1. Phil & Ted's Nest / 2. Ergo Baby Carrier / 3. Trunki / 4. Potette / 5. NONA Signature Baby Bag / 6. Galt Toys Water Magic Coloring Book / 7. 5 in 1 Sit and Stroll Elite Car Seat / 8. Lil Gadgets Kids Headphones
This is the time of year when everyone's travel schedules really kick into high gear and we all start complaining about the choas that is dealing with holiday travel. Traveling with young kids, especially babies that require ALL.THE.GEAR. presents its own challenges. Friends with older kids are able to take a more relaxed approach, but for those that haven't yet reached that stage, planning is key. I am no slouch in the travel department and consider myself somewhat of an expert on how to get from here-to-there but adding kids into the mix has required a totally different plan of attack. When my son was 18 months old (and I was 13 weeks pregnant with #2 and very very very nauseous), we spent 2.5 weeks on a super ambitious tour of Europe where we were in a new location every 2 nights. During a crazy 95 degree heatwave. That then dropped to a 50 degree cold front in a matter of hours. It was insane and while I do NOT recommend doing what we did, I still look back on that trip with a lot of fondness and nostalgia and am so happy we took that time. We did some things right, but we were also a little naive about planning the trip for our pre-baby selves versus trying to make it more of a family trip and therefore more enjoyable.
Now that I live at an international post, we are surrounded by people who basically travel for a living. I got together with a few of my fellow seasoned moms to create the following list of all our lessons learned:
Try to coincide travel with naptime/bedtime and adjust to a new timezone
Those long overnight flights can really work in your favor in situations like this! Keep in mind though that even for the older kids (4 years and up), you may still need a stroller if you have a connecting flight. You will also want to bring any bedtime soothers (ie, blankeys/pacifiers/dolls with spares) to recreate the comfort of home as much as possible. Dressing kiddos in layers or a wrapping the in a small sleeping bag is good for a chilly flight. Once you reach your destination, just accept that there will be a cranky adjustment period and get them on local time asap.
Keep it basic and set your expectations accordingly
If you must travel to multiple destinations, plan for at least 3 nights in the same city/place. Packing up over and over is not fun, nor is the hassle of traveling onto the next destination. It's easy to feel like if we aren't constantly checking new experiences off the list, then we are just wasting precious vacation days. Trust me, if you do this with child in tow, you will end up feeling like you didn't see anything and spent the whole time in transit. If you are still tied to a nap schedule like we were, be ok with slowing down the pace- you are not going to visit every cathedral/museum/winery/beach/park, etc. and eat all your meals out.
Choose a rental over a hotel
We will someday know the trendy boutique hotels of our former selves again, but life is made exponentially easier when you have separate rooms to let baby sleep/play, a kitchen to have meals on hand, and in-house laundry. We stayed in an Airbnb in Vienna that required 1 tiny elevator ride up 20 something floors then crossing a bridge to a back tower of apartments, then going down 2 flights of stairs. Needless to say it was a process. We pretty much ate every breakfast and dinner there, because once we were in after a long day of sightseeing, we wanted to stay in. Kid & Coe is a newish company that focuses on family-friendly accomodations (rentals/exchanges/hotels), with some pretty dreamy destinations.
Join a Facebook Mom's Group to ask any detailed questions
I am planning a trip to New York City with my 3.5 year old. He doesn't need a stroller, nor a portable crib, and I have friends there who can lend me a carseat if needed. And then I realized that there is still the ride to/from the airport...hmmmm...the thought of schlepping his carseat all that way just for 2 30-minute car rides did NOT sound appealing. Enter the NYC Upper East Side mom's group- with a quick inquiry, I learned that UberFamily is offered there with carseat included! While i was at it, I also got a targeted list of toddler-friendly restaurants and activities recommended. No more searching through those Trip Advisor forums!
Consolidate and borrow whenever possible
Heading to visit grandparents/siblings? Sometimes it makes more sense to just keep an extra set of gear there if you will be visiting frequently enough. Our parents have an extra pack-n-play, umbrella stroller, booster kitchen seat, and a more basic car seat that stays at their houses. Anything else we need is easily borrowed from their network of fellow grandparents. Craigslist or apps like Offerup are also great options for anything else you need, or once again, the trusty local FB mom group.
If you are going on a true vacation, try to be as efficient as possible. My NONA bag doubles as my carry-on. 99.9% of hotels and most rentals offer cribs and high chairs so always use those over bringing your own. Most destinations will also offer some sort of delivery service of cribs/strollers/high chairs etc for a small daily rental fee which a quick google search should turn up.
If you MUST bring your own:
Try to find things that can do double duty or are super lightweight/portable. My friend swears by this Lilly Gold Sit n Stroll that converts from a regular carseat to a stroller. It comes with a hefty pricetag but I guarantee that you will be willing to pay 3x if you travel frequently enough:
We knew we were going to be traveling a lot in the initial baby stages so we got the Phil & Ted's Nest and Baby Bjorn Travel Crib and loved both (additional options here, here, and here).
As far as carseats and strollers are concerned, that could be an entire post in and of itself. Now that I've gone through it, I totally understand how people end up with multiples of everything based on end use. It only took 1 trip with my full size City Mini GT (which I love, btw, for normal everyday urban living) to add the Uppa Baby G-Luxe to my arsenal specifically for travel. Lucie's List always puts together great gear guides so you can read all her detailed recommendations for guidance on selecting these.
