Hi friends! I love to travel. I studied abroad in college and did a three week trek through Europe, lived in Uruguay for almost a year after undergrad, and traveled for work around the U.S. relatively frequently the first few years of my job. Travel and I were good friends. I loved seeing new places – and welcomed the different scenery of not being in the office every day. And then I had a baby. Personal travel all but halted that first year (though we did manage a couple of trips and even a plane ride) and even now hasn’t picked back up significantly although she’s well into the toddler phase. Traveling with kids is just plain harder.
Traveling for work while nursing became infinitely more complex since I now had to deal with the guilt (and sadness) of leaving my little, finding a place to pump every three hours, and then constantly had to worry about TSA, refrigeration, and the milk making it back home. After working the logistics of pumping on a plane, in a parking garage, or rushing through the airport to find the mother’s lounge, I came to dread the occasional business trip. Now that we’re through that phase, traveling with her is both easier and harder since she is mobile. In general things are just more complicated, and traveling with kids is just plain stressful. On top of that, we now travel with SO. MUCH. STUFF.
However, as usual, I have a plan in place to make things more manageable. Here are the things I’ve found that make traveling with kids less stressful.
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TIPS & TRICKS FOR TRAVEL SUCCESS
Our schedule has become a lot more rigid with a baby, so we’re still trying to balance getting out and seeing new places while respecting the needs of the littlest member of our family. That said, even a weekend trip requires a lot of prep to make things go as smoothly as possible. There are a few things I do to try and keep us on track:
Preparation is key
- Make a packing list for yourself and the baby. Hubby is on his own unless you really want to be a taskmaster 🙂 I use this list while packing and don’t mark anything packed until it is in the suitcase or car. This helps prevent “missing” items once we arrive. More on why I love this list below.
- Pack at least two days in advance. I always pack two days in advance so I can use the day before we leave to do a quick double check of what made it in the bag. I’ll then throw in anything I forgot or make changes to the outfits based on what we’ll be doing. This way you can just wake up in the morning, throw in any “day of” packing items and get out the door quickly.
Travel as lightly as possible
- Keep travel versions of key items & toiletries. They actually make baby travel kits, but it is super easy to go to Target and buy a few of those mini bottles for shampoo and soap. Keeping a small toiletries bag packed has been a lifesaver for me, and making your own kit from your large bottles of shower supplies is very affordable. For suitcase and small items, this saves time — for big items like the stroller and car seat, it gives you peace of mind that your expensive versions won’t get damaged.
- Decide what you’ll bring and what you’ll rent. The great thing about many family friendly destinations are rental companies. I had no idea these existed until we had our daughter, but almost everywhere we’ve gone we’ve rented a crib or other essentials while we’re there. Do some googling of “crib rental, or family rentals” in your location of choice before you pack.
Make a plan
- Strategize maneuvering from car to plane beforehand. This may sound silly, but when you have 5 bags, a stroller, car seat, and baby, it’s best to plan. Decide who will carry which bag, and how you’ll get everything through the airport or various levels of transportation.
THE PACKING LIST & WHY IT MATTERS
I’ve tried to make it a little easier on myself by creating a master packing list. I use this every time we pack for vacation. Having this list handy drastically cuts down prep time for packing. I can just adjust the quantities for a two day trip vs. a week long vacation. There are two lists, one for newborns and one for toddlers as we needed different things as baby grew. Click the button below to get access to my FREE packing list!
WHAT WE TRAVEL WITH
Now for the bad news. No matter what, when you’re traveling with kids the number of bags you’ll be taking with you has at least doubled. Even without a carseat and stroller, the amount of stuff you bring for your little will be shocking. For a week long trip — including plane and car travel, we’ve only managed to get down to five bags. Two bags are for the car seat and stroller, a diaper bag, a small carry-on size suitcase for the baby, and a large suitcase for hubby and I. I also carry a backpack on the plane as my carry-on along with the diaper bag. Hopefully we’ll be able to consolidate this into one bag on our next trip! There are a few key items we’ve used while traveling that I hope will help you as you plan your next trek.
BYO Car Seat
Both flights we’ve taken we brought our own carseat and used this travel bag to protect it. I know you can rent a car seat but I wanted to be 100% sure we felt the seat was safe. You can actually get a cheaper (yet safe) car seat that you’d recover the price for renting in just two trips. I’ll write another post about car seats at some point – but unfortunately we haven’t found a rear facing one that we love yet. We tried the Cosco Scenera Next seat as it was ranked well in consumer reports and the price was right, but we couldn’t get it secure rear facing so I can’t recommend using it. I think it would be great and has a tether to face forward, but since she is still firmly in the rear facing camp, we ended up taking our infant seat on the last trip.
Keep everything in top top shape
For now, we’re still in search of a great travel seat. For maximum travel protection, I wanted a structured bag that would protect the car seat when we checked it at the gate. Many Amazon reviews even said they’ve checked this bag in with luggage. It definitely passed the test, and even has shoulder straps so the hubby can wear it as a backpack. The main challenge with this is that he walked through the airport with a HUGE bag on his back and was constantly bumping into people — but the car seat held up great. We fit our Chicco Keyfit 30 and the base in the bag with no issues. We’ve gotten lucky a couple of times and brought the car seat on the plane with us. We’ve also had to gate check when flights were full. Our bag was great to help getting from the car to plane, and protected the seat when it wasn’t with us.
UPDATE: Check out my new post on traveling with toddlers for a full update on a great travel carseat!
We have this umbrella stroller that we use for travel as it is a lot more compact than our city mini, and it’s served us well trekking through the airport. When you’re carrying 5+ bags and a baby, even a few pounds lighter makes a difference. The canopy isn’t going to keep the sun out of your baby’s eyes, but will provide some shade from direct overhead sunlight. We like this stroller specifically because it is lightweight and affordable. I’ve seen a few one handed button close strollers that looked amazing. However, for something going under a plane we weren’t willing to spend $150+. Our version does the trick!
FROM CAR TO TAKE OFF – THE SHERPA STRUGGLE
To make getting through the airport easier, we check in as many bags as possible including both our suitcases. We keep the stroller bag in with the car seat until we get to the gate. I’ll wear the backpack and carry the diaper bag while pushing the baby in the stroller. You can also wear the baby in a carrier and push bags in the stroller. I haven’t figured out a way to carry everything without a stroller yet. If your stroller has a big storage basket you’re in luck. You can store bags underneath and push the baby, freeing you up entirely to relax with a coffee, maybe? Ok – relaxing with coffee may not happen. But at least you’ll have your hands, arms, and back free to deal with getting out the tickets, etc.
Once you reach your destination there will be a whole other host of issues like baby proofing, stairs, and small objects to deal with. Since you used your list, at least you won’t have to stress about forgetting the diapers!
Would love to hear all your travel hacks as well!