Traveling with kids can be so SO unpredictable – and even if you’ve done it before, you never can be sure how your little ones are going to react on the next trip. I’ve had the screaming baby, the hyper kid, the major bathroom blow-out, the huge spit-up — pretty much all the unsavory traveling scenarios you can imagine. But, I’ve also had the calm, happy, easy-traveling kid. You just never know!
[Most of this article is specifically for traveling by airplane, since there is no worry about carry-ons and security when traveling by car. Though car travel is mostly just throwing all luggage in the trunk and stopping for a break whenever, some of these tips also work for traveling by car.]
- What to carry – Backpacks seem to be easier than a shoulder bag when traveling, so that is what we use as our diaper bag. They often have more space and can help keep things more organized and well contained, plus they don’t slip off your shoulders when you’re trying to hang on to little hands.
|This is our backpack/diaper bag of choice.|
- The diaper bag – Bring all your typical diaper bag stuff, and then some. If you normally carry 5 diapers – bring 10, if you normally have 1 extra outfit – bring 2… basically double what you think you would need. There is nothing worse than being stuck on an airplane and needing something you don’t have. Here is what I bring: diapers, wipes, changing pad, extra clothes, blanket, pacifier, burp rag/bib, baby food, spoon, nursing cover and/or bottle with formula and a separate bottle of water (which will be tested – but not taken – at security), and a pacifier.
- Extra things – Some things that you might not normally carry around in your diaper bag, but may want when traveling are: hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes (which I use to wipe down EVERYTHING on the airplane that any of us might touch), children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and plastic baggies (to contain yucky diapers, wipes, clothes, etc. until you can throw them away or wash them). Don’t forget to bring copies of your flight confirmation or ticket, and a copy of your baby’s birth certificate to prove their age, if you did not pay for a ticket for them. You may want to keep these forms in some sort of folder or bag so they don’t get lost in the depths of your diaper bag.
|At 3, Liam can carry his own backpack on trips.|
- Entertainment – To keep the little and big kids entertained,
I find fun things like this in the $1 section
and stash them away for trip time.
bring an old lovey, a couple of toys and books, small games, and snacks – lots of them (for entertainment and for ear pressure). For older kids, I like to pick-up some brand new things to use on the plane like a new coloring book, a small container of play dough, rubix cube, or just a silly little toy. The novelty of something new can hold their attention a little longer sometimes. But also bring the old stand-bys that you know will work like iPads, phones (on airplane mode), or DVD players. If your kids are a little older, you can also have them bring their own carry-on packed with their little toys and goodies. Oh, and don’t pull out everything at once, stagger the entertainment and save the big guns for when you really need them. (This also goes for if you are driving.)
- For yourself – Don’t forget you! Bring quality snacks or even a meal, your glasses and contacts case – just in case – and a change of clothes for yourself if you have the room. I also like to keep all our travel documents together in an envelope or folder: airplane tickets or confirmation code print-outs, checked luggage tickets, birth certificate copies (if your child is flying for free on a lap).
|The backpack carrier (an Ergo) kept me hands free, and
Carolina happy on a recent cherry-picking excursion.
- Strollers & Carriers – If you are traveling with a partner, a stroller is so handy to have in the airport when you are waiting around for your flight or if you need to move quickly. But if you are traveling solo with kids, a stroller can be very difficult since you alone will have to hang onto the kid(s) and fold up the stroller for security or the airplane. If you have a baby, I recommend using a front or back carrier in the airport and checking your stroller so you have two free hands and less carry-ons to worry about getting through security with. If you have a longish layover, bring the stroller anyway; check it at the gate, not at the baggage counter so you will have it in the airport.
- Car seats – If you are bringing a “lap child” as they are called (a child under two years, who does not have a ticket because they will be sitting on your lap), bring your car seat ready to be checked (I use a car seat travel bag), but when you get to the ticket counter ask if there are any extra seats on the plane. If there are, the ticket agent will usually do some rearranging so your little one can have his or her own seat next to you in the familiarity (and containment) of their own car seat.
- Security – If you have an infant and you are bringing jarred baby food, or juice, water, formula, etc. – plan to get to the airport a little earlier than you normally would (sans kids). At security you will be pulled aside for extra screening of those liquids and containers. I’ve even been given the pat down because these items were in my carry-on. This can take a while especially if the airport is already busy. And just like you have to take your shoes off, so do babies… everything just takes a little longer with kids – but it’s all worth it.
- Take Off – In my experience babies either hate take-off or love it. The loud white-noise of the engines can put them right to sleep, but the pressure in their ears can trouble them – feeding them or giving them a pacifier at take-off can help relieve that pressure just like chewing gum does for us.
- Germs – Do NOT use the airplane blanket, pillow, or look at their magazines. So. Many. Germs. I am completely paranoid about catching a sickness on the plane and having our trip be ruined (oh yes, this too has happened). This is when I use those sanitizing wipes, like Wet Ones, to wipe down the buckle, the armrests, the trays, the window… and anything else I think might benefit.
- Get excited! – Although the travel part can be a pain, remember you are headed to your awesome vacation – so bring your guide books and a pen and paper and spend the plane ride talking with your family about what you are excited about and making a list of must-do’s for when you arrive!