Traveling with Kids-My Top 10 Tips
Let’s be real. Traveling with kids is not fun. If you are about to embark on a long plane trip with toddlers then you need a survival guide. I’ve done it a few times so have first hand experience which I am going to share with you. After all, you want it to be as easy and painless as possible right? While I can’t guarantee you won’t want to jump off the plane at some point, these top tips for traveling with kids will definitely make it better.
Being prepared is essential when traveling with kids.
I’m writing this post fresh off a plane trip from Chicago to Sydney. Breaking it down, that’s about four hours from Chicago to LAX, a three hour stop over, then another 14 hours from LAX to Sydney. We were traveling with three year old twins and a one year old. Definitely not anyone’s idea of fun. If you have kids and are traveling without them, you know how amazing and freeing it feels. NO checking in a thousand bags, you breeze through security and then enjoy a beverage as you wait for your flight.
Not the case when traveling with kids…
Here is our recent experience…
We arrived at the airport with seven (yes, seven) bags to be checked, including a golf bag (of course), plus one double travel stroller (essential for travelling as you want to be able to contain your kids through the airport when needed, or if you’re in a rush, run with them in the stroller to the gate), two carry on cases, a diaper bag, backpack, the twins’ backpacks and the baby carrier for Piper. Even getting from the car to the check in desk was an experience! At one point all seven bags fell off the cart (yes, my husband insisted on piling them on one cart).
Here we all are at Chicago O’Hare ready to go! (With my husband wearing his stylish running shoes so he didn’t have to pack them. I tried to tell him!)
TIP 1: If you’re travelling with children, allow yourself an extra HOUR on top of what’s recommended at the airport before your flight.
So we made it to check in, only to find out that my husband’s ticket (with Piper as a lap child) hadn’t been issued for the next leg from LAX to Sydney. Luckily we had time to spare as we got to the airport early. Also, American Airlines told us that our stroller had to be under 20lbs or we had to check it in (which would have totally defeated the purpose of actually having the stroller). Luckily ours was (do yourself a favour and get the Zoe stroller as they are SO lightweight and easy to use). Make sure to also request a bassinet for the long leg (LAX-SYD). While it’s not always guaranteed, it’s a game changer if you have a lap child (under two years old).
TIP 2: Use a lightweight stroller for the airport (my favourite is the Zoe Stroller).
TIP 3: When going through security wear slip on shoes and make sure you have easy access to your passports/boarding passes. Remember that your laptop needs to be put in a separate tray (and out of its case) so make sure you have easy access to it.
So after an hour of sorting the ticket out, we went through security which is the next challenge.
Be prepared. Always have your passports/boarding passes ready. Allocate one person to be in charge of them. Make sure you have everything packed so you have easy access to important things like your laptop (which has to be taken out and put in a separate tray). Wear slip on shoes so you can get them on and off while carrying a baby. Make sure your water bottles are empty! Don’t carry anything liquid over 100mls.
TIP 4: Get to your gate EARLY for pre-boarding with young children!
Once you have made it through that, find your flight gate. It’s important to know where you need to be before finding food/drinks/play areas. Usually by then you don’t have much time to spare and when you have young kids you get to pre-board so you want to make sure you are there early and ready to board. Being able to pre-board means you get on first and have a place to put all your carry on! Those overhead bins fill up quickly so get on first to get your spot. Otherwise they make you either gate check your bags OR they are put at the back of the plane and you don’t have easy access to them. Also make sure your stroller is folded up before they call pre-boarding (in a stroller bag) and have it tagged at the gate so it can be gate checked. Don’t wait to be called for pre-boarding before being totally ready to get on that plane! If you’re not ready, they don’t wait for you.
TIP 5: Download your child(ren)s favourite tv shows/movies/apps to a tablet and get them some kid friendly head phones. Give them something to suck on when taking off.
When you’re on the plane, we give each twin their little back pack which has snacks, a drink bottle (that we filled up after security), and ear phones. They have a tablet each which we have downloaded with tv shows, movies and apps in the days leading up to the flight (this is so important!!!). Getting them settled means we can focus on getting ourselves and the baby organized. If you’re against screen time then maybe you’ll stop reading this but for me, it’s a lifesaver, especially when dealing with a 14 month old as well. When taking off I give the girls a lollipop and then I nurse the baby to help with the pressure in their ears. Obviously give your baby a bottle if you’re not nursing.
TIP 6: At a stop over, find a play area for your kids to burn off some energy (and have a glass of wine).
After a four hour flight to LAX it’s time for a stop over. We have three hours to kill! First we go and find food, then we find a playground. If there is no play area at the airport, find a place where they can run around for a bit. It’s a long flight ahead so you want them burning some energy! Again, make sure you get to your gate 20-30 mins before boarding so you can be first on for pre-boarding. Have the stroller folded up and ask for it to be tagged so it’s ready.
TIP 7: Pack lots of snacks and activities!
When you get on that next leg it’s time to settle in. If you’re sitting in the bulk head (where the bassinet is) you have to put all your luggage in the overhead bins. I give the girls their ipads/headphones and strap them in so then we can deal with the rest of the luggage and the baby. Again, when taking off, I give the twins something to suck on to help with their ears and I nurse the baby.
Once you’re in the air and the seat belt signs are off you can bring a bag down by your feet. My bags are loaded with food and activities. After all, there are 14 hours in front of us! Obviously they feed you on the plane but it’s always essential to be prepared.
Here are the snacks I pack which cause the least mess:
- Vege stick chips
- Wasa crackers
- Cut up apple slices
Then other activities I include are:
- Re-useable stickers
- Pencils/writing pads/colouring books
- Fine motor craft activities including beading necklaces
- Activity packs (and basically whatever else I find in the Target dollar bin!!!)
While it may be overkill, there is nothing wrong with being prepared!!!
As it’s such a long flight there will be times when they will sleep. Not as long as you would like but you just take it when it comes!
TIP 8: Get yourself a CoziGo Bassinet Cover (for a baby using a bassinet).
For the baby in the bassinet you NEED to get a CoziGo Bassinet Cover. I used these when we flew with the twins to Australia when they were newborns and then again at 15 months. I’m using one again for this trip for Piper who is 14 months. They great thing is that they are one of the only things that all airlines approve (be careful with other sleeping aids as not all airlines approve them). Basically it’s like a tent that goes over the basinet and makes it dark. So whether the plane’s lights are bright or dimmed, it will be nice a dark for your baby to sleep!
Complete game changer.
TIP 9: Know that you will get to your destination eventually!
It’s also important to remember that the flight won’t last forever. When you look at your watch and there is still 10 hours to go, you will think it’s never going to end. But it does. I promise you! And once you are there it is so worth it…until you have to do it all again to get back!
TIP 10: When you arrive, try to keep them awake all day!
Once you have arrived you need to deal with jetlag. We arrived in the morning and the best thing I did was keep the twins up ALL DAY. I took them swimming, we spent time with family and did what we could to keep them awake. It worked a treat as they slept from 7pm-6am the next morning. Piper had a two hour nap that day (there was no way she was going to get through the whole day at only 14 months old) which I woke her up from and she also went down from 7pm-9am! Since then the three of them have been sleeping through the night. I know every child is different but keeping them up that first day is key (in my opinion).
I hope these tips help. Do you have anything else to add? Please post in the comments below 🙂 Traveling with kids is never easy so let’s help each other out! xx