Holy cow. You guys. This post was so fun to write. It brought me back to our trip in a way I never could have imagined – and from it – I have, not 5, not 10, but 30, yes 30 tips and tricks for traveling with children.
If you’re reading this, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you’ve already read Part 1. If you haven’t, that is a great place to start! In Part 1, I tapped the brains of 4 of my favorite Mommy Bloggers before I left on my trip to see what amazing advice they had for me. As it turned out – that was one of the best ideas – EVER. Collaborating with other moms was a great way to idea generate and it definitely made me more organized for our trip. Check Pt. 1 out >>> here.
Now for Part 2. I’ve arranged the “30 tips and tricks” chronologically, from planning your trip, to getting through the flight, to enjoying yourself while you’re actually on vacation. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!
Before you go:
1.) Before you go – get TSA Pre✓. See the government website >>> here. It’s $85 for five years, but once you are approved, you don’t have to take out your liquids or your laptop when you go through security, and you don’t have to take your shoes off either. What’s more, the TSA PRE line is usually less crowded and sometimes, if you’re traveling with a child, they will expedite you through.
2.) Yes, your baby needs a passport. Obviously this applies to international travel. Get this done as far in advance as possible. It took us 3 weeks to get William’s and we even expedited for an additional fee. See passport guidelines >>> here.
3.) Google reviews of hotels you might want to stay at – written by people who have been there with children. I was SO thankful I did this. I found one review of our hotel in Amalfi from someone who had been there with her children and had a wonderful experience; this really put my mind at ease. On the other hand, it also alerted me not to stay at certain hotels – and not to stay in certain cities that would be difficult to navigate with a stroller. For this reason – Google was my friend, and is yours too!
4.) Call your hotel and let them know that you will be bringing a baby or a child. This way they will place you in an appropriate room, and they will also let you know what your options are as far as cribs/cots/small beds are concerned.
5.) Before you book your flights – think about your child’s schedule. We booked a red eye to New York and a red eye to Rome as well. Even though we were extremely tired the first couple of days, it worked to our benefit during the flights because the cabin was extremely dark, and William slept most of the way.
6.) Call your airline ahead of time and find out what their policies are on babies/lap children. For example, my husband and I usually fly Southwest domestically, and all we have to do is bring William and his birth certificate to the airport – no call ahead needed. But for our international flight to Italy, we had to let them know well in advance, and pay 10% of our ticket price to be able to bring him along with us. Moral of the story – always call ahead!
7.) Pack a couple of crib sheets. <<< this was a tip that Caroline sent over, and I couldn’t agree more. I’m sure that the sheets that the hotels use are totally fine, but it is nice for your little one to have their own bedding.
8.) Pack all of your kids’ outfits in Gallon Ziploc bags. <<< This was a tip from Rachel and Sarah. When I got this idea from both of them, I knew it couldn’t be a coincidence and I definitely needed to try it. Thank goodness I did. By putting all of William’s outfits in Ziplocs – socks and all – it was one less thing I had to think about every morning. Also, for some reason, because kids’ clothes are just so small, it is easy for everything to get unorganized. The Ziploc trick eliminates that completely. What’s more, when an outfit had gotten dirty, I just put it back in the Ziploc and I never had to worry about it dirtying or smelling up the rest of his luggage.
9.) Anything that is a staple – bring extra. I’m talking about >>> pouches, formula, bottle brushes, etc. Unfortunately, this is a tip that I am giving you from experience. We ran out of William’s formula with about 2 days left of our trip. I ended up in the European version of Costco, trying to explain “BAMMMBINO FORMMUUULLAA” to the checkout clerk. He directed me in the right direction, I wandered around aimlessly for 10 minutes, then I spent another 30 minutes on google translator trying to figure out which brand was best, and which can might be organic. HAHAHA Joke was on me!!! Do not spend your vacation this way. Learn from my mistake and over-pack these items. Also – if you are bottle feeding, be sure to bring a bottle brush – seriously I can’t get bottles clean without these things. Ok, now, things not to over-pack: diapers and wipes. They were available in every pharmacy, and even in the airport. Also – for domestic travel, we will often times Amazon Prime our “staples” to our destination, so we don’t have to haul everything along with us.
10.) Buy a “Plane Kit”. This idea came to me from my girlfriend Kristin who was with us on the trip. As a mom of two boys herself, she knows a thing or two about traveling with children. I bought this one>>> here from Esty, and William loved it. I will definitely be ordering more as gifts.
11.) Slinkies & Mini Fans. <<< These two items also came from my friend Kristin, and they were sheer genius. I tell her all the time that she needs to write a parenting manual, but until she says yes, I’m just going to write it for her and keep giving her credit. Anyhow, these two items kept William entertained at least half the time we were in Europe. As it turns out – the slinky really is the “world’s most wonderful toy.”
12.) Pack any medicine in your carry on. We brought Tylenol on the plane with us, and thank goodness we did, because William was teething horribly on our way to Rome, and we definitely needed it.
13.) If you are breastfeeding, always carry on your breast pump. Can you imagine if your luggage got lost and you were without your pump? <<<< I mean enough said. When I was breastfeeding, William was finicky, and sometimes he just wouldn’t nurse. We were on one such flight, got delayed on the tarmac, I was engorged, William was starving, and yes, I pumped right there on the plane. It was glorious. <<< Always carry on your pump.
