Out and about around Chicago with our Baby Jogger stroller in tow.
Motherhood time, again! As a part of our motherhood series, Kelly and I are teaming up to answer a question that every parent inevitably wonders: “How do I travel with my baby?!” (By the way, thank you for all the positive feedback on this series so far! I’m so happy readers are loving it, and I’m so thankful to you, Kelly, for teaming up!)
When our little family of four packed up our bags and headed out west a month ago, there were similar responses from a handful of our closest: “You’re traveling with a toddler and infant across the country? Are you crazy?!” The answer is most definitely yes. But, hey, we’re also fun. (I think? The passengers next to us on the plane wouldn’t likely agree.)
Even since before Grace was born, Doug and I made a commitment to one another. Life should still be filled with adventure. We love traveling and experiencing new places, whether it be a new restaurant or terrain. Though having kids of course meant that life would change, we didn’t think that it would have to be any less enjoyable. We still were going to do all the things we wanted in terms of travel and going places, with one change: we’d bring the kids along. “Solid plan”, we thought. Sounds easy, right?
Wrong. Boy, were we wrong. I’ll cut to the chase and lay it out as frankly as possible.
Traveling with kids Going anywhere with our kids can be challenging. More than challenging. It can literally make me never want to leave the house again. (Okay, I’m exaggerating here. We wouldn’t survive without the park.)
Gracie and I, on a plantation in Charleston. (I was only a few months pregnant with Josephine at this time!) This trip was my first time traveling solo with her on a plane.
Both girls have their own ways in which they’re challenging. Grace is two, so her attention span is up before you can say “Elmo”, and her energy is a waiter’s worst nightmare. After 10 minutes she is bouncing around, trying to climb out, and often screaming for bread. Josephine, on the other hand, is actually quite easy in terms of demands. She’ll likely sleep or sit there contently looking around…but there’s a catch. She’ll go from sweet angel to hangry monster the moment she’s hungry, crying loudly for a bottle.
Oh, yea. And both girls could have a diaper explosion at any moment.
Despite these truths, we’ve traveled on planes, trains and automobiles with our girls (Yes – all since Josephine has been born!) and take them with us pretty much everywhere. Along the way, we’ve picked up some tips on how we make traveling and going out work for our family. I’ve split these tips into sections, since situations can vary hugely and there are considerations for them all!
Be sure to swing by Kelly’s post for her tips as well – Kelly and Mitch have a very similar mentality to Doug and I and take Emma everywhere. We’ve been to dinner with them before and they are pros. I’m so excited to read her tips!
At The Great Salt Lake, after road tripping across Utah in a van.
When Going On A Plane
Get to the airport hours early. This may not work for everyone, but we’ve found that we’re significantly less stressed if we’re not rushed. The girls can walk around, we can all get food, and the thus it becomes an experience rather than a rushed headache.
If you can, fly at night. Second best option is during naptime. We’ve found that planning trips around when the girls will likely sleep has promoted, well, sleep. Which is a really, really good thing on a plane.
Don’t pack the day of. Doug and I are notoriously last minute packers, and we have learned through nearly missing a plane that we simply can’t go that route anymore. Pack the night before, because things never go according to plan when kids are involved.
Gate check the stroller. Kids require stuff, and stuff gets heavy. Strollers are a life saver in the airport, especially when you have two kids!
Bring enough food. Snacks, water, the works. Take what you think you’ll need, and double it. We have found that food is one of the best ways to keep them happy and preoccupied!
Have 3+ sources of entertainment. I mean this per child. You’re in a very confined area for a long period of time; you’re going to need some help. Movies, books, toys – grab their favorites that you can pack, and have them by your side. One pro tip is buying an Amazon Tablet and loading it up with Sesame Street episodes and movies. We did this on our most recent plane ride and Grace was quiet for hours; it was amazing.
…But don’t take too much with you. There is such a thing as over packing, especially when you need to carry around kids as well. Be deliberate and thoughtful about what you bring! It’s easy to go over board and end up lugging around too many bags, which we’ve done, and it’s the worst.
