Few things are more stressful than planning a family vacation. To help make things a little less stressful, here are four more of my best tips for an almost stress-free traveling experience with your kiddos. (This post is a continuation of a post I shared in November. To read that post, click here.)
1) Tips for airport travel with babies
When I was traveling via air alone with my 3-month-old son, here is how I handled that: I used an infant carrier. This allowed me to keep the baby on me while keeping my hands free (which came in handy when visiting the restroom).
Another option would be to use a stroller, which can be strolled right up to the gate where the stewardess will take it from you, store it, and then return it to you when you land. However, I find that it’s much more convenient to use the baby carrier if your baby isn’t walking yet. The carrier, along with a backpack filled with baby essentials (change of clothes, diapers, wipes, food, etc.) is really all you need.
Plus, if you have a connection flight and need to hurry across the airport to catch your next flight, you can get there faster if you aren’t pushing your baby in a stroller through a crowded airport, needing to dodge pedestrian flow.
2) Tips for breastfeeding while traveling
During breastfeeding years, stops need to happen much more frequently and for longer durations. As tempting as it is, never shorten a breastfeeding session just for the sake of getting on the road sooner. This could temporarily satisfy the baby, but you might end up needing to stop sooner for another feeding since the baby didn’t get her full meal. Also, you risk breast engorgement if you don’t fully empty during feedings or if you try and go too long between.
When I was breastfeeding, I remained in the car and always put the window shades I have for the front glass to give myself extra privacy. Of course, I’ve also breastfed while dining inside food establishments with a nursing cover if we’ve decided that we would just sit down inside to eat rather than eat our meal on the road.
Regardless of where you choose to breastfeed while traveling, never, ever, take the baby out of the car seat and breastfeed while the vehicle is in motion. It’s tempting, yes, but should (heaven forbid) you get into a car accident, your baby isn’t safe in your arms.
As far as the essentials for breastfeeding, make sure your diaper bag has all the things you’ll need (water to stay hydrated, snacks, breast cream, extra shirt/bra, hand wipes to keep your hands germ-free, extra nursing pads). Keeping these items with your diaper bag along with babies necessities helps you avoid the need to dig through a suitcase.
3) Tips for staying in a hotel
If my family needs to stop at any hotels en route to our final destination, I always plan when those stops will occur a few weeks in advance. Depending on how old my kids are will help me determine how often we’d need to stop and help me figure out how much driving time we can realistically accomplish in a single day.
Playpens come in handy so that baby has a safe place to sleep while at the hotel. If you prefer, some hotels offer cribs, but you should ask in advance so that it’s already in your room when you arrive.
If you plan to turn the hotel sofa into a bed for one of your children, let them know in advance so the staff can leave extra bedding in your room (lately we’ve had to ask after we couldn’t find it).
If they’ve outgrown their playpen, a cot is a great alternative, especially if your family is big like mine and you can’t get a hotel room with enough beds. This is the cot we purchased from Amazon* for our three-year-old. (It’s the first cot we’ve ever bought for any of our kids and we’ve been very happy with the quality and the portability. The bedding that came with it did well in the wash, too. It comes in several colors/designs.)
*This is an Amazon affiliate link. I make a small commission for sales made through my affiliate links. Thanks in advance for your support.
A word about hotel reservations: while it’s a little cheaper to do advance reservations, I always opt for the most flexible option so that I can cancel up to 24 hours in advance. This gives us wiggle room just in case we need to change or cancel our travel plans.
4) Tips for using technology while traveling
My family has a phone plan with enough data and a hot spot so we can connect our kid’s devices to it without worrying much about it. However, if you don’t have this option, or want to conserve your data, here are some suggestions:
- Download your kids favorite movies/games (ahead of time) so they have a few options to pick from while they don’t have WiFi
- Create a playlist of your favorite songs and download them to your phone so you can continue listening to the music you love without needing to stream it.
As far as being mindful of how much time your kids (or you) spend on your devices while traveling, here are some suggestions:
- Create some time constrants before hand and let them know of the rules before the trip starts. This will not be difficult if your kids are already used to rules around using their devices at home. For example, most of the time, I don’t allow my kids to use their devices while we are doing normal car trips to run errands.
- If you’re visiting family, avoid using your phone during family gatherings, especially around the dinner table. Whenever I visit my nearly 90-year-old grandma, I’m sure to keep my phone away unless I need to show her some photos or videos. Out of respect, if she sees me looking at my phone, she doesn’t talk to me because she doesn’t want to interrupt what I’m doing. Give those around you who haven’t seen you in a long time the time and attention they deserve.
Before I wrap this post up, I wanted to share just a few more random tips for traveling with your kids:
- If possible, avoid traveling the day before a major US holiday. These are the busiest travel days and roads and airports will be at their busiest, potentially causing delays. If you cannot avoid it, have patience and understand it will likely take you longer to get to your destination. Plan accordingly.
- Hit up the ATM before you hit the road just in case you can’t pay for something with a card. If Instagram/Facebook can go down, anything with an internet connection can. Be prepared.
- Always pack one extra outfit/set of underwear for each child under 10 (just in case).
- Use checklists when packing so that you’re sure of what you’ve packed.
- Avoid overscheduling your days during your trip. Cranky kids = stressed out parents.
- Clean your house before you leave. This means taking out all the trash and washing all the dishes. The last thing I want to do when I return home from a family trip is to be greeted with nasty odors and clutter everywhere.
- Let a trusted neighbor know you’ll be away so they can keep an eye on your house while your gone. They can do things like move your trashcan (on garbage day) and pick up packages.
- Set a USPS mail hold while you’re gone so mail isn’t sitting in your mailbox while you’re away. You can set that up here: holdmail.usps.com
- Avoid sharing on social media your wearabouts while you’re away from home. I realize this might be a practice that seems overly cautious, especially if you know everyone of your online friends/followers, but you never know. If you must share pictures of your adventures, do it more privately, like via text message or other family photo sharing services you might use. Wait until you’re home before you share it online.
- Be sure you pack the approapriate shoes for your family adventures. Comfy walking shoes are a must if you’re be walking around all-day.
- Check the weather in advance and pack accordingly. You can’t always guarantee great warm weather just because you visit somewhere tropical.
- Have fun!
I hope that these tips have given you something to think about as you prepare for your upcoming family travels. If you have any travel-related questions that I didn’t address here or in the previous post, leave a comment or send me a DM and I’ll be happy to help you if I can.
Safe travels, mama!