We've been traveling with the twins since they were 10 months old. Look it's not easy, and I think the idea of traveling with kids or babies is just so daunting that it takes a lot of the excitement away. Even though I feel like I have a pretty good system, I still get so anxious before we take any type of trip. There is so much to pack and so many things you will need, that the idea of traveling almost seems not worth it.
But over the years of traveling I’ve learned it doesn’t have to be that way! We can (and do) travel with our kids and it’s actually been pretty easy! So with that in mind, I wanted to share some tricks and tips I've gathered throughout the years so that if you're thinking of traveling one day, maybe this will help!
**I know that we are very lucky to be able to travel because it's not cheap, especially with kids.
**And I also want to say that we are fully vaccinated, Nick and I, which is another reason I feel comfortable traveling right now. We are traveling with a lot of precaution, masks and of course adhering to all of the rules necessary to make this trip safe for us and everyone around us. Lupita is also fully vaccinated and is coming with us.
Let's start at the beginning: Where are you staying?
Figure out exactly where you will be going and staying. This is huge. With kids, you can't just stay anywhere. The basics I always think about when choosing where to stay (because honestly you can find these places almost anywhere) are as follows:
Get two rooms. If you're staying at a hotel you can ask for connecting rooms if they don't have suites available. having a door to where you are sleeping v the kids is huge for naps and just to have extra space and privacy. This way you also won't have to sit in the dark half the day or by 7pm if you have a baby who naps.
Or opt for an Airb&b. This is what we tipuycally do now. Airb&b's are a great option because there is usually more space and they are usually less expensive than a hotel room and much more flexible (key word here).
If youre in a hotel, ask for rooms near outdoor areas. This will make it easy to entertain your child and or just get outside more often. When we book Airb&b's we always find one with some kind of outdoor space even if it is just a balcony.
Ask if there is any baby gear available. Literally anything so that you can check a few items off your list. (more on this later in this post).
A kitchen is a must. We always make sure we have a mini fridge (at least) and if its more than a couple days having a kitchen is huge. The last thing you want to do is rely on room service or a restaurant at 3am, 5pm or 12am. I always bring breakfast items so that we are not awaiting for rooms service or in need of snacks or food at random times of the day. Also this way we don't have to rush out of the hotel room or Airb&b to get food and can take our time as needed. And yes sometimes I even travel with non refrigerated milk.
Make sure there is a flexible check in and check out time. The last thing you want to do is be forced to roam around the streets hours before you have to go to the airport or have to find something to do before checking in after a day of travel. Airb&b's are typically good with this and if you ask in advance they can usually accommodate.
Also, try to do everything for check in ahead of time. Meaning fill out anything you can and need to, tell the Airb&b host that you're coming with kids and have all the info you need ahead of time.
If you will need a ride to and from airports I suggest booking cars ahead of time. Sometimes Ubers and Lyfts can be hard to find at certain times of the day. You also might need a certain size car for luggage and also one that offers a car seat if you are not traveling with one. Typically these car services are right around the same pice as an Uber or Lyft.
If youre traveling internationally this is required, yes even for infants (which was news to me because we never traveled with the girls internationally before they were 3). Here are some passport tips and tricks:
Make an appointment at your local USPS. You can go online and see what locations have passport services. The appointments are usually 15min long IF you have everything ready to go.
Once you've made an appointment print our everything you will need. Fill out all of the paper work before going into the appointment. Also make note that both of your child's guardians will need to be present unless you notarize part of the application exempting one of the child's legal guardians. Nick actually got his portion notarized so he didn't have to be there. (gee thanks).
Make note that baby and or child must be present at appointment
You will need your ID card, check or money order or Debit card and typically the child's birth certificate (original one) and copies of it. There is a list that is provided by the USPS when you make an appointment that is very thorough and easy to follow. **note they will keep the original birth certificate and you will receive it back in the mail in a few weeks.
Passport picture. You will need one of your child. There are apps now that allow you to upload a photo, change the background and create your own passport picture. You then send it in to any photo print service and have your pictures ready to go because you never know how your child/baby will be the day of your appointment and avoiding melt downs is key. One of these apps is called "Passport Photo- ID photo app" but there are several.
Probably the most stressful thing of all right? My first tip is to write it all down. What you want to take, what you think you'll need based on where you are going. From there START PACKING! Seriously, I start a couple weeks in advance. I figure out what I have, then make sure I get what I need in time. Here is what I always take:
Airplane food. Especially now with Covid bringing your own snacks is crucial. I always make bags for each kid. I make the appropriate meal and pack extra snacks because for some reason airplanes make everyone hungry. For example, I will pack a breakfast bar and fruit for the morning. Then, knowing we are landing around lunch time I will be making a sandwich and a lunch so that they're not starving when we land. I also make my husband his own bag (and by bag I mean I use a gallon size ziplock and make one of these for everyone). And of course one for myself.
