Before child, I pack my bag (not bags) 12 hours prior to departure. My husband and I have only carry on luggage. I have the travel light concept down pat.
After child, I am juggling a wriggly kid (who conveniently forgets how to use his legs AND refuses the stroller), few extra luggage, an empty stroller and travel crib; trying to decide which to check in. Perhaps the child. Kidding (maybe).
I had a few trips under my belt. Here are my survival tips.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
- Choose to travel during nap time. And tire your child out before that.
- Choose the right destination. Make sure your child gets to run around. Resorts are great options. Jam packed days are generally not suitable for young children.
- Plan to arrive at your destination with ample time to travel to the hotel, unpack, eat and make it to bedtime on time.
- Plan your days around nap time. Plan on going somewhere not crazy loud during nap time. The best option is to return to your hotel room.
- If your child is used to a bathtub, make sure you book a room with bathtub.
Other than the obvious travel items, there are some extra things to consider when traveling with kids.
- Send ahead of time if possible (eg. if visiting families). Especially heavy or bulky items like formula and diaper supplies. Or, pack enough formula and diaper supplies to last for 1-2 days and then go shopping locally.
- You are not restricted to the 3oz fluid TSA rule when it comes to formula or breastmilk. So pack enough for the trip and extra for delays. Do not forget to pack bottles.
- Pack enough diapers for the trip and potential delays. Do not forget to pack change of clothes (you and your child). Being stuck with a diaper blowout mid flight with no change of clothes, oh my god, that’s bad!
- Pack disposable chucks. Airports, train stations, airplanes all have nasty changing tables.
- If your child is light enough to be carried around in a baby carrier, do not pack a stroller. If not, then buy a cheap umbrella stroller.
- Pack lots of hand wipes and hand sanitizer.
- Pack dish soap to wash bottles or breast pump parts.
- Car seat. It is recommended to have your car seat on the plane. We did not. Because our child acts like the car seat is on fire. If you are taking a cab at your destination, book a cab with car seat. If you are renting a car, rent a car seat too. It is really a pain to lug the car seat around.
- If your child uses pacifier, get a pacifier clip.
- Sleep paraphernalia. (see below)
- Have your partner use the priority boarding to get your seat ready.
- You and your child stay out of the plane until the VERY last minute. Change the last diaper, have the last potty time, have the toddler run laps around the boarding area.
- If your child is in diaper, use overnight diaper. That way you do not have to change diaper mid flight unless there is poop. Changing poopy diaper mid flight in those tiny lavatory, is a whole new level of skill. I have no tips for that, other than try to make someone else (your partner) do it.
- If you have a lap child, consider buying a business class seat or getting that extra economy class seat, especially on longer journeys. My child does not like to sit on my lap. His butt needs it’s own seat.
- Let your child drink something at take off and landing to help with ear pain.
- Hopefully you are traveling during his/her nap time. If so, transition quickly into nap time routine after take off (after all those announcements).
TOYS FOR TRAVEL
Older kids are easy to entertain. Movies would do the trick. Young babies sleep a lot, which is perfect for travels. Toddlers are the hardest. They.cannot.stop.moving. Take something he/she has never seen. I dedicate an ENTIRE bag for toys, out of respect for my fellow travelers. Here are what worked for me, but every child is different.
- Coloring. Get those that you just need to fill the pen with water.
- Hand puppets.
- DVD player (with earbuds) for some sing along DVDs.
- Wear some gawdy chunky necklace (you, not your child). For some reason, that entertained my toddler for an entire 30 minutes!
Lots of small snacks that take a long time to eat and bring bibs.
- Goldfish cracker or any tiny crackers.
- Chopped up fruits.
- Fruit and vegetable pouches.
- Some “reward snack” for being good. It needs to be good! Chocolate and candies are off limit everyday other than travel day. Do this at the end of the journey though. Sugar high kid in a confined space is a bad idea.
- Have a checklist. (Also read ORGANIZING YOUR LIFE)
- Do it as soon as you arrive.
- We are one of those weird people who sanitize the hotel room on arrival. I swear it keeps us from getting sick. A sick kid on vacation is really painful.
- Set up your child’s sleep space as closely mimicking home as possible.
- Set up the bath area.
- Set up a diaper changing area if needed.
- Childproof your hotel room as much as possible without remodeling it.
SIMULATE HOME SLEEPING ENVIRONMENT
This will reduce bedtime battles. Also, keep bedtime the same. And do your usual bedtime routine. Keep everything the same. For eg. if you do not co-sleep, do not start now. If not, you will pay for it when you return from your trip.
- Bring your own travel crib. Before you leave for your trip, let your child take some naps in it.
- Bring all the comforting items your child need for bedtime. A favorite stuff animal, a lovey, favorite bedtime book etc.
- Keep to the same time zone if possible.
- Bring white noise. Especially if you use it at home. There is an app called “white noise” that has awesome white noise options.
- Keep the same nap schedule. It is a pain, but if you do not do this, you will pay for it later.
Have fun! And lower your expectations. Vacation with a child is mostly taking care of your child in a different place. But you will build memories, both good and bad. Safe travels!