Are you traveling with kids this holiday season? Whether you’re making your big escape via plane, train, or automobile — there are a few things you’re going to want to keep in mind if you want the trip to run smoothly, ESPECIALLY if this is baby’s first big trip. Because, after all, a family vacation is supposed to be fun. Failure to properly plan and prepare for your family vacation may leave you wishing for a solo island getaway (without your family) when you return home.
While I’m no travel expert, I’ve learned a thing or two over the years. (Have I mentioned we’ve made two cross-country moves with babies?) I’ve also had a few mishaps along the way, but I won’t bore you with those silly details.
Here’s what you should know about traveling with littles.
1. Make yourself at home.
Upon arriving at your destination, set up shop immediately. Unpack anything that needs to be unpacked (ex. clothes, toys, blankets, and medications). Set up your portable crib. Create a temporary diaper changing station — the last thing you’ll want to do is frantically search for the wipes after a massive blowout. Speaking from experience here. Also, create a makeshift feeding station to store snacks, pump, and bottle parts.) Do yourself a favor; make things as easy as possible.
2. First time traveling with baby (and her portable crib)?
Don’t be afraid to take the portable crib for a test run. Thankfully, I have relatively good sleepers — so we haven’t encountered any major issues. Knock on wood. But I have found it helpful to have my kiddos “practice napping” in the travel crib at home before we hit the road, and they have to sleep in it full-time. Nothing is worse than a sleepless night, with a crying baby, in a compact hotel room. Nothing. Even if she has slept successfully in the crib on previous trips, I still like to get in a practice run (or two).
3. Don’t forget to pack the stroller, baby carrier, and any other baby necessities.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but believe me, forgetting one or any of these items in the mad dash out the door on “travel day” is a real possibility. Make a list and check it twice. Also, make sure you know how to use these items in a pinch. No one wants to wait on mommy while she fights with the stroller. (Trust me.) Especially when Disney’s Magic Kingdom is calling. And if baby refuses to nap in the travel crib, these are also excellent (alternative) sleeping options. Just plan on taking a nice, long walk at nap time. This can also help older siblings burn off some energy. 😉
4. Try to pack compactly, but plan for any and every (unforeseen) situation.
It may seem counterintuitive to pack jeans and jackets for a beach vacation, but if I’ve learned anything from my time in Texas — anything can happen. Are you headed to the slopes? Don’t forget your swimsuit! Your hotel may have a heated pool or hot tub. Forget the swimsuits even once, and your family will never forgive you. Okay, maybe, but let’s not test fate. I will reiterate: be prepared for ANYTHING. This includes bringing plenty of extras for baby (clothes, diapers, wipes, snacks) — especially when boarding a plane!
5. You should also try to stick to your regular routines once arriving at your destination.
As much as humanly possible. Babies (and children) thrive on routine. And try to maintain your kids’ sleep habits while traveling. Why rock the boat?
6. Pack self-contained, age-appropriate means of entertainment.
These road trip activities should be easily and readily accessible for the actual “traveling” portion of your trip. There’s nothing wrong with breaking out an iPad to avoid a total meltdown in the air or on the road. Your travel companions will thank you.
7. Stay calm, and set realistic expectations.
Your family vacation (like the rest of your life) probably isn’t going to look like a picture-perfect Instagram feed. And that’s okay. What’s most important is that you’re making memories. Your children will treasure these times forever. So, when life gets messy, just take a deep breath and try to ENJOY.
It really does take a village. And sometimes, when you’re traveling with kids, you may just feel like you’re packing for an entire village. Happy holidays, and even happier travels!