As a nanny, I was fortunate to be able to travel on A LOT of pretty amazing trips! Of course with a slew of kids in tow! Now, as a mommy, I love to travel with my own little ones and am so thankful for that past experience. Today I wanted to share my very best tips and tricks to make traveling with the kids faster, easier and more enjoyable.
Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor, Lawyer or Financial Advisor. All posts are my opinions and things that have worked well in my life. Please consult a professional for advice.
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The airports during peak travel times(like school vacations) are CRAZY! Like seriously it is so busy and chaotic and almost everyone is in a hurry. As an adult, it is quite a process in itself and then when you add unpredictable little people into the mix and we’re talking full on “cray cray!”
Don’t worry I have figured out(with some great help and advice along the way) some pretty fantastic tips to make things go smoother for your family!
Things to do before you travel…
- Pack a week in advance – A week might seem like overkill but I promise it is not when you realize you need to wash things, try things on(kids outgrow things SO fast!), pick up items from the store, charge or replace batteries. You will be very happy when you’re not running around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to get everything ready last minute. YAY for Amazon Prime 1 and 2-day shipping when you realize what you forgot and the last thing you want to do is run around trying to find it in the stores(if you don’t have Prime Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial)
- Get the right travel gear – If you have little ones consider getting a lightweight stroller that is compact and has a shoulder strap! Also, don’t forget your Ergobaby carrier! So great for babies and small toddlers…they are safe, stuck(can’t run away), can sleep on you, and you can nurse discreetly this way too! For bigger kids who will be walking, backpacks are a must-have! I like the ones with wheels that way they have the option to carry or roll! Make sure that your mommy bag is big enough but don’t use an over the shoulder bag or one you have to carry on the arm. It will get in the way, your arm will be hurting, and when you have to carry a kiddo or need that free arm it will be such a pain! Go for a cute and functional backpack and throw your cute purse inside or in your checked bag. I swear it will be soooo much better!
- Pack AMAZING carry on bags – Keeping kiddos entertained on the plane is a fine art! This is one of the very few times I am all for screen time and packaged snacks(those don’t exist too much in our regular life). Take a tablet with headphones(make sure you get ones that will stay on or try this little contraption to keep them on), learning games or favorite shows and movies and some super special snacks you don’t usually get to have at home. Grab some cool new coloring packs, little action figure, travel games and whatever else you know your little one is crazy about right now! It can be hard for little ones to sleep on a plane so you need to be prepared if they don’t. This needs to be pretty amazing and needs to last the duration of the plane ride. I like to have a few items tucked away for the ride home too. (Remember that most liquids can’t be carried on with you)
- Must have snacks – Sugar-free lollipops! It helps to suck on something to prevent pressure in kiddos ears. So take off and landing the kids get a special treat! They don’t know it’s sugar-free so all the better! Little packs of muffins, cookies, crackers, fruit snacks, dried fruit, Lunchables, granola bars, mini cereal boxes. Try to go less sugar but these are meant to be a happy, exciting distraction from sitting on the plane. Something your kids don’t always get or only eat at grandmas or a friends house.
- Must have apps – You Tube Kids( for some reason all kids love watching these ridiculous videos of other kids opening toys, making play doh, pretending to be cops and other random and stupid things. But you know what they will happily watch for hours and sometimes you just have to make it through a flight without a fit), ABC Mouse(love this learning app! It is a fun game for kids age 2 ½ – 7ish).
- Must have toys – Coloring packs, little action figures that can be lost or tossed(think dollar store ones), mini-games( travel edition, mad-libs, puzzle books), Something new your kiddo loves or has been eyeing for awhile. Seek and find books are a hit, small lego set in a lunchbox, water paint books, invisible ink books, black light books. Be creative to what you know your kiddo loves! Magnetic dolls are fun for girls.
- Pack a well equipped carry on for yourself – This needs to have extra everything, clothes, batteries, toys, snacks, first aid items, sanitizer (if you have little ones you have to try these safe for babies sanitizing wipes! AMAZING PRODUCT we have survived the airport germs with no sicknesses thanks to these babies!). All relevant travel stuff..wallet, passports, phone, tablet, chargers.
- Consider getting your family TSA Pre-Checked – If you travel often this is a must! You have to fill out an application, go to an in-person interview and pay a bit but the shorter security lines and less hassle that come with it are a great option! Kids 12 and under don’t need to do anything but travel with you. 13 and older need to go through the same application process as you.
The night before you travel…
- Pick out everyone’s outfit for the next day – Dress your family in comfortable clothes that are the same color and bright! This is a huge tip for families! It is much easier to look for your child and hubby when you know what color to look for and vice versa(remind your child of this color and your first name before your travel, that way you will be easier to find just in case). Make sure shoes are easy to take on and off. If your little one recently potty trained I recommend pull ups just for the flights as a precaution. Sometimes they forget to go with all the excitement or get nervous about the plane bathrooms.
- Check in online – Check in online 24 hours ahead of time. This will ensure your family assigned seats together unless they are already predetermined. Also, you will have your boarding passes on your phone ready to go for the next day. One less step to do when you get to the airport!
- Email all travel reservations – Email yourself and your husband your travel information. Hotel, Parking, Rental Car, Flights, Shuttles. That way either one of you can manage the kids while the other deals with the travel details. Also, paper copies can get lost so email is the way to go!
