I realize that this 2 part series should actually be called “10 Tips for Travel With Young Kids” as I shared 5 tips last time and am sharing 5 more today. Oops! That’s why I went into social work and married an engineer. I don’t do math. I went to school before common core and all that so its pretty amazing that I can even use a calculator.
We’re gearing up to travel back to the U.S. for several weeks, and that means taking 2 flights that will amount to a total of 16 hours on planes and a 3 hour layover. Its very likely that our flights will be delayed either while we’re still in the airport or after we’ve loaded up on the plane and are sitting on the runway, as this seems to happen with every flight in China except those going directly to the U.S., so I really need to plan well.
1) Pack as light as possible. When traveling with 3 little kids it can be a challenge to pack light. And actually, traveling with toddlers and babies, it NEVER feels like you’re traveling light so the less you can bring, the better. For short trips as a family we typically travel with 2 carry-on suitcases (or one carry-on and one checked bag, depending on how long and where we’re going), one diaper bag, and one activity bag for the kids. On our way to China I packed an entire carry-on suitcase full of activities for my then 18 month old. While she definitely got into the toys and books, her very favorite activity was something my mom, a seasoned kindergarten teacher, put together for her, containing plastic easter eggs and puff balls. My point is that it didn’t take an entire suitcase to occupy her, it took a few well planned and inexpensive activities of things that my mom already had on hand.
I use these guidelines to keep things to a minimum:
-What can I do without for this trip?
-Is it something I can buy or borrow at my destination? (For example, I usually can replenish my supply of diapers and wipes when I get where I’m going with the exception of international travel, which may be more trouble than its worth.)
–Follow the “one outfit per day plus 1 extra” rule, unless I can wash clothes, in which case I bring a mini capsule wardrobe of about a week’s worth of outfits. For the kids I bring 2 outfits per day plus 1 pair of pajamas per day. I bring 1 pair of shoes each (though I might reconsider this after we had to buy shoes for someone on our last trip); for longer trips I bring 2 pairs of shoes per person including sneakers and sandals.
–Bring travel size toiletries and toss the containers as they run out.
-Remember that I typically need less than I think I need.
|This is an example of what not to do if you want to travel light.|
2) Use an umbrella (or super light, super easy to fold) stroller. One of these days I need to do a “best stroller for travel” review. In China we have 2 strollers, a City Jogger City Select double stroller and a MacLaren umbrella stroller. While the City Select is a fantastic stroller and lots of people love it, including myself, its not great for travel (you have to take off the seats and wheels in order to put it in the travel bag and that takes like 10 minutes. Can you imagine doing that at the gate with all the kids and the carry on bags and all the people and all the stares? Been there, done that). Invest in a really quality umbrella stroller that is light and easy to carry and folds up in a flash. We’ve done many a trip with 2 kids and our one trusty MacLaren because it just is so easy to use, and now that we have 3 I’m planning to invest in a good double umbrella stroller. (As a side note, internationally “gate check” does not always mean “right by the plane door”. It means that you turn in your stroller by the airline counter and the gate could be a half a mile down the way, and that you’ll get your stroller back at the baggage claim.)
To clarify, I’m not talking about the cheap ones at the check out counter of the big box baby stores. I’m talking about a high quality, well made stroller that will survive being thrown around at the airport and in and out of taxis. It may not provide you with a lot of under-carriage storage, but if you pack light then you should be able to handle everything. We’ve also done several days at Disneyland with just this one stroller and the baby carriers and it was enough.
3) Use a backpack style diaper bag. Best. Idea. Ever. I know that backpacks are not the most stylish accessory ever. In fact, when I just had Lucy I vowed never to use a backpack as a diaper bag. Then came the diaper bag that had straps to use as a backpack. Then came the diaper bag made as a backpack. Its been one of the best investments I’ve ever made. And its purple, so that makes me happy! This is the key to traveling light no matter where we go. I typically fit all of the diaper bag things (fodder for another post perhaps? Who really cares?!) plus snacks and a few toys. The kids either have one bag for activities or each have their own small backpack (which I usually end up carrying), and my husband has his carry-on filled with his computer and a bunch of books he never ends up reading. Because someone is almost always being worn in a baby carrier, using a backpack is the most practical bag to have because I can use it while wearing a carrier. It also is the most comfortable and allows all of my hands to be free to push the stroller and wrangle the other baby.
|On a recent trip to Hong Kong (minus our 2 carry on suitcases and the girls small backpacks).|
4) Plan activities well. Most of the time the kids mostly enjoy exploring their environment and kicking the seats in front of them. But in this case I need to pull out the guns.
In the activities my mom put together for Lucy there were several plastic easter eggs filled with random things such as puff balls, little dollar store toys, a mini troll doll and comb, and stickers. There was also a little box with pipe cleaners and clothes pins and a few other things I’m forgetting. These little things kept her busy FOR HOURS and the best part is I didn’t worry about whether or not she lost something. The other things that kept her occupied were a deck of playing cards and a miniature Go Fish game.
Since that trip when we have travelled shorter distances the kids are always most interested in walking and exploring the plane, exploring the “seat pocket in front of you”, and eating. Always with the eating. Besides bringing the normal diaper bag stuff and snacks I plan to pack each of the girls a large ziplock size bag of activities that I think they’ll enjoy including:
-Stickers (especially the foam filled kind, they’re easier to remove) and sticker books
-Color Wonder markers and paper (They don’t write on ANYTHING BUT THE SPECIAL PAPER!!!!!!!!! So I can relax and let them color at will.)
-Mosaic sticker activities
-The aforementioned Easter egg activity
-A few favorite books
I will plan to keep a few things hidden away for the end of the trip when they’re bored and tired of their activities. And also DO NOT FORGET to save some activities for the trip home. This time it shouldn’t be a problem since I have enough time to get some new stuff, but I’ve pulled this rookie mistake before and the ensuing meltdown after my 2 year old expected her stickers was not amusing.
You know your kid best and the kind of activities they enjoy, and obviously these ideas may not work for everyone. Perhaps you have the type of kid who will happily sit for 10 hours watching TV. In which case don’t even talk to me, I don’t even want to know!
My oldest daughter is very into arts and crafts as well as music, so I know if I can find something that isn’t messy (like the color wonder markers) she’ll be happy to draw or create something for quite a while. My middle daughter is mostly into climbing and screaming, she’s only 22 months after all, so we’ll see how it goes. Currently she wants to do anything she see’s her sister doing and so I need to pack 2 of everything.
5) A fully loaded iPad, in my case I need 2. Both with a few episodes of Daniel Tiger, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Jr, Sophia the First, and Elmo.
I just asked my husband what his travel tips for travel with kids are, and he said “Lots of snacks…and an iPad?” So you could just get by with those 2 things apparently.
Do you have a travel tip to share? What has made your travels with little ones easier?