Travel guide with kids!
The holidays are here, which means a little holiday trip might be coming up! If you are new to traveling with kids, or even a little intimidated, I thought I'd write up a quick and easy guide to traveling with children of all ages. Hopefully you find something helpful here, and I hope you'll add your best tips and tricks in the comments as well.
I've had a lot of people reach out and ask for airplane traveling tips specifically, so this guide is geared towards that, but if you take out the airline security details, I think it'll work for road trips, too.
Carry on Bags
First things first: carryon bags! My husband and I each use one of these Fawn Design bags for our carryon. One is for us with all important stuff in it like my laptop and camera for work, passport books, wallet, plus baby essentials since she's usually on my lap most of the flight and trip. Our second Fawn Design bag contains the snacks, boggle boards, and random things like hand sanitizer, small toys, snacks, headphones, etc. for the older kids. One bag sits with me on the plane as a carryon and the other sits with the older girls, who are usually sitting with Kam.
We try to pack fairly light but also check everything we can, including car seats. We check the stroller at the gate, which is free of charge to do with most airlines. On the airplane we just have our two carryon bags filled with snacks and essentials.
Packing for a family of 6 seems a bit daunting but I always start with a list. If you travel with kids you know that it typically feels like you pack the entire house and somehow forget a few items on the list; it happens to us all! I like to write down all the important must-haves or things you usually forget because believe me-I've traveled before and forgotten some important things like underwear or a razor. Keep an ongoing list on your counter top or Notes app the week of travel and write down little things you use, like a baby spoon or nursing pads. This helps me remember even the littlest of things! Everyone's list is different but here is a basic little guide I found on Pinterest that plans by outfit which is super helpful, too!
We love to pack our three oldest girls in one of these Walker Family Goods bags. They can fit everything (including shoes!) and my favorite feature is the "stinky section" to store their dirty clothes.
We use these packing cubes to fill our suitcases. I got the idea from my friend Jordan. She has a whole highlighted series on how to travel with kids, and here's a link to her blog post. It really inspired me to use cubes for packing the girls.
We put all of Winnie's clothes in one cube, then use one of our Minnow swimsuit baggies for all of her bows. We then pack a few other essentials like Passy clips, Owlet monitor, and shoes in another cube.
Getting Dressed for Travel
We always have our babies travel in sleepers or warm clothing just in case the plane is really cold. We always have at least 2 baby outfits in our carryon bag as well. When it comes to diapers, you don't want to bring too little or too many. Easy, right? ;) If you're traveling out of the country or somewhere diapers will be expensive (like Hawaii), try to pack enough for the whole trip. Otherwise, just pack enough to get you to your destination and then buy some when you arrive. I always pack enough wipes to use for changing diapers, plus an extra bag for the little messes that come with traveling with kids.
We always have our girls travel in their play gowns. They are cute enough to wear on the plane but comfy enough to sleep in. I do like to pair them with these shorts underneath (if you are a girl mom, you get it!). My girls all have different preferences for shoes. Some like to travel in sandals while others prefer sneakers with socks to keep their feet warm. I typically have them wear their shoes that take up the most space in the suitcase so we don't have to pack those.
When packing the girls I sort all their clothes by days. For my three older girls I have all of their outfits for day 1 stacked together, along with any accessories or hair ties. I am actually fairly minimal with their accessories because I pretty much plan on only making it home with half of the accessories we come with, so I pack light with those things. We always shower at nighttime so that means their PJ's and undies are stacked together in a "PJ cube."
Something comfortable! I usually wear my 24hr dress with a Solly wrap, since it's easy to nurse in without pulling up my shirt. If I don't wear a 24hr dress I'll opt for some high-waisted jeans like these with a button down shirt, or a sweater with some high-waisted leggings and my favorite tennis shoes. Now that we carry joggers they have been my go-to travel outfit! I am always the person who is cold on the plane so a sweater is on my packing list even if I'm headed somewhere tropical.
Did you know that you can bring a huge verity of snacks through airport security? I don't know why I always thought before traveling with kids that you have to buy snacks in the airport but you can totally bring your own. We pack everything from sandwiches to apple sauce pouches to snack on.
