Summer travel season is upon us!! Traveling with your kids and babies can be stressful and overwhelming but amazing and fun at the same time if you’re prepared. At 2, Piper has close to a dozen flights under her belt and we’ve learned so much along the way — but I only have so much advice to offer. So, I polled all of the amazing mamas I know tho share theirs. I’m warning you this post is LONG but it is seriously full of the best advice, tips and hacks on traveling with kids that I’ve ever read. I’m so excited to share it with you and hope that it will be a resource for years to come!
50 TIPS FOR TRAVELING WITH YOUR KIDS
Wear them! No matter where you are traveling, wearing them will be more convenient than a stroller. Also, forget nap schedules and just roll with it. By wearing them, they’ll sleep more frequently and, most likely, they’ll adjust faster than you will to any time changes! — Elle Rowley founder of SollyBaby (pictured above)
Always pack an extra change of clothes for every member of the family in your carry-on. That way, when the baby pees on Mom and the toddler pukes on Dad, everyone is covered. I’ve learned this the hard way… —Jessica Morse of Bare Beauty
When packing for family of four (hello, overwhelming!), my go-to solution for organization and efficiency are reusable packing cubes that make being a well-kept traveler effortless!Amazon offers a variety of options that are a smart and worthwhile investment because they are larger, more practical, and more environmentally friendly than plastic bags.I’m systematic about packing, so each member of our family is assigned a color. This makes it simple to pack multiple children in the same larger tote or suitcase and still keep each child’s items separate. The bags also come in a variety of sizes, which make it a breeze to maintain neat stacks and category groupings (bathing suits, sleepwear, workout-gear, etc.)I always dedicate one bag to diapering essentials—diapers, wipes, cream, and a lightweight changing pad. We keep it handy in the car for quick-changes and use it as our changing station once we arrive at our destination. Because they are lightweight, the bags tuck easily into otherwise empty spaces in children’s gear– sliding into the voids of travel cribs, strollers, or car seat carriers, thus, maximizing space without added weight. You can also throw an empty bag or two in the top of suitcases to use for separating dirty clothes.– Lauren Hopkins of LBH & Co. PR
Now that our son is a toddler, I’ve been packing all of his essentials – diapers and wipes, sippy cup and snacks, toys – in a small backpack. He loves carrying it, but it’s light enough for me to throw on my own back while chasing him around as well!-– Hitha Palepu
If it’s a long trip such as on an airplane, we’ll bring a bunch of little toys from the dollar section at Target or the dollar store and wrap them up so they’re like little presents. We’ll give them to the girls to open everything hour or half hour depending on how long they’ll play with it. They get excited knowing that there’s something new for them to play with throughout the flight.
And any time we travel, as back-up, we make sure to bring a tablet of some kind and have kid-friendly games & movies on there. Both my girls love to play games and it keeps them busy for at least 20-30 minutes. And movies are always a hit with them. — Christina of Proper Hunt
For flying with toddlers, pack snacks, toys, books, etc. each in their own baggie (sorry, environment!) so opening each one feels like a treat. Also buy this – its a great way to transport a carseat before gate checking and kids love it. Its compact and folds up and even if they need to stretch their legs you can roll your carry on/diaper bag, etc. Once our 18 month old fell asleep on the drive from the airport so we rolled her around Atlanta in her carseat for a few hours (????). Deirdre King of indegoafrica.org
Little people (I’m talking the 12-months and under set) come with lots of things. Determining which of those things need to come with you on vacay is crucial for your sanity and your happiness level. Overpacking is every bit as frustrating as under-packing (yes, that’s a thing!) My tip is to take the time to map out what your day-to-day life with be like. If you’ll be eating out a lot, then pack the seat that attaches to the table (if your little one loves it); if you’re going to the beach, then pack the Gathre mat (don’t count on the hotel to provide oversized towels); if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in a rental home/cottage or condo you might want to invest in a mini-jumperoo or travel entertainment mat (keeping in mind that it’s mostly likely not a baby-proofed space).
And never leave home without a white button front sweater and a bathing suit for your little one(s). They always get used!
Dollar store treats can save the day. Keep a mini arsenal in your mom bag for bribes (aka “smile for this amazing family photo”) and rewards (like when they sleep in their own hotel bed!) — Morgan Hutchinson founder of Buru
For airplane rides, don’t forget change of clothes for baby AND you! I feel like we always forget about us, but nothing worse than needing a new shirt/pants and at the airport with limited places to go.
Blow up this baby duck bath and use it when you go to the beach.
Bring an inflatable pool float and leave it at the resort when done (dollar store has amazing ones).
