I wish I could say I’m one of those moms who loves traveling with her kids and takes them on adventures all over the world. The truth is simply this: I don’t like traveling with my kids (queue cringe face).
And what a relief it is to admit that without shame.
I know this sentiment isn’t something that will last forever and some day traveling with my kids will be epic! I'm working my way through these feelings because I want my kids to experience traveling the world and seeing other cultures and places; it's an enriching aspect of life and I don't want them to miss it.
With that said, I have enjoyed the trips we’ve gone on with the realization that traveling with children is not for the faint of heart. This post is less of a "guide" and more of a "hey, here’s some tips on how to survive and possibly thrive, while traveling with kids."
So, let's begin…
My mantra when it comes to prepping for a vacation: LESS IS MORE! The more you bring, the more you end up trying to carry and struggle, while also keeping track of kids.
For our most recent trip to Disney World—(we were gone two full days and three nights)—I brought one, medium sized suitcase and one kid’s sized carry on suitcase. I also packed a backpack for each child with: one change of clothing, one ziplock bag of snacks and one ziplock bag of toys/entertainment items for the plane.
1. Plan Outfits for Each Day
This might sound like way too much work, but it’s a life saver and the perfect remedy for the chronic over packer (ME)! Laying out two to three outfits per child helped me see exactly what they would be wearing and what needed to be added or left out.
I packed a couple extra items for Maddox since he’s 3 and still has a few accidents here and there (shockingly, he had zero accidents on this trip)!
2. Stop, Drop and Roll
This step makes all the difference in conserving space! Roll each shirt, pair of shorts and pants. You’d be shocked at how much space you can save by rolling vs. folding.
3. Place Outfits into Individual Ziplock Bags
After packing for a few trips and always running out of room, I finally switched to the ziplock bag method. This method is my favorite because it’s quick and easy (you could also be more official and buy the little travel packing cubes). If you go with the ziplock bag method, be sure to save and reuse the bags to avoid wasting.
4. Have Your Kids Wear Their Hardest to Pack Items
For some reason, traveling with kids usually means waking up at the crack of dawn. Not sure why, but the flights just seem to work out that way.
I’ve been known to have the kids sleep in their travel clothing. I also have them wear closed-toed shoes (packing their sandals since those are lighter and take up less space) and sweatshirts and jackets to save space in the suitcase.
Let me begin by saying, the airplane can either be amazing with kids or pure HELL! Go into with a positive mindset and remember, "this too shall pass."
Also, order a mimosa!
The tips I’m sharing in this section are things I’ve done since the kids were babies; I’ve just changed out items based on development and age.
1. Bring Your Own Water Bottles
Don’t pay $10 for the airport bottles of water. Bring ones from home and make sure they're empty before going through TSA.
2. Snacks, Snacks and More Snacks
I’m convinced that every melt down can be "fixed" (or at least temporarily fixed) with a snack. I pack separate snack bags (labeled with each child’s name so there’s NO confusion or fighting over it) with snacks they enjoy. I also keep my own “secret stash” of treats in my backpack. This includes a few sugary things that are fun to bring out but not the best to keep in their individual bags (treats like suckers, gummy bears and fruit snacks).
3. Bring on the Entertainment
Yes, I’m a parent that brings tablets on trips BUT I only allow the kids to have them at designated times; usually once we’ve been up in the air for an hour or so (depending on the length of the flight). Rule of thumb: hold off on screen time for as long as possible to make the most out of it.
Like the snack bag concept, each child gets one bag, labeled with their name, that has small toys (not junky stuff but just little things that are easy to travel with and keeps them entertained). In Maddox’s bag I packed a few of his favorite animal toys (he’s obsessed with them) such as small trucks, Play-Doh, crayons, stickers and a coloring book. I found the cutest little lego sets at the Dollar Store and the cutest little boxes to organize them in; a big hit with Audri and Kai.
I never go out and buy tons of new toys, but I will say purchasing a few, inexpensive “new” items as a surprise can go a long way on the plane. If you have younger kids (ages 12-18 months), wrapping toys can be EPIC. It sounds odd, but they LOVE unwrapping things at that age and it’s a simple thing that can eat up some time and keep them busy.
4. Bring a Stroller (Maybe)
This last tip is optional because sometimes baby wearing is easier. We're almost out of our stroller phase but I did bring my small, umbrella stroller for this trip.
I ordered it on Amazon years ago and it's been the best stroller I've had (even better than the expensive ones I've gone through). Remember to keep your stroller with you throughout the airport and check it at the gate when you're boarding. I feel like less time in the airplane and being handled has kept my stroller from getting damaged. This one also came in handy for napping on the go with Maddox.
5. Be Present
Last but not least, try to be present, take in the little moments and remember that the stress and hassle will be worth it in the end! You'll look back on the memories, the ups and the many meltdowns with fondness because they don't stay little forever.
Cheers to traveling with your littles and may the odds be ever in your favor!
Follow Britt Null @brittnull