Medicines. Make note of anything youre currently giving your little. Then, rather than taking what you have open and worrying about forgetting it last minute because you still need it before you travel, just buy a new one and pack that one. For example, some medicines I always take are: baby Tylenol, gas drops, soothing teething tablets, Benadryl, tummy relief and windi by nose Freida. I also make sure I have the appropriate sunscreens and ointments like neopsorin and first aid essentials (obviously depending on where youre traveling to). I place all of these in a ziplock bag to a mess in case they open and spill.
Snacks. This is a big one for me. I actually am the one that needs all the snacks since I can't tolerate a lot of different foods. I also, like I mentioned, always pack breakfast foods and yes even one or two small milk cartons (the ones that don't need to be refrigerated until opened). Again, I make a list of what I might want to take and buy them all in advance rather than taking from home. This way I can be done with this part of packing.
containers/baggies. This is so random I know. But having plastic or reusable baggies on hand is huge. Don't ask me what you need them for, just trust me, you'll see.
Feeding baby. Currently my baby is eating rice cereal/oatmeal so will take a new sealed box of that. Because she is eating avocado and might start a couple other vegetables I will just make sure to ask the resort and or hotel. ***One thing I ALWAYS do if we are staying at an Airb&B is instacart (or any food delivery). I order the food to be delivered the day we arrive. I inform the host and they have always been kind enough to bring the food in the Airb&b for me if we haven't arrived yet. This way we have everything we could need because everyone is always hungry when we check in and the last thing you want to do is figure out meals when you have no idea where to go and are exhausted from traveling***
Take everything out that you think you will be taking for your kids in terms of clothing at least a week ahead of time. This way you can see what you need to wash or what and if anything youre missing. You can also start to see how much space you will have for extras or if you need another bag.
**What I take on the airplane:
9 year old twins:
ipad with dowloaded movies and educational games
Snacks and lunch
one plush toy of their choice
coloring books/reading books
4 month old
pacifiers and extra ones along with pacifier clip
change of clothes
*pump since im pumping
Also a special tip from Modern Family Travels
⁃ Purchase travel size items so you’re not packing last minute. This may include diaper area items like a mini balm spatula (don’t knock it until you try it) and mini butt balm. Pack a second set of bottles and bottle cleaning supplies like travel brushes.
You can check them out here!
Another daunting category. I mean until your child is 3 it seems like you need to take SO much stuff with you from diapers to wipes to swings and strollers. THIS is one of my biggest tips and has allowed us to travel with so much ease.
RENT BABY GEAR! Yep! Literally almost anything you can think of is rentable. This means if you're staying at an Airb&b or even hotels you can find companies in that city that rent out gear. For example, on this coming trip I have rented a baby swing, a pack and play, a diaper gene, a baby bath, a play mat and some toys. These companies typically have things for kids up to age 8 so for the twins we have rented scooters, to stroll around in and even boxes of toys so that they don't have to bring their own. This is also fun because to them it's a whole new set of toys they get to break into. these are so good for the mornings when you don't want to entertain them yet or go down to the pool or leave the room! For example, we took the twins to Paris at age 5. we stayed at an Airb&b and rented a box of toys and scooters. These companies will always deliver to your door and also pick up the items when you need them to. ***These companies will also "rent" you a box of diapers and wipes. Of course you actually keep the diapers and wipes but this way you don't have to pack diapers for a week!*** examples of this: http://babychicny.com/category_21/Rentals.htm
Travel Stroller. I typically always take our own. This usually means having to purchase another stroller separate from the one I currently own because I want to take a very compact one for the trip. Moving around an airport with a baby in hand can be very stressful and frankly I need all my hands because as it is I always misplace things. This also allows you to use the stroller to keep baby stuff in while you get through security and checking in. Try to find one that can fit in the overhead compartment. This is always helpful too when arriving in a new airport and also just to have throughout the trip.
Favorite things. Allow for your kids to bring their own carry on (if they are of age to handle it). I always let them bring two of their favorite toys to sleep with and one or two other items that fit in that bag. I also make sure they bring books and coloring books. This passes the time on the plane and is also a good activity for any down time on vacation. I refuse to pack other toys. If the child can't handle a carry on, pack items that you know are their favorite and especially anything they enjoy sleeping with to make sleep a little easier on vacation. I'm also taking a fee teething toys and distractions that aren't to large.
Blankets. Make sure to take any blanket that your infant sleeps in. If its a favorite swaddle or just a blanket so that they have some familiarity on vacation.
Toiletries. Have a separate bag of toiletries for your kids. Include a travel toothbrush and toothpaste so you are not making sure they are putting it in their bag the morning you are leaving. one of my daughters has eczema so I also make sure to take the appropriate lotions and skin solutions.
