Over the years, I have made it a priority to introduce travel into the lives of my children early on. Travel, to me me teaches my kids so much: adaptability, flexibility, extensive worldview and culture and fun. They learn how to adjust outside of routine, how to talk to people, how to problem solve. There are few teachers more dedicated than travel and in the last 9 years of traveling with my children, I have learned so much about what it means to be patience with them and with myself. Wisdom took her first flight at 3 months old, Courage at 6-weeks. Glory went out at 2-months old, and although challenging traveling with 3 littles, I wouldn't change it for the world. There are so many outside influences with travel and much of it is out of our control, but if you are looking for a way to connect and grow with your family, nothing paves the way better than a little travel adventure.
I have had so many moms reach out to me to ask me for tips about how I travel with my little ones and over the years, I have attempted to write this blog and have quit before I started. Now that I am a mom of three, and traveling with children in almost every age group (baby, toddler and school age) and more often, I felt like I could finally nail down exactly what I do to make travel seamless for me and my family and share my routine with you.
Traveling can be so intimidating. Oftentimes people will decide that traveling with kids is too much and will abort the idea before considering the benefits. It is my goal with this blog post to not only highlight the good that travel can bring to our lives but break down some of the misconceptions of travel and give you actionable ways to face whatever fears you may have about traveling with young children.
If you are looking for an extensive list of things you need to do or buy to travel with children, this isn't going to be THAT blog post. I try to travel minimally, mindfully and with as little baggage as possible. Over the years, I have found quick and easy ways to do things that I want to share with you that might not come up on one of those more well-rounded blog posts. If you are looking for one of those check out this post by Diapers in Paradise or this post by Travel Mad Mum. Also be sure to check in on the most current rules around newborn, baby and children travel with TSA (Transportation Security Administration), which can be found here.
But, if you are looking for quick tips to move through every phase of travel, I am your girl. I would like to believe I have managed to master traveling with kids and have done so seamlessly, so below my tops tips from packing to landing in your destination, start to finish.
Ready, Set, Go. Read on below....
Packing For The Trip
One of the things that has made travel so much easier for me both as a mother and a content creator is doing research on the location that I am headed to. What is the temperature, what is the color palette (I know) and base what I pack in my suitcase on the location I am heading to. I know this probably seems pretty elementary, but in my early days of travel, I would pack my bags based on what I wanted my kids to wear and would pay little attention to the climate of our destination, and would find myself in a world of trouble once my plane touched own. Packing for the color palette of the location was something I adopted in 2018. It makes photographing my children so much easier when they match the vibe of the place we are visiting and it makes it so much easier when we are wearing bright bold colors in bright bold places and muted colors in places that call for that. Dressing my kids and myself for the location reduces the overpacking and guarantees that we are always picture perfect wherever we may go. I also have really loved matching my girls when we are out in public and have found when traveling with multiple kids, if they are dressed the same, it is not only easy for me to keep with them, but much easier to identify them and for others to know that they belong to me.
Pack each family member in their packing cubes. When you have a family with multiple kids it makes it so much easier to find the clothes that goes with each child and reduces the need to bring more luggage. Head to Amazon and pick out packing cubes for each family member and pack their outfits in their correlating cube. You can find the packing cubes that I use here. Dayna Bolden also shared this packing hack that I thought was absolutely incredible - you can check it out here.
Reduce as much baby equipment as possible. We tend to travel with a stroller, a car seat and a baby carrier only. Most hotels or Airbnb/Vrbo hosts have playpens and cribs available if you ask/ request early enough. If going someplace where baby equipment is necessary, high chair, walkers, toys, etc, check out Baby Quip. Baby Quip makes family travel easier by providing everything you can think of in terms of baby gear delivered directly to the airport OR your place of stay. You land, and all you need is delivered and when you head home it is picked up. Easy peasy and they are even international, so you can find services almost everywhere in the world.
When traveling with a car seat and stroller, considering purchasing stroller and car seat covers. When we first started traveling with Wisdom, I didn't know to have these things. Our car seat and stroller got pretty banged up and gross on and off of planes. Purchasing these covers for our car seat and NOW double stroller has made all the difference in preserving the quality of our baby gear. You can find the ones we use here.
