Traveling with kids gets a bad rap. Many people avoid it because it seems more trouble than it’s worth. Sure, travel with kids is harder than traveling alone. But if you’re prepared, it can be fun and rewarding.
My husband and I love to explore, and we were frequent travelers before having a child. Many people told us that once we had a child, we’d never travel again (or, at least not until our kid was in college!). But it was important to us that our child be a good traveler from a young age, so we dove right in. Our little one took his first airplane trip at five months old. Now two, he’s been on at least 10 different plane trips, including several cross-country and one trans-Atlantic. In all those trips we’ve seen our child grow and develop in amazing ways. We’ve also learned A LOT about how to make traveling with kids easier. Here are some of our best tips:
Rent gear at your destination.
Consider leaving as much of your gear at home as possible and renting it at your destination. Many airports now have vendors that will rent all manner of baby gear including car seats, pack ‘n plays, high chair/boosters and strollers. Car rental companies will often rent car seats, and most hotels have cribs or pack n’ plays available for free or a small fee. Understandably, when traveling with an infant you may feel more comfortable with your own gear. But as children get older it’s infinitely easier to travel without all that stuff. If you must bring your own, make sure you’ve got a good lightweight car seat and travel bag, and check it at the curb rather than the gate. Though gate-check is free for strollers and car seats, you have to lug those large and bulky items through security and around the airport. Do yourself a favor and carry as little on the plane as possible.
Stock your carry-on with yummy healthy snacks.
Keeping kids well fed with snacks that are yummy and nutritious will go a long way toward making your travel easier. Don’t rely on the airport or airplane for good food options. Giving your kids a bunch of junk on the plane will just wire them up and not make them agreeable travel companions (plus you could wind up with tummy aches). I try to pack 2-3 different snacks per hour in individual baggies (Itzy Ritzy and Ubbi make awesome reusable snack containers, but Ziplocs work well too). Then I pack all the little bags in one large gallon Ziploc for easy access in my big carry-on bag. Fresh and dried fruits and veggies, nuts, and healthy crackers are great options. Plus I always pack a sandwich and a packet of instant oatmeal, too.
Try: nut or sunflower butter and honey sandwich on whole grain bread, fresh apple slices, mini mandarin oranges, banana, string cheese, Crispygreen dehydrated fruit, Karen’s Naturals “Just” fruit and veggies, Siggi’s Naturals yogurt tubes, Kirkland Organic applesauce pouches, Annie’s Organic cheddar bunnies, bunny grahams, and oatmeal raisin granola bars, and homemade trail mix.
Pack some travel friendly books and toys, but if all else fails don’t be afraid to pull out the tablet.
Magnadoodle, sticker books, “clean” coloring books and lightweight paperbacks are all awesome for the airplane. But sometimes you just need a tablet. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time before 18 months, and even age two the AAP recommends limited exposure to television. But the American Academy of Moms* says that when on an airplane, all bets are off. We’ve tried a few different tablets; for airplane use, an Apple iPad is your best bet. Some of the other options rely on streaming, which doesn’t work on an airplane with limited wifi. Refurbished iPads are now available for well below MSRP. Make sure it’s charged and ready to go with age-appropriate shows.
Traveling with kids is a wonderful opportunity to expose them to different environments and experiences and to bond as a family. With spring break approaching, don’t be afraid to load your kids onto an airplane and make some amazing family memories!
* This isn’t a real thing, but it should be.