Take the Kids: 5+ Tips for Traveling with Toddlers
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Our family loves to go away somewhere warm each winter–to escape a bit of the cold Canadian winter– and we love traveling as a family! Everyone will warn you that traveling with kids isn’t easy (or doesn’t compare to those dreamy, solo couples vacations)… and they are right, it’s not. It’s chaotic, stressful, tiring…
But, on the flip side, it’s fulfilling, fun and offers some of the best quality, distraction-free family time possible. I say GO! And TAKE THE KIDS!
The key to making traveling with kids easier for me has been organization. Here are my top 5+ tips for traveling with toddlers:
1. Pack Smart
This is going sound a tad crazy, but I pack most of baby A’s (15 months old) clothes in Ziploc bags inside our suitcase. I also do this for some of V’s (three years old) items, like socks and underwear. I know, crazy, right? Or is it? I’ve done this since we first starting traveling with a four month old and it works fantastic. We usually take one or two large suitcases for the four of us, and separating out the tiny baby clothes helps keep their stuff manageable and accessible when you start going in and out of the suitcase.
I group all things together by item i.e. shorts, pajamas, shoes, etc. and put them in larger Ziploc bags. Call me crazy, but this works like a charm! (And it’s not entirely wasteful, when I’m unpacking I put all the Ziplocs into one and toss them into the suitcase for the next trip). When the girls were really little I packed outfits (dress and diaper covers) in smaller Ziploc bags— which is a huge help (especially for Dads) rather than rummaging through a suitcase trying to find a little matching pair of baby bottoms for a teeny dress!
2. Get the Right Accommodations
Traveling with kids can make it tough to keep routines. Our kids are often exhausted from either the day’s events or enjoying the sunshine and my girls are happiest with routine. We always try to get a one bedroom suite (or at the very least a mini-suite) to have somewhere separate to put the girls to bed early so we can still enjoy our vacation time. Having that separate place to hang out– preferably with a view– is definitely a must. There is nothing worse that being in nap jail on vacation, so pick accommodations that make the best of it!
3. Gate Check your Stroller
Some babies are happy being worn in a carrier or wrap, so if that’s your baby then maybe skip this point! 😉 For us pretty much everywhere we go requires two flights and some airport time in between. We always bring a stroller along so the kids can nap (or we can pile it full of our tons of bags, jackets, etc. that seem to multiply once we leave the plane). We also bring a baby carrier, but for our family I wouldn’t choose just a carrier. On our last trip to Hawaii we gate checked our City Select double stroller without issue. I was a bit worried about damage since I’ve read some horrible stories, but we used the Stokke Prampack and had no issues. Side note: this massive orange bag definitely does not make your stroller look small, but only one airline representative had an issue with the size and commented on it. 😉
4. Snacks, Snacks, Snacks
Anyone with a toddler knows how crucial this is, so I probably don’t even need to say it, but snacks are essential. We always carry a snack cup in hopes of keeping the snack debris contained. I also pack a few squeeze pouches to keep the kiddos happy or tide them over until our next meal. I find airports notorious for having limited healthy (never mind affordable!) food options for kids, and we’ve never been disappointed to have extra snacks for our travel and for when we get to the destination. Depending on your itinerary you may be able to bring liquids for babies and young toddlers on the plane (for travel between Canada and the US liquids for babies are allowed, including sippy cups or bottles full of water). Check with the airline before your trip and bring whatever will make meal time on-the-go easy.
5. (New) Toys & Entertainment
This isn’t a suggestion to buy new toys for every trip or to pack the entire toy box for a vacation (we actually bring very few toys on vacation), but a few smart toy choices have proven to go a long way for us. We don’t buy souvenirs on our trips and instead have started to find some great kid items to bring back. We’ve picked up a few children’s books from our recent trips to Hawaii (Hawaii themed books) and they are great little souvenirs that we have continued to read for years! Sometimes we will also pick out one toy and save it for the airport on the way home. This has been a HUGE hit with our girls! I don’t mind buying a new toy as long as it’s something that will be well used when we get home, too.
If you feel like you can’t go without toys on your trip consider looking in to renting them. Many places have baby rental companies where you can get any baby item you need. We’ve used one in Hawaii when we needed a baby monitor and we added in some toys. It worked out great, allowing us to put away the toys we’d brought, which then seemed so much more exciting for the ride home.
So, what’s the 5+ all about? That, friends, is the most important piece. Above all else, beyond tips, tricks and Pinterest planning, the most crucial thing about traveling with kids is MINDSET. You might want to familiarize yourself with the difference between a trip and a vacation. Take it for what it is and plan (or perhaps un-plan accordingly). At the end of the day we are constantly reminded that down time is the best time. So maybe you don’t see all the tourist attractions and sights. In my books, if you’re eating ice cream and the kids are smiling, that’s perfect, too.