When traveling instead of packing diapers and wipes, we will pack what we need for the journey and purchase diapers and wipes when we get to at the destination. This helps us preserve room in our suitcase and guarantees that we are buying the right amount once we land. We started doing this about two years ago, and it helps so much.
Do not overpack. If you don't use it at home, you won't use it when you travel. Packing "just in case" is one of the worst things you can do when traveling with kids because often "just in case" never happens. Only pack what you use on a daily basis in your real life and prepare yourself to purchase if you need to when you get to your destination. Less is more. The only time when this rule does not apply is when traveling internationally. Often countries carry different brands or products to deal with different things - and having something familiar is always nice. That is the only time this rule is to be broken IMHO.
Travel with a fanny pack with as little as possible. Keys, wallet, credit/debit cards, phone and travel documents. When traveling with babies and kids its so much easier to be hands free. Traveling with a purse that is close to your body, when wearing a carrier or a diaper bag makes life SO much easier and allows you to put the focus where your hands need to be. You can travel with any fanny pack - this is one one I use and I have also really loved this one by Hershel Supply Co.
Pack your kids favorite snacks in a bento box and give it to them once you reach 10,000k feet. Having several snack options in a fun grazing board way is such a cool way to enjoy a flight and keeps spending low while walking through the airport. There are so many great options, but I love this one because it is spill and leakproof.
Head to the Dollar Store and buy a new toy for every 30 minutes of the flight. For example, if the flight is 2 hours, buy 4 toys, and if its 5, purchase 10 toys. Wrap them up and every 30 minutes open up a new toy, or rotate through activities you brought with you. Window clings are amazing entertainment, coloring books, water bottles filled with glitter and sequins. Bring as many things as possible that have the power to distract but carry little value, so that if something breaks or gets lost, its no sweat. And use technology as a last resort. Don't forget to purchase headphones for your littles and to pre-download your airlines movie/ entertainment app prior to boarding the flight. If purchasing WiFi is necessary - try to grab it before getting on the plane, because with many airlines its cheaper then when you are on board.
Think through the worst case scenario. If your flight gets cancelled, what will you need to survive, for peace of mind, and make sure to include those things in your luggage, carry on bags.
Checking Into and Navigating the Airport
Consider purchasing CLEAR and TSA Pre-Check - I have gotten so much value from having both CLEAR and Pre-Check and combined they make me feel like a airport superstar. TSA Pre-check makes it so I can move through security at a quicker rate and avoid taking off my shoes, taking out my laptop and camera gear and can move seamlessly through security. Combine that with CLEAR and it's like holding an airport superpower. CLEAR uses biometrics to identify you and helps you to move to the front of the line at the airport. Any minor of a traveler with both of these services gets to benefit too, which means when I travel with my children, we move through the airport in a breeze. It eliminates the amount of time we have to spend sitting in the airport unnecessarily and has cut our security and identification time in half.
If you have to be at the airport for extended amounts of time, considering a lounge membership. Most airline and airports offer these memberships and airport lounges are such a great place to step away from the hustle and bustle of the airport while waiting for your flight. Although we don't have an official membership, I have utilized lounges all year long and I have found it to be such a relaxing way to travel with the kids and my children look forward to going. The food is great, the amenities are incredible and its such calm and lovely way to approach and experience travel with your littles.
Get to the airport early, and if available utilizing curbside services. Most airlines are offering curbside check in again ( Thank you Jesus) and this is such a good way to avoid lugging your luggage through the airport with your children. A tip is all it requires and for most airline its free. If its available, always choose this option. You can zip on through to security right after.
Download the airline app, so that you can save your tickets to your phone. This reduces the need to keep up with additional documents and is so much easier to manage.