- Have a shuttle or car pick you up/ Have someone do drop off if you are parking – It is much easier to have a car or shuttle take you to the airport that way you are just dropped off, end of story. Sometimes it is a cheaper option to park, however. If you are parking I suggest someone does drop off at the terminal with all the kids and luggage and the other person goes to park the car. It is a lot more work trying to get a family from parking(often including a shuttle ride) to the terminal with all the baggage. Streamline the process and one of you can check the bags curbside as you drop off or take them in to check them while the other parks. Don’t forget to check your car seat if you will need it on the other side. It is free for most airlines and they can give you a bag when you get there or you can have your awesome easier to manage one ready to go. (Be sure to keep in mind safety and car seats when choosing the right option for your family.)
- Security Checkpoint – Once your family is all together head for the security line or if you know it will be a long wait get in line right away and direct the parking person to meet you there. If you have certain credit cards there are fast security lines to take advantage of(they also have AMAZING lounges too). Or if you decided to TSA Pre-Check then you can use that special line now too. If not then while you are in line get the kids prepped. Shoes and coats off if you need to(depends on where you are). Liquids and laptops ready to be easily removed. Also, a good time to tell the kids what to expect from security procedures so they don’t get scared. This is when that lightweight stroller can really come in handy…easy to fold light and fits well through security. Here are TSA traveling with kids guidelines so that you know exactly what to expect!
- Find your gate and wear out your kiddos – Now is a good time to grab some food, use the bathroom and then use it again, and run off some energy. Don’t let them get into their special carry on until you are on the plane. You will be sitting for a long amount of time so let them watch the planes, run off some energy at an empty gate nearby, play at the indoor playground if they have one. Play I-Spy, pretend or people watch. Just keep busy until it is time to board. Oh yes and don’t forget a gate check tag for that stroller! Just ask for one at the desk at the gate.
- Boarding time – This can go 2 different ways. Pre-boarding for families is a good option if you need time to get your kids in and settled. If you have just one little one I recommend waiting until everyone is on board and then boarding. This means less confined sitting time and gives you the freedom to move about easily for as long as possible. This choice will just depend on what you think is right for your kiddos.
- On the plane – Distract with the window, a hand game or a snack until you are up in the air. Then get out those amazing carry-ons! Keep them busy as long as possible! If you think they will nap(planes are actually very soothing with the noise and motion)then, by all means, get them comfy and to sleep! Don’t let kiddos get out of their seats unless they actually have to use the bathroom. They will get out of hand or not want to sit back down so if you don’t offer that freedom there is nothing to take away. If you create the habit then they will expect to be able to get out of their seats all the time. So unless you have a wailing baby that you have tried everything with don’t get up! Ask the sweet flight attendants for some wings, stickers or any extra supplies you can make a game out of(cups, straws, and napkins can make a cool tent for action figures!Be creative!). Flight attendants can help you warm bottles too. Just remember your best manners and use gratitude.
- Mom’s with a baby – Expect the worst before you leave. Prepare yourself mentally for a screaming baby the whole flight. In most cases, it will make what happens a nice surprise to you(I have sat through a 6-hour flight with a screaming teething baby(if you have a teething baby use the power of Tylenol or Ibuprofen(over 6 months of age) to ease your baby’s pain about an hour before your flight) in tow and I have sat on the same flight with a sweet sleeping baby. Babies are unpredictable and you never know what you are going to get so prepare yourself mentally.)! If you have a good napper then try to book a flight for nap time and have your baby sleep for most of the flight. Bring a pacifier, bottle or nurse on takeoff and landing to help with the pressure. Make sure you have plenty of milk and food for baby. Dress baby in layers so that you can keep her/him comfortable. I LOVE to use the front pack to let baby sleep in on the plane. Cozy and baby is strapped to you. Don’t spend the money on an extra seat until you have to(2 years and older). Most little ones will want to sit with you for comfort anyway. Unless your baby is an absolute disaster and screaming then do not get out of your seat. Creating that habit on a plane can be really problematic when the seat belt sign is on or its take off or landing. Your baby will want to get up and not understand why you are not doing it and the screaming will start. Bring fun sensory bags and books so baby can touch different things. Try these awesome sensory flash cards!
- Nursing moms – Wear lightweight clothing(and put the baby in something light weight with a jacket or sweatshirt to add when you get where you are going) because you will have a baby hooked to you. Either in a front pack or snuggled up with a nursing cover over you. So be prepared to nurse A LOT and try to keep you and the baby cool. Read up on TSA guideline for breast milk here.
When you land make sure you get everything packed back up. Check the seat, under the seat, the cracks of the seat, the seat back pockets. Your kiddos will be upset if something gets left behind. Sanitize your hands and the kid’s hands as much as humanly possible! Sick kids are not fun and even more not fun on vacation. Clean their toys when you get where you are going too! Don’t forget to grab your stroller on the gateway!
Hopefully, these tips will help you in your travels and make them much more enjoyable as a family! Flying with kids can be intimidating the first time but once you create some good habits, the kids will learn what to expect. Most people have had or have kids and are actually pretty sympathetic to your situation. Just do your best to keep your kids in check and well mannered and behaved. If you catch the person who decides to be a complete A-Hole then just laugh it off…there are always going to be people like that in all areas of your life. They don’t deserve your energy or attention anyways : )
I would love to hear from all your momma’s out there! Do you have a question or comment? Did I miss something that is your travel saver? Please share! Even if you don’t normally leave comments I would love if you left one here! I want this to be a place for mom’s and families to connect and share!