Pray to have nice people near you. Let’s just level set here: you will annoy people. It will be uncomfortable at times, especially if your child is crying. Don’t worry too much about it. They can throw on headphones…you can’t. Hopefully people are nice and empathetic toward you; perhaps they can even throw a smile or goofy face your kid’s way to help make them laugh? If not, not your problem.
Fly Southwest. This isn’t a plug. We just really love Southwest. Kids fly free if they’re under 2, there’s family boarding so we can be sure we’ll all sit together, and we can bring a car seat/stroller with zero extra charges.
Bring two extra outfits per child. We learned this the hard way after Josephine had a diaper blow out on me, then proceeded to throw up on Doug, on a flight. We walked out of the plane with her wrapped in just a blanket, and us with very red faces.
…And an extra outfit for you, too. Reference said issues above.
Bring blankets. It can get cold with the AC! Bring a few extra blankets just in case.
Josephine and I in Bryce National Canyon. We hiked through the most beautiful views with her strapped into the Baby Bjorn.
When Driving In A Car
Have a kid-focused playlist. Favorites include Frozen, Elmo and the Trolls soundtrack.
Invest in a car-specific basket of toys. We have a little basket under the seat where Grace sits that holds toys that stay in the car. Whenever we put her in the car, we grab a few of the toys to help keep her entertained.
Bring easy-to-eat snacks. They have to be small enough for you to pass back to your toddler while driving, and easy enough for them to eat on their own. Things like orange slices (kind of messy but I like that they’re healthy), pieces of granola bars, or Goldfish are great.
Don’t forget the sippy cup. Where there are snacks, there will be a request for a drink.
If driving around nap time, promote sleep. Put on relaxing music, or no music, and let your kid snooze.
Plan longer trips around nap time. This is implied from the tip above, but we’ve found that the car is great for naps! Planning our trips around those times has helped for the ride to be more enjoyable, and for the arrival to be less cranky.
When Going Out (Particularly To A Restaurant)
Bring your stroller. This is mainly if you’re like us and live in the city. Because we walk everywhere, a stroller is essential, and we’ve found that they come in handy for holding things along the way.
Consider the other essentials. This is more for adventure-based destinations or walks around the neighborhood than anything, but we’ve come to rely on the Baby Bjorn! While in Utah, a backpack toddler carrier was also key in our traveling success.
Get an appetizer as soon as you sit down. When your waiter takes drink orders, grab a small appetizer too. We’ve found that at the time where we’re ready to eat, Grace is really hungry, and things can go far south from there. The sooner food comes, the better.
Don’t overstay your welcome. By this, I mean don’t stay longer than is realistic for your child to sit. Let’s face it, they don’t have long attention spans. Work with them in that aspect to avoid breakdowns — you can still go out, but it probably can’t be for hours and hours.
Always make sure you have a fully-loaded diaper bag. We use this one from JJ Cole, which was a compromise with Doug after he complained that all our bags were too girly. Ha! But, the great thing about it is that it is small enough to carry easily, and big enough for all the necessities. Essentials to pack in the bag include diapers, wipes, an extra onesie per kid, and a few toys in case you need them while you’re out. And snacks. Always carry snacks.
Carry a few toys that your kid will play with. Sit down meals or long periods of sitting are basically impossible for kids unless you have something to distract them. We’ve found with Grace that stacking blocks work really well, and now that she’s old enough, crayons and paper work like a charm.
Be ready for spills and spits. Bring a silicone bib if you have a toddler. These were a game changer for us, both inside and out of the home. They’re easily washable and essentially mess-free. For babies, bring burp cloths. Aden + Anais are my favorite brand for these because they’re absorbent and easily drape over your shoulder.
Bring extra food. Notice a trend? 😉
I hope these tips were helpful for you! I’d love to hear your thoughts and learnings on traveling with kids. What’s worked for you? Any advice I forgot to cover? Leave your tips in the comments below, and be sure to swing by Kelly’s blog for her tips as well!