Gate check your stroller and car seat. I see mamas make the mistake of checking these with luggage at the ticket counter and when you get to the gate and find out that the flight isn't full and you baby can have their own seat, there's no car seat to put them in. Always gate check the stroller and car seat because if the flight isn't full, your baby can fly in their own seat for free. Always ask! :). this varies by airline and by gate attendant - be extra nice though and they almost always make it happen for you! :) When you gate check your stroller and car seat, you will need to request a gate check tag from the attendant at the airlines gate. Attach a tag per article and leave it at the bottom of the jetway. When you leave the aircraft your stroller/ car seat will be waiting for you at your destination. Sometimes, you have to retrieve it from baggage claim but you can check with your airline before and after the flight to ask where to locate it.
Bring a baby carrier so that you can rotate baby between stroller and carrier, and so that you can hold your other children hands. This also is helpful for multi-tasking and nursing if necessary.
If traveling as a family, split up, have one member take the stroller and bags | solo - board last so you don't feel the pressure of rushing to move out of the way with your little one, also less time with them in the seat fussing, but on most flights, families traveling with children two and under get to board first - you can decide which makes the most sense for your family and plan accordingly. We have done both options.
Surviving The Flight
If traveling with a child under the age of 2, decide if it makes sense to purchase a seat for your child. If you do, be sure the car seat or CARES harness is FAA approved. For a list of currently FAA approved car seats, check out this list. The flight attendants will check, so make sure you are in compliance. We travel with the Baby Jogger City Go Air Infant Car Seat and it is FAA approve for travel.
Consider booking red-eye flights when the baby/ kids are asleep for the night OR fly when your baby generally naps so that they can sleep for the duration of the flight.
Nurse or bottle feed during take off and landing -Sucking or chewing helps ease ear pain caused by pressure changes in the airplane’s cabin. Bring formula or pumped breast milk and give your baby a bottle during take-off and landing. Keep in mind that breast milk is exempt from the 3.4 ounce liquid rule. If your child doesn’t take bottles, then a sippy cup or pacifier works, too. Chewing a cracker or cookie can also help older toddlers. Check out Earplanes for children ages 1+. EarPlanes help to reduce pressure and pain during the airplanes descent. If the baby is asleep or napping, they do not need to be woken to reduce pressure, sleep also tends to do the trick.
Pick a window seat if traveling alone and an aisle seats if traveling with other family members. I always loved having the window seat for support when napping, as well as the discretion it provides for nursing and diaper changes. I always hate taking my kids in the airplane bathroom, so I change them at my seat. The window seat allows more privacy to get things done.
Use feeding times as an opportunity to explore and don't be afraid to get up and walk up and down the aisle if necessary.
Pre-Covid, I was known to let other strangers hold my baby, if it felt right and if the baby felt comfortable. Things have changed so much, but that was always such a relief and provided joy to other travelers and I made lots of lasting friendships that way. You might not be comfortable allowing someone to hold your baby, especially now, but allow others to help you. To carry your bag and to be in service to you. People are generally good at heart and want to be helpful
Bring toys and rotate out every 30 minutes, as mentioned above.
Stay calm, everyone knows how difficult it is to travel with a baby and most people are so understanding and super gracious about it. Babies cry to communicate and this flight won't be the first or the last. Keep calm and take the pressure of of yourself for have the perfect baby.
Dress yourself and your baby in layers so you can easily warm up or cool down if and when you need to.
For long haul or international flights, consider purchasing a seat converter that turns your child's seat into a place to spread out and sleep, here are three great options: Flyaway Kids Bed, Stokke Jetkids by Stoke Bedbox, JPGIF Inflatable Travel Foot Rest Pillow Kid Airplane Bed
Traveling with kids can be overwhelming, but its not impossible. Oftentimes, its not about waiting to bring our kids with us, but re-imagining what travel looks like when they are involved and adjusting accordingly. I hope this post makes it so that you can imagine the possibilities. There is so much still left to share, how to travel with kids internationally, what I look for when booking a trip and the benefits I've experienced from taking my kids with me, but those posts are for another day.
If you have any travel tips of your own, please feel free to share them below OR if you have travel questions you'd like answered, please ask them in the comments. Looking forward to sharing so much more in the new year, but for now, I hope this post encourages you to book the trip.
If you found this post helpful, don't forget to share below, and check out a few of my other blog posts about travel by clicking the links below.
With wisdom and courage, for His glory,