This article contains affiliate links, but all opinions are strictly my own.
Now that the world is finally starting to open up, I am itching to travel again! Hawaii, Aruba, New York, Florida–so many places I want to go, but we do have two small children. My family currently has four year-old and 5 month-old boys, which means we do have to adapt our plans a little bit, but it does not mean we need to stay home until they’re older. I saw a quote once that summarized traveling with children perfectly for me :
“Deciding not to travel with your children when they are young ‘because they won’t remember’ is a little like saying you’re not going to read to your children because they won’t remember the books you read. You read to your small children because of the sounds they will hear, the words they will see, the skills they will acquire, and the habits you hope they will form. Traveling with young children is very much the same. The first years of life lay the groundwork for future experiences.” –bootsnall.com
We traveled a good amount with our first well before quarantine and now are starting to travel with both boys. I’ve rounded up some of my favorite tips that have helped me travel more seamlessly and be able to have fun doing it!
Keep Your Routines (But be flexible with them)
Whenever we travel with our children, we still try to have naps and meals around the same time they usually are, but we are flexible if they are late or if we are off schedule. We just try not to go wildly off schedule. Our older son Oliver only naps every once in a while, so we are able to be more flexible with his schedule. Leo is 5 months old, so we definitely try to stick with his food/nap schedule, but do move things around a little if we need to and he is not stressed. Luckily, he has been a very easy going baby, so we have a little wiggle room with his routine. We still try to do naps, even if we are on the go and can’t use a pack n’ play or a crib. Naps can happen while babywearing, in the car/plane, and even while sightseeing! Recently on our trip to Muskegon, Michigan the baby slept almost two hours in a baby carrier while we visited a WWII submarine museum. This is our favorite structured carrier that works well for both my husband (6’4) and I. When our kids are 4 months and under, we also love the Solly wrap!
Bring comforts of home and rent gear when it makes sense
For us, this means to bring our white noise machine, sleep sacks, crib sheets, pajamas, and stuffed animals. All of these things are pretty portable, so we make sure to bring them wherever we go. We make a point to acknowledge to our kids both what is different and what is the same, when we are somewhere different. If we’re going on a road trip, we do bring some toys and baby essentials that are familiar.
When flying somewhere, we try to see what we can rent where we are staying. I always make a point to call hotels ahead of our trip to see if they have pack n’ plays available and reserve one if possible. I also found this really great service called Baby Quip, which is basically like an Airbnb for baby gear. Baby Quip connects you with parents/people who rent out all sorts of baby gear in different destinations, including pictures and descriptions. It is a lifesaver! We use this service a lot when visiting my parents in California. Since we only visit 1-2 times a year, it’s not worth it for my parents to buy all the baby gear. So we rent all the gear we need and my parents usually are able to pick it up before we arrive. Use this link to save $20 on your first rental with Baby Quip.
Driving, we will only bring a pack n’ play if our destination doesn’t have it and then otherwise only bring essentials. I’ve been eyeing the Doona Carseat because it is both a carseat and stroller in one, which would be such a game changer for both airplane and car travel!
Get New Toys/Rotate in Toys that Kids Haven’t Seen in a While
Novelty is everything with young kids (well and even older kids, let’s be real) so get creative. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but get a few new toys if you can. I usually go to Five Below or the Dollar Spot in Target and stock up on cheap, entertaining items that I won’t be sad if we lose/break/leave them somewhere. Honestly, some of the cheapest, silliest toys have provided the most entertainment! If I can’t find any good options at the dollar store, these coloring tablets just need water and are so fun! We also love this inexpensive magnetic travel toy! Especially because it has a things that go theme (big truck/train fan here). Pro tip: I hide it in between trips so that it is novel again.Of course tablets are always fun when kids are old enough, but I like to do other things than screen time and have found that my kids prefer to not be glued to technology anyway. Here is the tablet we like to use while we travel; you don’t need Wi-fi to operate it, just download programs ahead of time.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
I believe that most people are kind and helpful (if they’re not, they usually avoid/ignore you). Whether I’ve been traveling alone with children or with my husband, rarely has anyone ever not been helpful. Most people either have children themselves or are empathic to people that do. Whether it’s holding your baby for a minute, watching your suitcase, or just giving you a hand with your stroller, ask for help. I used to be too proud to do this, or thought: “I should be able to do it on my own,” and then realized that’s just silly. I would offer help if I saw someone else traveling with children needing an extra hand, so why wouldn’t I do the same for myself?!
Expect the unexpected and carry two changes of clothes for you and kids
Last year, I went to a blogger conference with Oliver (he was 2 at the time) and planned to meet my parents at the destination of Palm Springs. I wasn’t too worried about traveling with him, but we ended up having quite the adventure getting there. Our first flight was delayed, causing us to miss our connecting flight and getting stuck in Dallas for the night. I was able to stay calm and try to make everything into a game, and Oliver was able to roll with all the punches and changes. Our airline put us in a hotel overnight, and the following day we left Dallas for Palm Springs. Luckily, I packed two changes of clothes for both of us and our toiletries in our bags. On our next flight we had the scariest landing I’ve ever had, which caused our plane to have two failed landings and crazy turbulence due to high desert winds. Oliver was crying and started throwing up and I was in tears myself, but finally we did land safely. Once in Palm Springs, Ollie came down with a fever, sore throat, and ear infection, and I had to take him to urgent care. We were able to get medicine and still have fun on our trip. Despite all of the hiccups, I would absolutely do it again!
Most Important Advice
Laugh when you can and choose your battles. I’ll give you an example from our recent trip. I wanted to take pictures at sunset on our recent trip, and sunset was at 9:16 PM aka past bedtime (although by Chicago time this is 8:16 and not that bad). At the beach, we tried to get Ollie to not play with the sand and get super dirty, but then I just said “oh well!” and let him play. I reminded my husband, we can wash off sand, but why would we expect him to not play with it if he’s surrounded by it? What a great sensory activity!
Also, try to relax and have fun! Any other tips you would add?
P.S. If you are looking for fun bags for vacation, check out my round-up of straw bags under $40