkwiler, mom of 3
“Take plenty of snacks (the GOOD ones they don’t get to have all that often) to keep them excited.” – Whitney Lyons, mom of 2
Feel like your car is too small to be comfortable for the long haul? Rent one! You’ll save mileage and get a “new” set of wheels to make the trip even more exciting for your little ones.
Getting Ready to Fly
Considering flying with your baby? Depending on their personality, your patience level and your destination, this might be the best option. Here are a few things I’ll be keeping in mind the first time I head for the skies with my little one:
“Get there early, and check carseats at the curb. You have to get there early enough for one person to go park the car while the other one waits with the kids. That way you don’t have to drag the carseats through the parking lot.” – Tiffany Cassidy, mom of 4
Another option is to rent your carseat at your destination, if you’re willing to pay for convenience.
“Some airports do more extensive testing with breastmilk than others so allow yourself plenty of time to go through security. It’s easiest to only bring enough for the flight and then if you want an extra bottle or two for the vacation bring it frozen.” – Brittany Hoover, mom of 1
To be safe, stick to the TSA guidelines found here.
Also, remember the early bird isn’t always the best …
“Don’t get to the airport TOO early with toddlers and young children. They are so excited to get on the plane that they will annoy you so much asking every 5 seconds when they get to get on.” – Shannon Cairns, mom of 2
“I would suggest one parent boarding last with the kid (if possible) while the other gets stuff settled in the seats. That way the child can run free for as long as possible.” – Lindsay Austin, mom of 2
“Know the airline and security rules. Airlines list exactly what you can bring on board with babies and children – often your stroller, carseat, diaper bag (and other items, depending on the airline) won’t count against your baggage allowance.” – Amelia Leicht, mom of 2
“You can check your stroller at the gate for free, so keep it with you until you board so that you don’t have to carry your children. Use a baby carrier for little ones, especially if they are going as a lap child. You will feel like they are more secure.” – Shannon Cairns, mom of 2
“Ear pressure can really bother some littles. If you can get them to drink juice/take a bottle/nurse, that will help to equalize the pressure behind their ears. Suckers work wonders, too.” – Amelia Leicht, mom of 2
When in doubt, ask questions. The worst anyone can say is “no,” and most people are happy to help and accommodate families and people traveling with small children!
Enjoying Your Trip
Getting there is half the fun … or in this case, completely exhausting! I’ll be keeping these tips in mind to ensure that my getaway is worth the journey:
“If you can be flexible and make new plans as you go, then you’re sure to have fun!” – Lindsay Austin, mom of 2
“We’ve learned the hard way (oh, the tantrums!) that it’s important to schedule time to relax, especially for littles.” – Amelia Leicht, mom of 2
Traveling with a baby can be stressful. Take a moment to relax and enjoy the journey, and they will too. Remember, you’re creating memories!
With a little preparation and a willingness to be flexible, traveling with a baby is possible. I can’t wait to start planning my first “family vacation.” Do you have tips you’ve learned from traveling with little ones? Please share them in the comments section below!
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