23 Jul 2013 1 Comment
Family vacation is surely a great chance to get closer to the people you love and make lifelong memories with. Just the thought of going on family vacation makes most of us happy and excited.
However, the idea of driving long distance road trips or flying with kids are probably one of the biggest cause of stress for traveling parents and it’s totally understandable. Nobody looks forward to lugging a pile high of luggage through the airport with whining kids in tow, and the prospect of keeping them seated and quiet for hours on end can make any parent cringe.
Even though traveling with little ones can be exhausting and sometimes stressful, don’t discount the importance of quality time with those we love. The small amount of stress is truly worth the trip for quality family time and lifelong memories.
With our recent travels, I’ve got several people asking me for tips on traveling with little ones so I decided to blog about it. I’m by no means a travel expert but just wanted to share what worked for us and hoping it will help you get some ideas on how to make traveling with children a bit easier.
Every now and then a spur of the moment road trip and vacation can be a great and really FUN way to travel. But, typically, to minimize the stress of vacation time, early planning is important. I’m a planner and I believe that great planning is key to a great vacation. Just to give an example, I have a “Travel” folder. It consists of different files of places and family travel ideas. One file is called “Places To Explore” which is mainly for road trips and has a list of places that are close by and mostly in-state or neighboring states. I normally check this list when we have a holidays or long weekend coming up or whenever we’re feeling spontaneous. Another file is called “Places To Go Next” which has a list of few places that I wanted to take the boys within the next year or two so I did a bit of research about them already. That way, when we have the time and budget, all we have to do is figure out which one on the list we want to go to. Then I have the “Places To Go To Someday” file which is mostly list of places abroad. These are the dream vacations which require more planning and of course, way bigger budget.
A well-packed bag can make the difference between struggling with the overhead compartment and finding a toy or a book to calm a whining toddler with ease. However, I really do not recommend taking anything on-board except for few new toys and things you’ll need for the flight. I have learned that traveling with a baby, and now two toddlers, means that I don’t really need anything to entertain myself. I tried bringing a book for me to read on the plane once, but it just took precious space in my bag. Besides, with all the necessary things you need to pack for the kids, the bag could get really heavy!
I traveled with different bags: messenger style diaper bag, a backpack + messenger style diaper bag, and diaper backpack + purse. What worked great for me was to just use a diaper backpack. You and your little ones will have to check-in several luggage and pass security points and may have to walk a long way so having both of your hands free is a big help. For those of you who are wondering what my husband’s carrying then? Well, he has both of his hands free as well but he’s lugging around a 12-pound camera gear on his back which is a must for our family. The Okkatots travel diaper backpack is awesome and I highly recommend it for air travel or a weekend getaway.
When packing, expect the unexpected. Always account for flight cancellations and delays, bad weather, and (knock-on-wood) illnesses. I always take a few additional items in my carry-on diaper backpack along with medicines and the kids’ birth certificates. Before we traveled abroad, we took the boys to their pediatrician and got prescriptions for common travel sickness including traveler’s diarrhea. Thank goodness, we didn’t need to use them but it’s better to be prepared.
* Luggage Safety Tip *
We never put our home address on our luggage tags because everyone (thieves especially) within an airport can see it, making our home a very easy target for a robbery while we are away. Our cell phone number and e-mail address provides enough information for the airline to contact us in case of lost luggage. It’s also a good practice to put your contact information “inside” your luggage in case the external tag comes off.
Toys and Snacks
For obvious reasons, we only bring silent toys. Before a trip, we always buy few new toys or snacks that they’ve never had before. When one is getting antsy or on the verge of a meltdown, we offer a snack or pull out that toy that they’ve never seen before. It always do wonders for us! A trick that almost always prevent meltdowns.
Getting back from a vacation, it’s common for people to ask how the trip went and how did the kids do? I find it amusing that whenever I tell them that my kids did great, they almost always ask if I gave them Benadryl. I know flying with little ones can be very tough and I strongly believe in doing what works for your family as long as you’re responsible about it.But Benadryl when flying is just not for us. I honestly find it unnecessary to medicate my children so I can relax on the plane. The fact is, I’ll have plenty of time to relax when the boys goes off to college and I know I’ll ironically miss the days when I couldn’t relax when I wanted to.
Flying with a car seat is actually the safest way to flight with a child. Using a car seat on board is the recommendation of the FAA, the NTSB, the AAP and other organizations including the AFA. However, I am a believer of “to each his own” for both comfort and security for you and your child so do whatever works best for your family. For us, we never use car seats on the plane but we always check them in to use at our destination.
We never and will NEVER ever use car seats provided by a car rental company because the car seats provided by rental companies are at best dirty, worn and most likely handled and washed incorrectly. At worst, they could be expired, missing parts and could have been involved in a recall or accident. To protect our car seats, we use a Car Seat Travel Bag and we love it! The bags have been through many trips and have held up very well.
Like car seats, do whatever works best for your family. When the boys were a lot smaller, people always ask me if I bring my double stroller when I fly and the answer is, NO because it’s just too much for me. It was a lot easier for me to just use a baby carrier than to use a stroller at the airport. Besides, we didn’t want to take the risk of having our stroller damaged while in the plane cargo. We find it a lot more convenient to rent a stroller at our destination if we need to (i.e., theme parks).
I know that most airlines accept any stroller that folds. They also allow you to gate check them and it does not count against your baggage allowance so if you decide to bring one, ask your airline to be sure.
Family vacations never go exactly as planned. Ever. Thus, it’s good to always have a backup plan because with traveling, especially with kids, everything is unpredictable. There is always something unexpected that could interrupt your plan so be prepared to just roll with it and take the experience as it comes. More often than not, those unexpected events make the best vacation memories after all.
Watching our boys as they experience new worlds, sharing time with them on trips away from home, and enjoying the little moments of discovery for them is one of the many precious parts of being parents. My husband and I sometimes look through old vacation photos and our heart swells with sweet memories. We realize that the time our boys are little is truly brief so we really want to make the most of it.