Lets Talk Time Change
Once you know where you are heading figure out the time change. This will be helpful on the day of travel so you can plan out your baby's feeding schedule if you have them on one. Bottles/milk are allowed on flights FYI. For example, our flight leaves at 9:30am so I will be bringing a bottle for the baby since she eats at 9.
Attempting to stick to the schedule will help with trying to keep the baby calm and eliminate the stress of figuring out food. Also bring extra for the plane ride. You never know things can spill etc and sometimes a little extra food may soothe a crying baby. Also figure out what time you land and what time you will be able to get to your hotel room or destination because you might need another bottle or food or BF session once you land.
IF you can, try to schedule your flights around nap schedules. IF you can help it, try to be on the flight for the nap time instead of running around the airport or driving etc. Basically whatever you can do to stay on your baby's schedule will help. But also, remember it's just one day and if it all goes to sh%$t ITS OK!
Stay on your time zone. This has been a life saver. So wherever we travel to (that is not across the world that is), we try to stay on our time zone. Especially if our trip is less than a week. This allows baby to stay on their sleep schedule but also not have to adjust to any time changes for the first three days and then have to adapt back when you get back home. So, for example, when we travel to NYC we stay on CA time. When it's 9pm there we still act like it's 6pm for our bodies. This means we go out to dinner late (according to east coast time), but we don't mind! And when the time is later wherever we go it also makes us all "Sleep in." Of course if the time zone is earlier wherever you head this can be done too. This has been a game changer for us especially when kids are younger. ***also keeps my digestive system on track. TMI but my system will go off the deep end if things change too much so this helps a lot!***
Finding help on Vacay
Let's be honest, when you travel with kids it also means you have dinners with kids, which also means your dinner selections are limited. BUT it doesn't have to be that way. Everywhere we go we always find a local nanny/babysitter. We've left the girls' for dinners, sometimes day trips too! How? Here it is:
Ask our friends if they know anyone. Everyone knows someone right? I kid you not when I say we have found a babysitter everywhere we have been with the twins (except for Hawaii big Island), by asking a friend of a friend. Yep, even in Paris! Someone knew someone and there we were. This has also been the most reliable and trustworthy way of finding a babysitter.
Ask the hotel. If you're staying in one, sometimes the hotels have contracts with secure and reliable nanny services. They will connect you with someone and assure you that they have been background checked.
Ask your Airb&b host. Similar to #1 here, they will probably know someone who knows someone and if they want to stay afloat as a good location to stay, they will definitely ensure you are in good hands.
Attempt a nanny service in that area. When we were in Paris we needed someone to take on a few extra hours that our other friend's friend couldn't do. So we went on a nanny service, recommended by this person, and found someone through there. Similar to care.com.
**We would always leave the nanny/girls with dinner or meals ready to go. We made sure they had things to do in the apartment/hotel. We let them watch movies and just make it as easy as possible for the nanny. By exposing the girls to different people early on, they've never had a problem staying with someone new. The best part is you develop relationships with these people and we've actually used the same nannies when we return to these cities!
Coming back home
Another challenge right? Ugh, unpacking, making sure the baby sleeps, getting groceries, it't a lot! Here are my tips for making getting back home easier.
Try to plan your flight or return method in accordance with your feeding and nap schedule as much as possible. If baby naps well in your arms then take advantage of the plane! If baby needs a crib and a dark room then try to schedule around that. This is a very hard thing to have much control over, but if you have the options make sure you think about all that prior to booking. Also, make sure youre not leaving for the airport hours after you have to check out of your stay.
Pack lunches/meals. To avoid stressing out about making sure you have food, ask the hotel for a meal or lunch. If you're in an Airb&b make lunches and take them with you. Have extra snacks handy so that you don't have to add this to the "we will do it at the airport" list.
Order groceries. If you have the ability to, order groceries so that they are delivered to your home before you arrive or shortly after. This way you have one less thing to think about when you're home and having to do a million things.
Tag team unpacking. If you are married or have a partner that has traveled with you, tag team unpacking. Meaning one of you unpack the bags while the other helps the kids and puts away the groceries. One of you can start the load of laundry while the other one tackles another space. Seems obvious but if you talk about it before getting home it can be really helpful! Working as a team makes everything go more smoothly when you're exhausted. And if it's late, tackle it all in the morning.
Try to come back home on a Saturday! By this I mean give yourself a day before having to return to work or a routine. Sure it's nice to take advantage of every single day you can possibly be vacationing, but coming home the day or even night before you have to go back to work, take the kids to school, home school and just get back to crazy life is very stressful. If you have a day to fully unpack, get organized for the week, trust me, it's worth it.
SO this is what has worked for us. We have been traveling with the twins since they were babies and learning all of this has made us continue to want to travel. It can be a lot but if you can make anything slightly easier then why not? You don't have to give up traveling because you have kids!!