When we travel, the most valuable thing we’ve learned that everyone has a better time (and gets more sleep!) when we have a separate room from our son. Whether it’s booking a suite in a hotel so there’s a door between us, or staying in a home that has an extra room (or large closet or bathroom) so Jack can sleep in a dark, quiet space, it really makes traveling SO MUCH more fun. Everyone is happier when they sleep well, right?! Also, always have snacks on hand. Nobody likes a hungry traveler. — Natalie Borton, designer + blogger
I always bring these Munchkin diaper bags. I feel like any time I’m on the plane with the kids, there is always so much trash to throw away – also obviously great for throwing away diapers when you’re on the beach or at the pool.
I always bring the kids sound machines with us – helps maintain some normalcy for nap/bedtime.
These Melissa and Doug water coloring books are my new favorite thing. Great for the plane or at a restaurant.
Take. A. Good. Carrier. This is my all-time, #1 piece of advice. Babies do get fussy on flights, and a good carrier can make soothing and walking and bouncing immeasurably easier on mama. I suggest something that’s lightweight and easy to get on and off. For soft-structured carriers, I love Beco and Lillebaby. For wraps, I’m crazy for Solly and Baby K’tan. (If you’re using a Solly, just wrap it on yourself before you go on the plane, so it’s ready to go — they’re so beautiful that it’s often a nice addition to my outfit!)
Have an awesome “baby bouncing” playlist. When you are walking with baby in the carrier, back and forth, up and down those aisles, you’ll probably get (a) tired, (b) frustrated, and/or (c) bored. Just like when you’re working out (at least in theory, right?), a good playlist and earphones can work wonders. And speaking of wonders, I always have Stevie Wonder on my list — lifts my spirits even when baby is crying!
Always take 2 more diapers than you think you’ll need, and a ton of wipes. If your baby decides to have a blowout, it’ll probably be up in the air. Plus, I’ve often had another mom freak out on the plane because she ran out, and I’m able to help by giving her an extra.
For older kids, bring a brand new (and QUIET) toy. This brings even more excitement to the adventure, and can give your tot something to do that’s fun and interesting. I love finger puppets or small figurines (just make sure you have a bag to round them up!), a new coloring book, or one of those erasable magnetic drawing pads.
If you travel a lot, invest in a good travel stroller. This can save you when you’re walking throughout the airport (and, ahem, they change the gate at the last minute). We adore the Babyzen Yoyo and — because it folds up in the overhead compartment space — we can take it right onto the plane. — Kelly Newsome Georges founder of Ritual Care
As “seasoned” mom’s of five kids (aged 8 through 13) it’s hard to remember when they were so young, but one trick for sure that is great for long plane rides was buying small things (a pack of crayons, sticker sheets, little figures) and wrapping them individually like a gift to be rationed out during the trip.
Another that takes time and then keeps them quiet for a moment is having them make fruit loop (or a healthy version) necklace to wear, then eat! Make sure to bring favorite and familiar toys and a favorite book along with the new stuff.
Have a back up lovey. We had two “lambies” and rotated them without Lucy knowing so they would both be loved (aka worn down/sticky/smelly) equally.
Older kids should pack their own travel/carry on, always including books &/or magazines and snacks that they like. Give them some money to use right before to spend at 5 Below, the craft store, the airport shop or rest stop along the way. That way they are invested in what they choose to keep them busy.
Taking turns choosing family games, like I Spy, “I’m going on a picnic” and having control of the music is a good way to pass the time.
Summons up some patience. Pick your battles. Ignore the stares, comments and judgement of strangers. And last, but def. not least, have a sense of humor & a bottle of wine handy, at all times. –Amy & El founders of HERE. a pop-up shop
Packing cubes! A lifesaver once you arrive at your destination, since you know exactly where everything is. Always bring more diapers than you think you need– just in case of delays etc. Order diapers, etc to have them waiting for you at your destination if you’re staying somewhere for 4+ nights. I also have her wear a backpack and fill it with some new activities/ treats for the flight. — Connie Wong, Founder of Moderne Press
Go ahead and have a glass or two of that plane wine. — Sarah Culver, photographer
If it’s just my son and I flying, and I plan on baby wearing, I make sure to wear slip-on shoes, and either a dress or running shorts so that it’s easier to go to the bathroom! — Meredith
Packing well in advance and having different bags for different things helped – 1 bag for clothes, 1 diaper bag, 1 bag for my pump supplies and pump, and 1 big tote bag for extras like bigger blankets, diapers and bottles. (Of course this is only useful for car trips.) While we were on vacation we would walk to meals with her in a stroller which always put her to sleep so she wasn’t cranky in restaurants and made it so we weren’t stuck in our room all the time. — Lauren
I try to keep the perspective of my 3 year old and remember life is an adventure whether at the airport or on walk through ruins somewhere. If I maintain this point of view, it seems to make the whole experience better and it rubs off on him, if for some reason he wasn’t feeling it. Giving him my attention on the plane and treating it like our special time is enough for him to relax and enjoy the flight. If we bring the car seat he sleeps the whole time usually… no matter how stressful the logistics of bringing all the baby crap can be it’s always worth the trip. My son has been on 3 continents, lived on 2, and I feel like although he may not remember the exact trips (he remembers more than I realize) the exposure to other cultures and places has a profound effect on him and me as well. – Jamie
We like to buy a few new toys or bring out toys that have been in storage to take along for the ride/flight. We made the busy boxes on our last trip we took and it was a big hit. We also pack ‘special’ snacks that our daughter likes but does not usually get to eat on a daily basis. – Sonja
Try to have layovers in airports with dedicated play areas. If the airport doesn’t, make sure your layover has enough time to walk around, stretch legs, and get the wiggles out. If the airport has a train, it’s great to kill an hour by going back and forth (sit in the front so you get the best view through the tunnels).
