Blogging, Family, Travel

Family Travel Tips & Tricks…Just Pack Up And Go!

Happy happy day!  I Hope everyone is having a great week so far and I am so excited to share this post with you all.  Family travel is something that I feel very strongly about. Actually travel in general is something that I feel very strongly about.  Everyone should try to travel.  I don’t care if it is near or far from your home…just do it.  There are so many life lessons to be learned by getting outside of your comfort zone for a little while.  Traveling can make me people more aware of the world around them, more tolerant of people who are different than them, more flexible and easygoing, better critical thinkers and problem solvers, and the list goes on and on.

When I was a kid, my parents packed my family up every summer and we hit the road for weeks at a time, traveling all over the place, camping, hiking, exploring..you name it.  Some of my favorite childhood memories come from those times in my life.  My husband’s childhood was no different…well the only exception being his parents packed up his family and hit the “air” as well as the road.  He traveled internationally pretty often as a child while my family stayed stateside.  Regardless of where we went, the bottom line is that our families just went, they just did it.  They planned, packed up, didn’t mind the extra work, extra hours of travel, fewer hours of sleep, etc.  They valued the importance of quality family time and of travel and they made it happen no matter the age of the kiddos or the season that their life was in.

Growing up this way has fostered a deep love of travel in both me and my husband.  That love grew as I got older and I found a love for international travel later in life when I made the decision to study abroad in college.  That decision led to me eventually taking the plunge and moving abroad for a job for a year and then on to many weekend trips throughout Europe exploring and then into an adulthood of love for travel of any kind.  My husband and I made trips several times a year before we had kids and when the time came that we felt like we wanted kiddos we made a pact that we wouldn’t stop traveling.  We would keep living our life and doing the things that make us happy while hopefully instilling in our kids a deep love for travel as well.

So here we are 1 and a half kids later and our first born has more stamps in his passport at 20 months old than I did at 20 years old.  I think it is great.  But how are we doing it you ask?  How do you deal with diapers, snacks, baby food, sleeping arrangements, baby items, etc. while traveling on long road trips, international plane rides, trains, hiking, exploring cities, etc.?  Well, we’ve learned a lot from doing it and I’ll share  a few tips and tricks with you here.

  1. Ditch the stroller.  I mean it.  You don’t need it.  Get a good comfortable soft-structured carrier like this one that we have and go.  Nothing puts a damper on exploring 3rd world countries, outdoor hikes, or airport lines that a big bulky stroller.  Not to mention you have to hall it while you aren’t using it.  Just do yourself a favor and get a carrier for kiddos to little to walk.  And BONUS-it’s an extra workout for you!
  2. Pack snacks but not a whole trip worth of food for the kids.  Tasting new things puts kids outside of their comfort zone.  They won’t starve.  If they get hungry enough, they will eat but it’s always good to have some small snacks along for emergencies.  Check out this previous post of mine for snack ideas to bring along.
  3. Eat on the go and use rest stops or layovers for exercise.  This advice I remember someone telling me and it has been the best advice ever!  Now on long road trips especially, I sit in the backseat and eat with our little guy so that when we make a potty or rest stop, he can just worry about running off steam and not sitting more.  Obviously use your best judgement as a parent…you know if your child is capable of eating in their car seat or not.
  4. Make arrangements for cribs and car seats at your destination whenever possible.  If you don’t plan on driving a car then no worries about the car seat at all.  Public transit doesn’t require them.  And many rentals and hotels have baby cots available for you.  If you DO need a baby cot for traveling.  Check out this one.  We have it and it is AMAZING and easy to carry from place to place.
  5. Learn to pack light for yourself!  This is HUGE! It frees up space in case you need it for extra kid things and lightens the load for everyone.  Pack clothes that you can mix and match and hang to freshen them up between wears. And if you are staying somewhere with laundry facilities…plan on doing laundry and pack half of what you think you’ll need.
  6. Plan for extra time to get from one place to another.  Just build it in before you go and you will thank yourself once you get on the road.  Better to be early than late and better to have a calm trip than be stressed about getting there.
  7. Share the jet-lagged responsibilities if traveling internationally!  Jet lag can hit everyone differently.  In my experience, the best way to handle it is to take turns with jet-lagged kiddos so that you can both get some sleep.  While one parents stays up and tries to calm an upset jet-lagged kiddo or kiddos, the other can rest and sleep.  Then switch roles.  It’ll help everyone be a little more sane when the sun comes up!
  8. Forget routine.  Sure, I love routine and so does my little guy but when we travel I try to lighten up as hard as it is.  Let your littles learn how to nap on the fly, let them learn to sleep in the car, plane, or train, let them try and eat local cuisine for meals.  If you get a day that is relaxing and laid back then by all means make it as much like your home routine as possible but don’t be afraid to just let it go.  The routine will come right back once you get home. I promise!
  9. Pack enough diapers for your trip.  Sure it takes up space but as your trip goes on you have more room in your suitcase for gifts/souvenirs etc.  Plus, if you are traveling to 3rd world countries, it is just easier to have your own diapers than go searching for some once there.  So squish them into all the nooks and crannies of your suitcase!
  10. Just go!  Give it a try!  If you plan terribly or forget something chance are you can figure out a solution or purchase whatever you forgot at your destination.  Case and point is when we took our little guy to India for the first time.  I planned ahead and brought diapers and a change of clothes for him everywhere we went but I did NOT plan for our little guy getting carsick and puking all myself, grandma, and the car.  Oops.  So in an effort to clean up I used his clean clothes since he managed to puke everywhere but on himself.  Not 5 minutes after getting cleaned up and back on the road, he puked again but this time all over himself.  And guess who didn’t have clean clothes anymore?!?  You guessed it.  So he spent the afternoon in a diaper and sandals until we could find a small shop that sold children’s clothes and get him a shirt.  As for the rest of us, we cleaned up as best we could and smelled like vomit until we got home from our day.  And you know what?  It was fine!  And now I know to always throw an extra something in case of emergencies in my bag.

Just pack up and go already!!  Sure traveling with kiddos is more stressful than traveling alone.  Sure you will run into road blocks and bumps but look at it as an adventure!  Being responsible for littles makes daily life a little more labor intensive but isn’t it worth it? If the only reason you have for not getting out and about with your kiddos is that it is too much work than I encourage you to reevaluate and just give it a try.  The more you do it, the easier it gets.  I promise.  And the memories you will make along the way will make any hardship totally worth it!

Do you have any tips for traveling with kids?!?  I’d love to hear!

Stacey