We have been travelling with kids for several years now, and with March Break travel season just around the corner, I wanted to share with you some of the great tips and tricks for travelling with children that we have learned along the way – and hopefully make your trips happy & stress free from now on!
Give Yourself a LOT of Extra Time
I’m talking arrive at the airport 1.5-2 hours earlier than what is recommended by the airline. With kids in tow you never know the obstacles you might face along the way (full diapers, emergency potty breaks, all consuming thirst or hunger, tantrums etc). You also never know what might be going on at the airport. On our last trip I was thinking “We only need an extra hour, we are so good at this travel thing now!”, but when we arrived we were instructed to wait in a line that was literally NOT MOVING. They were ocassionally extracting people who were going to be late to their flights from the line, but not actually moving the line forward. The people orchestrating this whole line situation obviously did not take into account that we were travelling with young kids, so when (after over an hour) we finally were at the check in desk we barely had enough time to make our flight (after the rude Air Canada agent scolded me for not being early enough! *blood boiling*). Were it not for a sweet customs agent taking pity on our convoy we would not have made it. That day I vowed to arrive the extra 2 hours early from now on, for EVER AND EVER!
Bring a Whole Bunch of Snacks
Salty, sweet, healthy, junky, crunchy, chewy, anything you can think of! I usually toss my healthy eating goals out the window on travel days and bring what I know will help my kids make it through all the lines and scans and forced stroller rides. Also, don’t go crazy spending a ton on these snacks as you never know if you may have to toss them when you go through security. As for drinks, I recommend bringing a bottle or two of water from home (don’t wait to buy the $3 bottles of water at the airport!) that you won’t mind having to toss before you go through security. I don’t recommend bringing juice boxes, as you may have to take a sip to prove it’s safe to TSA (like I did once), and there goes the portability at that point. If your kids are very finicky, you may be able to get away with bringing a thermos or water bottle with liquids specifically for them and make sure you remove it from your bag and tell security that it is specifically for your child. I’m personally just too lazy to drag around a lot of liquids because they are heavy and take up a lot of space.
Bring Enough Milk for Baby
There are so many different ways to feed your baby these days. Here are a few systems that I have used and that worked for us.
Breastfeeding: Be sure to wear an easy access shirt. A baby carrier like the Ergo or Moby for a younger baby can make airplane nursing a lot easier, just be sure to practice nursing while wearing your baby before you leave on your travels.
Formula: I premeasured formula into a bottle or two and brought one thermos of hot water and a regular bottle of water. When ready to feed baby mix about half a bottle’s worth of cool water in with the formula and shake, add hot (and/or cool) water to warm the bottle to the right temp. Fill the bottle to a little past the desired number of ounces to account for the space that the formula took up in the bottle. Note: this method is not extremely accurate, if you wish to be more accurate bring measured amounts of formula separately, add cool water to bottle then sprinkle in formula and shake. Then add hot (and/or cool) water up to the correct number of ounces to warm the bottle to the desired temperature.
Cow’s Milk: Once my baby got off of formula and on to cow’s milk, I brought one thermos of cow’s milk and one thermos of boiling water. To prep the thermoses (thermi? hehe) I chilled the milk one in the fridge overnight and added the milk in the morning just before we left. For the boiling water thermos, I first heated the thermos with hot tap water, dumped it, then added my boiling water in an attempt to keep that water as hot as possible for as long as possible. I brought an empty bottle and a plastic container in which I could submerge the bottle in the boiling water. Make sure that most of the bottle can be underwater in your container, for the fastest bottle heating. For ease of packing I did not bring a lid for the container so I was able to nest other items (snacks) inside the container. Try to carry the thermoses upright and away from electronics because you never know when those things will decide to leak.
Bring a Whole Ton of Activities
My suggestions include a few packs of Crayola Color Wonder colouring pages and the Color Wonder Mini Markers. Avoid normal markers as that’s just a recipe for disaster! Crayola Color Wonder is awesome because not only do kids not have the ability to mess up the plane, this colouring set is also perfect for them to use whenever you get to your destination (hotel, rental, inlaws!). Grab some new, never before seen stickers and some individual Play Doh Color Sticks too and house all these little novelties in a large pencil case. I also bring an empty plastic baggie for storing the Play Doh once it has been opened. Another great thing to pack is a roll of plain old masking tape. Great for taping down colouring sheets or give a long strand to a toddler for some easy entertainment. If you have one, an iPad loaded with a couple new apps is a great idea. Go for the paid version of the apps if you can, with ads removed it’s way more likely that your child will be able to play the game for longer on their own.
Gate Check Your Stroller
It makes a world of difference sometimes to be able to strap the kids in the stroller and get to where your going as fast as humanly possible. Bring a protective bag for your stroller and put it on when you collapse your stroller just before boarding the plane. In a pinch even a garbage bag and some duct tape will work for this purpose, though they do make Gate Check Bags for strollers. If travelling with more than one child who rides in a stroller, I recommend using two separate strollers, that way each parent still has the ability to drag a carry on with one hand while pushing the stroller with the other hand. Our system for gate checking is that one parent takes the kids to the seats while the other parent collapses and bags the strollers.
What are your tips for making travel with kids stress free? Share with us in the comments below!
This post is linked up at Serenity Now