After nudges from friends, family, colleagues, and mentors, I finally listened. I am starting a blog. Because what else would I do with all the "free time" I have between being a full-time physician, overtime mommy of two rambunctious boys, world traveler, snowboarder, amateur chef, and food lover who constantly tries to expand the palate of her PB&honey-sandwich-loving husband?
We are on a plane nearly every month – even moreso before kids – so we've got a lot of miles under our belts. I am lucky(?) to have a partner whose infection with the travel bug far exceeds mine; I would count that as a BONUS to traveling with kids but it still doesn't make this feat in the least bit glamorous. I will provide you with my first-hand experience on just a few things that help keep me sane – I could seriously fill a book with everything I’ve tried! Fist – Jedi mind tricks. Second – tangible tools.
The biggest factor to a successful family trip is your mindset. Keywords:
family trip - this is NOT a vacation. For clarification and hilarity read this as it should be required reading for all parents.
MINDSET - Traveling with children is not for the faint of heart. There may be a diaper blowout during takeoff and you forgot to restock the diaper bag. Your itinerary may revolve around naps and bedtimes. You can't go on an 8-hour tour of 5 different historical attractions lugging around hungry and overtired offspring. There may be vomit left in several hotels. And meltdowns are guaranteed. But if you remember that between these catastrophes will be woven some of your best family memories, I promise you will laugh at these mishaps (much) later.
Set yourself up for success: purchase attraction tickets in advance to avoid long lines. Try to find deals with semi-private or private tours. Limit yourselves to one “big activity” per day and schedule time for less structured activity like beach / pool / parks (they're usually free!). Make early dinner reservations, put the kids to bed, and enjoy cocktails on the balcony. Consider getting a local babysitter (often available through hotels) for one of your dinners to enjoy “adult night out.”
Now that you’ve got your head in the game, onto the tangible “stuff.”
- can fit a full-sized infant or convertible car seat
- can fit two 5-point car seats (Cosco Scenera and Immi Go)
- backpack style allows you to be hands-free
- free to check in (car seats, cribs, and strollers are free!)
- sturdy: this bag has survived monthly trips for the past 4+ years. It developed a few small tears in the bottom but nothing a few strips of duct tape couldn't handle!
- It may seem bulky but we prefer to check it in (free!) rather than rolling a car seat on wheels through security and the airport to Lord knows wherever the gate may be. We're big fans of wearing our kiddos and travelling hands-free. If you are unable or unwilling to do this or your child(ren) are not having it, then strap them into the wheeled contraption of your choice and carve out some extra time to go from place to place – especially through security. Once at the gate, request a tag for your stroller. You will leave it right at the end of the jetway and pick it up at the same place after your flight.
- I "smuggle" a tote full of an entire pack of diapers (unopened or half sleeve to prevent splay), wipes, diaper cream, swim floats, etc. Packing these bulky items saves room in your luggage for all the other kids stuff you need to pack!
- do NOT throw away the plastic encasement. Fold it up into the car seat bag before zipping it closed. Use it to store when not in use. It's much easier to store a cube-shaped item instead of a big bulky blob that doesn't really fit anywhere.
- According to Amazon reviews, do not purchase the wheeled version. They break. Save that $5 for the luggage cart if needed.
- 7.6# (Britax & Graco convertible car seats approx 24#)
- Rear facing / forward facing
- Includes LATCH system
- It’s so lightweight that the entire seat may shift / tilt when you pull the bottom strap to tighten
- I forego the cup holder since I prefer a slim profile, especially when we are trying to pack snowboards in the rental car and want to avoid the added cost of renting a minivan...which we only do if we are traveling with more than just the four of us. And no matter how waterproof things claim to be, my boys have found a way to create water world in the back seat.
- It's the size of a large notebook and can fit in a purse / backpack / glove compartment
- I have mixed feelings about this one. 5 point restraints are definitely the SAFEST. This will work in a pinch and I use it for short car rides when traveling. But for longer trips I still prefer devices with 5 point restraints.
Your little ones can enjoy lay-flat airplane seats thanks to this travel pillow for the kiddos. It’s a luxury for long / international flights and it folds easily into a gallon ziplock bag. It can also double as a foot rest for this petite mommy! Here we are in a 2-4-2 configuration.
Tips: Inflate once you reach cruising altitude. Unfold and expand as much as possible which allows for significant inflation. Then inflate though the large mouth piece but only just enough to place on the floor in front of the seat and complete inflation once in place. No need to inflate completely. I covered with a blanket to make it feel more like a bed.
In the interest of preventing “scrollitis” I will pause here. I’ve intentionally left out baby carriers because I could write an entire chapter with everything I’ve tried. Stay tuned! Now that you’ve got some insight on how to transport your chicken littles to and fro, where is your next destination?
*Affiliate links may be used but all opinions are my own.