You too Can Travel with Young Children

Trips are always interesting adventures when you have two young children. First you have to take at least a whole morning (approximately 5 hours) to pack everything making sure you are not forgetting loveys, little socks and thermometers. Then you have to come prepared for any possible hurdle that could potentially disrupt you children like dirty clothes on an airplane, lack of snacks or an earache. Lastly, you have to think about how you will get your little ones around once you are at your destination, which may include renting some car seats.

Is all the planning, stress and effort worth it? YES! I don’t know that any of our trips with the children have been relaxing, but they all have had their unforgettable, great fun moments. I think that is worth the hassle that traveling with small children implies.

I have written at least an entry before with some traveling tips but as my children grow, I feel like our travel needs change or that I find new corners to cut so here are some tips for anyone who finds them useful.

  1. Don’t let parenthood stop you from traveling if this is something you value and enjoy. I don’t say that it is easy to go anywhere with a preschooler and a toddler, but most of the time when we go to a restaurant or on a trip, the kids also have a good time. Now that my preschooler voices her thoughts, it’s easy to know how much she is enjoying herself.
  2. Traveling on an airplane is stressful as a parent, period. There is no way around it. Your kids are going to kick chairs, wake people up, and bother at least one person on the plane and you know what, that other person will still have a fulfilling life. I’m not the type of parent who lets their kids run wildly up and down the aisles, but when my preschooler woke the person in front of her up because she wasn’t overly gentle opening her tray table, I wasn’t going to scold her either. I instead explained to her that people around her were trying to sleep and it worked (at least this time). It’s just hard to deal with the neighboring passengers especially when they give you dirty looks because your toddler is crying because he can’t fall asleep. Bottom line, you have a right to be there too and nobody is doing you any special favors so deal with your children without caring about what others are experiencing.
  3. Once you are determined to go on a trip, GO! Are the kids too young to remember? Who cares? You will remember, you will take pictures and sometimes is good to live in the moment. We took the kids to Disneyland for a day during a recent trip to California and not only was it totally phenomenal for them, it was very special for us to experience the park through the eyes of little hearts who believe in all the magic.
  4. Pack a light diaper bag. Bring some portable snacks and special treats (I like to give the kids fruit snacks), water bottles or sippy cups, a few diapers and wipes, hand sanitizer, a pen, some medications that you may need while on the road like children ibuprofen or anything recommended by your doctor to help with earaches (the smallest bottles you can find) and something for you to snack on too. Everybody knows that kids are unpredictable and you don’t want to be stuck on an airplane with a child crying because he’s hungry. Be prepared but don’t over pack.
  5. Bring a rolling suitcase for the plane. I always bring one with lots of diapers since you don’t know if you are going to have to wait longer than scheduled to fly or at the plane. A change of clothes for each adult and two outfits and a set of pj’s for each child. Also bring your camera, charger and perhaps your iPad and headphones (keep them easily accessible) here so you don’t have to add more weight to your diaper bag or purse (after all, it’s easier to roll heavy things than to carry them). I also include small toiletries. All these is just in case your luggage is delayed. It’s happened to me in several occasions and I can’t tell you how great it feels to be prepared.
  6. Don’t bring a purse with you on the plane. This is a personal choice but I like to be responsible for just one carry-on item since I always end up carrying my toddler in and out the plane and sometimes, through the airport. It just makes things more manageable and I can easily fit my wallet and some make-up in the diaper bag.
  7. Bring a stroller. Even if you are taking a direct flight, sometimes you will need to walk long stretches or have a place for the kids to nap on if there are any delays. Besides, it makes hauling all your belongings easier.
  8. Don’t over pack! I know, easier said than done but I have learned over the years that first of all, you never wear all what you bring; second, you always need space to bring thing back with you; and third, the weight restrictions are very tricky these days. To give you an idea, when we traveled to Lebanon for 24 days last year, we brought 3 big suitcases not completely full: one with clothes for the children, one for my clothes and some of my husband’s, and one with the shoes, presents and the rest of my husband’s things. And just a week ago when we were in LA for a 5 days we brought only one big suitcase with 8 outfits and pj’s for the kids and 7 outfits for each of us. I know it sounds challenging but it’s more challenging to over pack and then not to be able to go shopping because of the lack of room. It is all about the strategy. You can try those space-saving bags that big supermarkets or Target carries. They are great to help you with the space but beware of the weight!
  9. Choose a packing style. I have done it all: rolling each shirt individually so that I can fit more shoes, laying the clothes without folding them too much, arranging the shoes first and then filling the rest with clothes, doing a layer per person (for example: putting all my clothes first, then my husband’s, then my daughter’s, then my son’s), using the packing bags, and the one I find particularly helpful with kids, packing by outfits. To pack by outfits simply preplan the shirt, bottom, and underwear of your little ones (I don’t think it works as well with the adults) and use the shirt to fold then all together. Then use the layering technique I mentioned above. When you get to the hotel, or where you’ll be staying, pick a drawer or a space of the closet for each member of the family and unpack as soon as you can. It will take you 15-30 minutes but will save you priceless time through your trip. I normally use the empty suitcase to place the dirty clothes.
  10. Look up the weather. It is very important to do this. That is how I knew that LA was going to be pretty chilly while we were there and packed for that.

TSA is constantly changing the rules of what can be brought through airport security so if you haven’t traveled for a while, make sure to check their helpful website. You should know though that they allow you to bring some liquids through for the children (but they are subject to be checked by the personnel) and that your kids younger than 13 years-old can keep their shoes on. One annoying thing is that you have to take everyone off the stroller and pass the stroller through the machine along with all of your belongings so be prepared 🙂

If you have some travel trips to share, please feel free to leave us a comment.

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