Before the big day, I take the kids to the store and let them pick out three special snacks each (at this point I don’t care if it’s healthy or junk, as long as it helps keep them well-behaved, but I try for 1 healthy and 2 junk). They also get to pick out a new coloring or activity book, and small toy for the airplane. Remember that the toys will probably end up on the floor at one point, so nothing that can roll away (i.e. cars or balls) unless you want to chase them down the the length of the plane.
By having the kids pick out their snacks and activities, they are excited about the plan ride and their new stuff. I divide the snacks into equal bags for the amount of flights we have vs. giving them all at once. I do pack all the activities (unless they is a lot and then I divide up) and also have a couple of surprises up my sleeve, just in case.
One fun thing is to get those gel window clings (Target usually has them in the dollar section), and let the kids take turn sitting by the window and playing with them. They are usually good for at least 30 minutes of play.
There are also options like the TrayKit that help contain the kids when playing on the tray and extend the play area. A little on the pricy side, but parents swear by them!
If you’re traveling over nap time, that’s a good time to break out the iPad/etc. It’ll help calm the kids down and put them into a cuddly, sleepy mood. Make sure to have a favorite blanket (travel-size, of course) and feel free to ask for a pillow from the flight attendants. Choose quiet shows, like Kipper or Pokoyo, that calm down vs. rev up. And invest in a pair of child-friendly headphones (use a splitter to plug in two pairs for more kids) as to not drive you or the other passengers crazy.
I’ve flown so many times with my kids that I’ve lost count. The important thing is to remember to stay calm and try to make the experience fun for the kids (which will make it more enjoyable for you too). Ooo and ahh over the planes, count the clouds, treat them to juice if they normally only drink water, share a pretzel from the food court to celebrate a successful flight, make the day special and let it be one of their favorite memories instead of a day you dread. –Megan
If you’re flying abroad, book early through the airlines and book a bassinet (located in the bulkhead rows). Not only did our 6-month old sleep for 7 hours of our 11 hour flight to Germany, the extra legroom and lack of seats in front of us gave us lots of room to stand with him and bounce or rock.
I think my biggest piece of advice is to ignore everyone who thinks you’re crazy for traveling with little ones and just do it! We spent 3-weeks in Italy with our 6-month old, and while he won’t remember any of the museums, food tours, etc. my husband and I not only got to travel somewhere we love, but since we both work full-time and can have conflicting schedules, we got to spend 3 uninterrupted weeks with our son as a family, which was incredibly special! Just go into the experience with different expectations – you won’t be able to travel like you did pre-kid, but that doesn’t have to be a negative! Dinners out were a no-go but wine and prosciutto on our patio after baby went to bed was a great alternative; enjoy lunches at spots with outdoor seating so you can easily move around with baby (and escape if a meltdown ensues) and long afternoon walks through parks and piazzas with gelato! – Meghan
Yes to umbrella stroller and toddler car seat on plane! Make sure the stroller is good on cobblestones (my G-Luxe was realllllly put to the test and passed). Also for traveling to any destination… a secret I learned this year and will repeat for as long as I have young kids: travel in the evening on New Years Eve. The flights are half empty and it’s all people with children so nobody cares if there’s crying. – Caitlin
I always share a suitcase with my daughter. It helps me pack more minimally for the both of us. I also always pack a thermometer and baby Tylenol with us so that we aren’t hunting around to buy some at 10:00 PM wherever we are on vacation. Teething and or illnesses seem to always strike when we are out of town. I try and keep my carry on to just the diaper bag and pack only essentials. I find the more stuff we are trying to haul through the airport the more tiring and stressful it is. — Dionna
And for my own three tips…
We swear by these Munchkin disposable changing pads for diaper changes on the airplane, they have saved us more than once!
We always use this car seat carrier when flying and check our car seat – it’s never been damaged.
Always, always pay for a luggage cart if you’re traveling with a ton of bags, after several trips we finally started doing this and it’s been a game changer! — Caitlin, founder of Mama Notes
Image c/o Elle Rowley