Preparing for Take-off... With Tots in Tow - A Guest Blog Post by MommaOf2

When my friend asked me to submit a blog post to her, re: "traveling with babes and tots" I was a bit intimidated... by no means am I a professional traveler and quite frankly I often seek other moms' advice when it comes to the kids but I have done some traveling both domestic and international with my two tots and there is no denying it, traveling with children not only causes some parents exhausting anxiety but it also sends lots of parents into unchartered territory... so here goes, my small but hopefully helpful take on traveling with our little monsters!


I would say probably one of the most challenging tasks is packing- and sometimes that’s just packing you! I often spent nights packing, unpacking, repacking, over thinking, second guessing the packing for our trips. I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old and "genetically" I come from a long line of over packers so it’s a task I am slowly refining. There are some rules of thumb that I follow that can get you started down the right path:

1. Limit each child to 1 or 2 comfort items.  Let's face it there is something your child finds comforting and it’s extremely important to your children to be able to feel, see or touch those things- especially when in strange, tiring and stressful situations.  Don't fool yourself- you will encounter stress while traveling!

2. Purchase your baby needs (diapers, wipes, etc.) when you get where you are going and always take just enough of those items for the trip itself.  Take a small supply which will include few extra in case of a layover delay or some other random hiccup- take it from someone who was delayed on a layover after a 7 hour international flight. I ran out of diapers before we got to the 2nd flight... yes, the airport news stand had small packs of two for sale- for $5 a pack. Being that desperate, price meant nothing but had I been more vigilant I would've saved the money.

3. Pack LIGHT!  Pack what you want to take and then remove at least half of it. And if you are going somewhere with laundry facilities- pack even less. Those baggage fees don't hurt the business traveler who can squeeze their business trip wardrobe into a carry-on. The airlines today basically (excuse my vulgarity) screw the families. And on top of that visualize yourself with the kid(s), the carry-on(s), and the luggage all moving toward the rental car garage with grace and ease. Now, come back to reality and visualize the same scenario with back breaking physical strain, screaming kid(s), crowded shuttle buses, confusing parking garages. Now, complete this visualization test with my real life experience of me stepping clumsily onto the rental car garage escalator holding the youngest, trying to balance 3 awkward bags and watching my oldest freeze up with fear at the top of the escalator while I was already halfway down. The best is the vain attempt I made at trying to run back up the escalator to retrieve my teary eyed 3 year old. I mean who was I kidding I couldn't do that without the baggage and in my workout gear! Thank the Lord for the kindness of strangers and the obvious pity they took on me.

Packing is just the first major challenge- yes folks the stress just keeps coming- But I am hoping the little tidbits I have learned below will be helpful to you at some point. Knowledge is power!

Also, when traveling I have discovered some definite necessities for the diaper bag... an extra set of clothes or pajamas, a new/surprise toy or activity and hidden juice box and snack. These are often lifesaving items and after you reach your destination you will most likely be thankful for all three!

Baby Gear Recommendations:

Let's touch on the car seat/stroller decisions we have to make while we're are preparing for our trips. I have found that though you can rent car seats at your destinations... I prefer taking my kid's seats. I already know the ins and outs of putting them in and removing them, and from experience its harrowing when you get another brand or style that you have never encountered. Not too mention, you usually get a bottom of the line seat which my kids find uncomfortable and often they are given to me dirty and the cost is outrageous!  Imagine a 7 day car rental with two car seats at $30 a seat, two screaming and tired children and a strange car to boot! If you have special travel rewards sometimes they will provide a car seat for free, so always check because it might make sense to rent then.

I ship my car seats through baggage (it's FREE!) and never carry them on the plane. It's just too much stuff to manage on the plane, and the biggest thing to avoid when traveling with kids is too much stuff!  Spend the few dollars and get car seat bags - the airlines will destroy them if you don't!  Also, invest in a travel stroller - lightweight stroller with all the bells and whistles which is easy to fold and versatile.  I LOVE my Baby Planet stroller. And if I recline the seat I can fit both my kids in it with one sitting in front of the other- this has been a huge bonus when rushing through a busy airport! Even though you may Gate Check the stroller put it in a bag. After many torn pieces found on my good stroller I learned that I would prefer to get back a torn Gate Check bag rather than a torn stroller. If you are flying with an infant I reccomend using a baby sling- they will sleep better on the plane AND you free up your hands when you are boarding and de-boarding. There is one other piece of baby gear I can not live without when traveling- it's a traveling booster seat. These are especially helpful when visiting family members who won't have high chairs or boosters- my favorite brand is the 
Brica Travel Booster..I got mine on Amazon.com.

Changing Diapers:

Be aware, be very aware: Not all places and planes have changing tables or facilities. I have discovered the Europeans are much more accommodating to families by providing cleaner bathrooms and well equipped changing areas. Be prepared mentally to deal with the deficits you might encounter. Strategize it all in your head before you leave and when you are in places that provide you with these facilities use them so if the next place you get doesn't you aren't stuck with a totally saturated kid whose diaper change is about to cause a tsunami... if you are on a plane ask the stewardess/steward which toilet has the changing table- if there isn't one refer to my notes below about bulkhead seating and if all else fails a lap change is completely acceptable despite the dirty looks from your fellow passengers. One last note- use overnight diapers! They give you additional protection and peace of mind!
Seating Location:

Bulkhead seating is ideal for air travel. It provides space on the floor for changing, space for toddler leg/ arm stretching and general play and you can avoid dirty looks since there is no seat in front for the little monster to kick! You can't reserve bulkhead seats but the best thing to do is get to the airport early and speak to the ticket counter and agent desk at the gate. The airline typically holds these seats back and if your flight is not full they are often available. Don't be afraid to ask and explain you have a toddler/baby or multiple toddlers/babies and that is why those seat assignments would be so beneficial to you and the other passengers. 

Airport Security:

Regarding airport security- the best I can say is be prepared and go in with a plan--- remember your kids can leave their shoes on, strollers need to go through x-ray and Sippy cups/ bottles will need to be opened and tested. Oh and don't forget to put all liquids and creams in baggies. Honestly, almost all airport security has been extra forgiving when they see you with kids and many offer the family line so just take your time and don't let the anxiety of getting through it seamlessly trip you up. Oh and I know many moms are against "leashing" their children but while dealing with shoe removal, stroller folding, laptop bag dismantling all at one time a kid's safety strap to keep tabs on your tyke is a life saver!

((RCMom wants to add a safety disclaimer that you should still continuously watch your child even thought they are attached to you.))

Waiting and Waiting:

Lots of airports today offer kids play areas.  Take advantage of these areas to help them burn off energy and travel frustration but be prepared- most of these areas are dirty (some airports are worse than others) so get the baby wipes and hand sanitizer ready.

*  *  *  *  *

There is so much more I could share but going on for days isn't going to help you right now. So go- plan that great family vacation and enjoy every moment of it with the kids... even the airport delays and flat tires you encounter along the way... make it part of the adventure because we never know what tomorrow holds and our kids won't be young forever!

My little family’s travels in Ireland in April 2012

And now some ideas from RCMom and friends:

1 comment:

  1. Robert Benchley famously said: "There are are two ways to travel--first class and with children." This blog post says that there are three ways to travel: First class, with children AND with children prepared for the experience by this blog post.