To keep your own luggage in check, I find it helpful to plan outfits in advance rather than my old methods of just throwing a bunch of stuff in a suitcase and figuring it out on the fly. If you are staying in a location that offers laundry, bring a few detergent pods with you and pack versatile basics: jeans, white tees, lightweight sweaters. Bonus points if you can plan a monochromatic wardrobe that is even more easily mixed and matched! If you are traveling as a solo parent, the goal is: 1 medium suitcase + 1 carry-on + gear. A second set of hands gives you more flexibility on this. Avoid overstuffing your carry-on so full that you cannot navigate it as it just adds more stress.
Once your child reaches the appropriate toddler age (I would say 3ish) and can actually help carry their own luggage, get them a fun suitcase. Trunkis and Jetkids Bed Boxes are actually pretty genius.
Use a baby carrier until they are bursting out of the darn thing
If you've gotten on board with the whole babywearing thing then you know that this is a game changer and if you haven't yet, go find a youtube tutorial immediately! These come in especially handy when it's time to fly the friendly skies. Yes, your baby will fall asleep in it just as you are about to enter the security line at which point you'll be asked to wake them so you can place the carrier on the belt and yes, it is super annoying. It still beats having to do the same thing with a stroller. If you plan to carry baby all the way to the gate, then you can bring your stroller packed up in the protective bag and check it right away with your luggage vs. having to wait until you board the plane (try and do the math: baby in 1 arm, collapsing stroller with free hand and god forbid there is a toddler running around!). There are so many good ones available at all price ranges but personally I have used/loved: the Happy Baby Wrap, the Baby K'tan, and the Ergobaby.
Keep the food/snacks coming
I try to feed my family a clean-ish diet, ie- organic, unprocessed and non-gmo whenever possible. That pretty much all goes out the window when we board a plane. This is when they get the fruit pouches, granola bars, cereal puffs, gold fish, etc. and sugar-free candies that they can suck on should there be pressure issues with ears (I have also asked for juice boxes while on the flight for this). Try to limit the sugar intake though because the last thing you need is to deal with are the crashes that go along with those treats. If you are breastfeeding, make sure to take a copy of the airline's policy juuuuussst in case anyone gives you an issue. Plan on nursing your LO upon take-off and landing and most definitely bring a manual hand pump with you (which I loved so much, I ended up using it everyday over my double electric pump).
The novelty of new stuff is going to be your best friend on a long flight or trip. I always grab a few small toys or books to surprise my kids with (admittedly, this works better with our older one than with the 'baby' right now but we will get there soon!). Alternating a snack food with a new item every 30-60 minutes can keep them occupied for a cross-country flight. These do NOT have to be anything expensive or complicated and household items can work as well. Keep in mind 'roll-ey' items such as hot wheels, crayons, etc will end up on the floor 173 times. Masking tape is always a popular one. Magna Doodles and Magic Ink books were a personal favorite of mine when I was younger. If you really want to up the excitement factor, wrap the new goodies in pretty packaging. Some other recommendations that my friends have used with success:
I know screentime needs to be monitored, but when all else fails, you are definitely going to want that ipad or device already loaded with favorite songs, shows, and movies since wi-fi may not be available. Don't forget kid-friendly headphones and an external back-up battery!
Use any wakeful time in the airport to run those kids like crazy! It is super exhausting, but sometimes its just a matter of creating a fun game or obstacle course that will diffuse a 'i'm about to melt-down' situation.
Bring a small pharmacy with you
This is less important if you are traveling to visit family who have easy access to pharmacies and/or a stocked medicine cabinet but you will still need to bring just enough of the basic medications to cover you should anything occur while you are en route. A friend's young son developed his first fever at the start of a 6 hour flight but luckily she had brought 1 dose of children's tylenol with her. You'll also want to have a wipes & sanitizer (especially for a plane ride), thermometer, children's benedryl, a few bandaids, and some neosporin on hand.
If you are traveling to a new destination, you'll want to bring the whole kit and caboodle with you. I learned this the hard way when we were in Curacao and both my children came down with hand foot mouth disease. Had we been in Aruba, this probably would not have been a big issue but Curacao is the quieter, more rustic ABC island. We drove around the island for 2 hours looking for an open pharmacy on a holiday weekend before we finally found one. Since then, I always take: a thermometer, children's tylenol or motrin, benedryl, anti-itch cream, bug spray, hylands cough syrup, a stash of bandaids & neosporin, sunscreen, and homeopathic arnica montana tablets. I'd rather have it and not need it.
These are super nit-picky things but if you really want to dot all the i's and cross your t's, consider the following:
-For children that are potty training or newly potty-trained, bring 2 changes of clothing for your child plus at least a shirt change for yourself (pants if you can fit them too!) plus plastic bags or wetsacks to store any soiled clothing.
-A portable potty seat (for long car trips). This one from Potette came highly recommended:
-Contact the airline in advance to let them know that you will need additional assistance. This is no time to be a hero, just ask for extra help (or even to those immediately around you).
-A small fan (we have stayed in tropical climates where the rooms only offer ceiling fans and this has been a godsend!).
-If bottle-feeding is part of the plan, pack them in a separate insulated case so that it is easy to identify/grab. Skiphop makes a good one, but I've even used a simple lunchbox that we already owned, with an icepack (must be frozen to get through security).
-Look at airport websites in advance to determine if there is a lounge that you can pre-pay for access too.
-If you are traveling alone with multiple kids, consider a harnessed backpack with a leash. I know, I know, it sounds so over the top, but we all know how fast those little animals can move and sometimes you just have to be THAT crazy parent. Piece of mind is paramount.
Hopfully these tips and tricks will help make for a smoother voyage! What are your best travel tips?