If you have a nursing baby or your pump you can also bring milk that is under 4 oz in each container for your baby; they just do a quick test on the liquid when you go through security (always check with the FAA guidelines if you want to double check the latest info).
Here is a list of my do's and only a few don'ts for snacks (personal preference of course! You do you, mama!):
empty water bottle you can fill up in the airport
granola bars (my favorite are the high protein/low sugar ones, so you stay full longer, perfect for adults too!)
fruit snacks (or something fun your kids always ask for in the store and you usually say no to)
smarties, this is my favorite candy to bring because it isn't messy and well, I like 'em too! Also they are individually wrapped so the kids can't down a whole bag of candy in one sitting.
We let the kids pick a (complimentary) drink of their choice on the airplane. I actually prefer them drinking sprite because it has lower sugar than the juices available and clear when it spills (ha! because usually we end up with a spill). I always ask the flight attendant to fill it only half way so it's still a treat but one that doesn't spill easily.
-Suckers. I always see these suggested for traveling, but I am against it! They are sticky and usually stain.
-Jerky. This used to be on my go-to list, but after opening a bag in a closed space I realized how smelly it really is!
-Any candy that stains or leaves fingers sticky
-Chocolate. I know, I know--I sound like no fun! But there is nothing worse than sharing a bag of m&ms just to find out your kid has been sitting on that one that secretly fell through their hands onto their seat.
Keeping them busy
We love to bring notepads, boogie boards, and occasionally a downloaded movie on the iPad if the airplane doesn't have movies. We also love to go to Target's dollar section to get little fun toys for the airplane ride. I would avoid bringing messy things like slime or small toys that could fall under the seats. Instead opt for a notepad with stickers, cool pens they can write with, or their favorite book.
-Put a dryer sheet in the bottom of your kid's suitcase so it still smells extra fresh by the end of your trip. You can also spray their bag with essential oils to keep them smelling clean.
-Research what plane you are traveling on ahead of time. Usually you can look it up when your trip is confirmed. My husband loves to be in charge of this part, that way we know if it has individual TV's behind every seat or if we should bring extra toys/entertainment in the carryon bags.
-Pack this Tubby Todd travel kit. I even use the items in it!
-Always have at least 2 pairs of clothing for baby because they will blow out of their diaper if you don't prepare for it. :)
-Target's travel section has a lot of little goodies that are really inexpensive. I always go there the week of the trip and stock up on little things like hairspray, hand sanitizer, and even Clorox wipes. I'll use Clorox wipes to wipe down my whole row before I sit down and even quickly wipe down the changing table in the airplane before putting my baby on it. If you end up traveling on a smaller jet plane just know that not every bathroom has a changing table in it. I try to change a diaper if needed in the airport instead of the airplane bathroom just in case the plane doesn't have one (really only applies to small regional jets but I've been stuck before on a plane with no changing table and wish someone would have told me ahead of time).
One thing that I can't help but mention: have fun! Kids seem to find fun in the simplest of things like going up and down the escalator and watching airplanes take off from the terminal. One time our daughter kept getting on the escalator that continued to go down farther and farther away from us-my first thought when Kam looked at me was to get upset and stressed but instead I decided to laugh and shake my head, then quickly follow after her. Traveling can be stressful but it's not supposed to be. You will be shocked at what comes easy and surprised by things that may go wrong (like why are public bathrooms the hardest part?!). Kam and I have always noticed that we prep ourselves for the worst outcome and our kids end up handling it all better than we do. And let's say your kid does end up having a bad traveling day (we've had one earache on an airplane ride that made us feel helpless, I get motion sickness at the most random of times, and we've dealt with our fair share of having to wash the car seat at our destination because someone ended up throwing up during a road trip)…don't let that one bad day ruin the whole traveling experience!
We hope this little guide helps your next adventure with little ones. Feel free to let us know if you have any other questions or advice, or any awesome tips you'd like to share along the way!
Sarah, Kam + the girls!