guide to traveling with Kids
I am an avid traveler. I love the excitement of going to new places, trying new foods and finding some interesting local art to bring back that reminds me of my time there. But in the last couple of years after having kids, my enthusiasm for travel has waned a bit. I still love all the things from before but now just the thought of packing the right number of diapers, making sure I have the right amount of wipes, food, toys etc. dampens all that freedom and exhilaration I felt packing a carryon bag and striding through security without a care in the world.
Through all my travelling with kids I am constantly trying to reach that level of travel of Nirvana, getting everything perfect before, during and after a flight.
Here are a few ideas that have worked that I’d like to share if your planning on traveling with young kids:
BUY THE RIGHT LUGGAGE
Four wheel swivel is always the way to go and more so if you have young screaming kids and no extra hands to pull that stroller along. The sturdier hard-case bags are hits with toddlers who love sitting on them as you weave through the airports.
CAR SEAT CARRY ALONG
If your kids are young enough to need car seats for the light and subsequent car rentals or trips in your travel location, buy one that is very light and easy to maintain. Yes, for your day to day use I would recommend getting a sturdy, heavy duty, bells and whistles kind of car seat like Britax or Recaro, but when you travel, the main goal is survival. Getting from one place to another with the least amount of luggage weighing you down. I love the Cosco Senera because its super light (7.65 pounds) and easy to install in anything. And another great feature – cost! It’s price cannot be beat.
CAR SEAT BAG
Most important accessory after the car seat. After trying and ripping quite a few, I love the J.L. Childress Ultimate Backpack Padded Car Seat Travel Bag. It’s roomy, well constructed and has straps to carry on your back – because let’s be honest, while travelling with kids every inch of your body surface matters. Don’t forget to use the bag to also pack those bulky diapers and wipes, beach toys, life vests or shoes – you get my drift.
After you try to travel with through security with a full size loaded stroller and see the looks of sheer disbelief that the agents have that you can fit the stroller through the X-ray machine, you will not understand and appreciate the understated value of an umbrella stroller that’s easy to fold and gets you through security as sanely and quickly as possible. I’ve tried a few, and depending on budget you can go with Summer Infant 3D mini or an UPPAbaby G-LITE Stroller. Either way, either budget, light and compact is the way to go.
DIAPER CARRY BAGS
Of the wonderous world of diaper bags – they all promise the ultimate carry all. In all the years of travelling with kids, some of the most valuable advice I got was from parents who suggested carrying a compartmentalized diaper bag – like a nesting doll. Some compartments of the diaper bag go with you to bathrooms, others are for emergencies, and then the extras. Try as much as possible to imagine yourself with a crying squirming toddler in a 34” wide bathroom and pack accordingly. Compact compact compact.
They’re small, compact and attach different pieces of your luggage to each other or also helps tether your car seat to your stroller to reduce one more thing to haul all over the airport. I’ve had the Stargazer cord for a couple of years now. Either way, should be good if you just search for Bungee Cord and go with the best reviews.
Bambo Nature Diapers are the ultimate natural, green diaper in the market. Yes they are pricey but a great way to work it in, is to use it only for long periods of time (overnight/long flights). They last ridiculously longer than all other diapers out there (10- 12 hours!) without leaking, or the diaper bursting and covering your baby’s butt with the diaper beads or the yuky gel that diapers are usually made with. Amazing right? For diapers that require changes every 3 or 4 hours I like Cuties – super economical and not too many chemicals to worry about.
DOUBLE DIAPERING AND/ OR DIAPER COVERS
One of the worst parts of travelling with young kids is the horrors of changing the diapers in the smallest tray tables in the tiniest cubicles known to man, aka the airline bathroom. I’m sure whoever designed it did millions of test case scenarios of how best to get it to work, but none of them with an actual baby. Why do kids hate airline bathrooms? They see the surface they have to lie on and automatically reject every attempt by an already harrowed parent to lie them flat and hold them down so parents won’t have to a) clean flying poop or b) clean a flying baby.
What are my suggestions? Short of trying to potty train them as fast as humanly possible, try to double diaper them so if there are any leaks it does not get in the car seat or their clothes. Another must have – diaper covers. I use them all the time even though I don’t use cloth diapers. They save me for massive blowouts and also night time diaper malfunctions. This is also another great Diaper Cover , super cute and well constructed. Let me save some time and headache of figuring out whether snaps or velcro are better, SNAPS! They are long lasting and don’t tangle with clothing in the dryer.
TOYS TO KEEP THEM ENTERTAINED
Do not underestimate the power of small never before seen toys while travelling. You can find a few cheap ones at the Target bins. Make sure the ones you get are washable, non destructive and do not have you chasing them down the plane ailes. Before you head out, make a play pouch or bag with all the wondrous things that can magically pop out of there to entertain your kids and save you. There are tons of options out there but here are some of my favorite ones:
- Mudpuppy Magnetic Puzzles – It has a good selection of puzzles for kids 4 and up.
- Crayola Super Tips Washable Markers & Paper Set– You could also just limit the amount they carry on in a sealed bag so your not actively hunting for 25 rolling pens all over the plane!
- Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pads – It’s a bit on the bigger side to cart around, but if you rip the pages out and fold them, you can compactly carry them in your carry on.
- Melissa & Doug Water Wow! Reusable Color with Water Activity Pad – No Mess and perfectly sized.
- Melissa & Doug Flip-to-Win Memory Game – 14 games for hours of fun that will even keep you entertained.
- And of course their favorite Book and Stuffed Toy. Nothing like taking things that comfort. Carry this with you at all times!
SOME SMALL BUT TRAVEL FATIGUE REDUCING TIPS
- Streaming device (phone/tablet) with headphones. Keeps them busy when you need it. But try to limit the time with regular intervals like you do at home. Sandwiching viewing sessions between coloring or stickers, after food service or before. It helps break up the monotony of the flight and they tend to get less cranky.
- Buy local diapers, wipes , snacks if your kids have no allergies. It not only reduces your luggage, but it’s a fantastic way to learn more about any culture: how their grocery system works, what kinds of cool snacks they have and you get to chat with locals at the checkout counter and get some advice on things to try or places to eat. Win Win.
- If possible get TSA Precheck or Global Entry. Nothing beats skipping the long security lines while flying in and out with kids.
- Try to not carry too much food and water through security. You can buy most things on the other side of security like bottles of water, Horizon Organic Low Fat Milk milk pouches, or snacks and fruits. Standing for 20-30 minutes while they scan every single cheerios or milk bottle especially if it is avoidable is not fun. Remember, you are allowed to fly with breastmilk or milk for kids below a certain age depending on the TSA rules.
- Get a Travel Wallet and Family Passport holder. You already have a lot to keep an eye on without having to worry about where your tickets or passports are stashed in your already bulging purse.
- On that note: Ditch the small purses and get one of these: LLBEAN Everyday Lightweight Tote as a handbag. It counts as a handbag so why not use it to carry more sanity saving knickknacks on board.
Finally the most important advice of all: DO NOT STRESS. The trip is just a week or two, so rules that apply normally can be broken and re-applied once back at home base. Kids bounce back after a week or so. Sleep patterns will resume. Phone and streaming devices will disappear. That extra chocolate or cookie will not ruin their life. But when you take them adventures, their outlook on everything broadens. They dare to try new things, finds new comforts in unfamiliar environments and learn to think on their feet. That alone is worth rallying your caravan of cuties to far off places while holding on to the carefree single carry-on state of mind.
-Priya, Co- Founder, Fig & Wally