14.) Bring whatever carseat/stroller combo you are most comfortable with. This tip also comes from experience. My husband and I were told (before we left for Europe) that we “had” to get the IMMI-GO Carseat, and that it was the best carseat for traveling. So dilligently, we bought it, and we bought an umbrella stroller. <<<Which was supposed to be easier as well. But as we were trying to read the instructions to both new purchases, at 12am the night before our trip, we both looked at each other and said “screw it – we’re bringing the regular car seat and stroller.” <<< I am endlessly thankful we did. We are so efficient with our Bugaboo and Chicco Keyfit combo – even though it may have been bulkier, our confidence served us well, and we never had any issues. These are our staples:
15.) Get a passport and document holder and designate someone to be in charge. I am always in charge of passports, boarding tickets, luggage claim checks, IDs, etc… it makes it much easier to have everything organized and to know who is holding what. I love these holders most:
16.) Breast Pump Wipes are amazing. I used the Medela breast pump wipes constantly on our trip. I used bottled water, those wipes, and a bottle brush to clean William’s bottles on our international flights – and they also were great for cleansing bottles that had fallen on the ground, tray tables, etc.
At the airport:
17.) Stay Calm. The best thing you can do as you go through security is to stay calm, and to have your boarding passes and IDs readily accessible. People will be kind and helpful, but you have to be ready. Also – be prepared for the TSA agent to open every bottle of liquid you have – IE: formlua, breast milk, juice, and sometimes, even pouches.
18.) Befriend the gate attendant and ask if there are any open seats. I use this tip more for domestic travel, but if there are open seats, airlines will usually let you carry on your child, in their carseat, at no additional charge.
19.) Also ask the gate attendant if you need gate-check tags, and if you can gate-check your stroller. Domestically this usually is never an issue, but we were not able to gate check our stroller and carseat on the way home from Italy and it was definitely a surprise to us. So just be sure to check with the gate attendant as soon as you get to the airport.
20.) Prep everything you might need for the first hour of flying. This is one of the most important pieces of advice I have. If you know your baby will need a bottle during take off (William always does – it helps pop their ears – much like chewing gum does for an adult) then be sure to have a bottle easily accessible. Once you are in your seat with your baby, you don’t want to be fumbling around for what you need.
On The Plane:
21.) Befriend the flight attendant. Really I’m just going to tell you to befriend everyone. 🙂 On our way from New York to Rome, multiple flight attendants helped me with William, and one, sweet sweet man, helped me wash William’s bottles. What’s more, I have also had flight attendants fight off unruly passengers that get “feisty” when I’m taking longer than usual in the lavatory. Dirty diapers don’t change themselves people.
22.) Ask for drinks with lids, extra straws, and extra napkins – for everyone in your row. Some flight attendants do this out of habit, but some do not. William loves cups, and he loves liquids even more. If it were up to him – everyone on the plane would be wearing their drink by the end of the flight, but since we try to discourage this kind of behavior – lids on drinks are the way to go. Straws also happen to be one of the most amazing “free” toys that planes provide, so in our family, we take full advantage.
23.) Don’t apologize. Ok obviously there are caveats to this one – apologize if it is warranted. But, don’t feel like you owe anyone anything. I’ve read that some parents bring “thank you packages” for the people sitting around them. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. Your child has just as much a right to be on that plane as anyone else does – so do not apologize. Babies cry. Babies cry on planes. Anyone who doesn’t understand this is insane, and probably shouldn’t be allowed on planes anyway.
24.) Remember – your child is louder to you than they are to anyone else. William had a couple of moments on the plane where I was sure EVERYONE had heard. But when we landed in Rome, everyone commented what an angel of a child we had.
25.) Takeoff and landing are the hardest. This is true for babies and children because of the pressure that can build in their ears. To make it easier on them – breastfeed, bottle-feed, do whatever you have to do. It will make the whole flight much more enjoyable – for everyone.
While on vacation:
26.) Bring extra clothes and layers everywhere you go – for yourself as well. This should go without saying – I mean, you’re a parent now. The one time I went out without a change of clothes – we wound up at a nice restaurant with a shirtless child, and I had a 3 drinks spilled all over me. <<< It was, 100%, the universe laughing in my face. Also – another little trick- I brought an extra shawl/cardigan everywhere we went in Italy and oftentimes it doubled as a blanket/sun-shade for William.
27.) Smile and be kind. It is amazing how smiling can de-stress you instantly. I mean, they’ve done studies on it. First of all, it is important to remember that when you are tense, your child will be tense as well. So smile. I mean you are on vacation after all. What’s more – smiling makes you much more approachable, and that is always a good thing. On the kindness front – it is amazing how far a little kindness and graciousness will get you in this life, but especially when you are traveling.
28.) Germs… What Germs? My husband has a much harder time with this one than I do. I’m of the mentality that germs – to an extent – are good for you. But my husband is totally freaked out by them. To be quite honest, I’ve never seen this difference between us highlighted more than when we were on vacation. For the first day, Joe was busy clorox wiping EVERYTHING. And while, I get it, there is a time and a place for this, in my mind, really what good was it going to do? William wanted to crawl and walk everywhere – and by everywhere I mean – the plane, the airport, the hotel lobby, and the piegeon poop covered public squares of Italy. And you know what? I was happy to let him do it. That’s how he explores and has fun, far be it from me to stop him. I just was sure to Honest Spray his hands often, and we always washed his hands before he ate. One other funny story about this. For whatever reason, William was OBSESSED with the bidet in our hotel room in Amalfi. All he wanted to do was put things in it and then remove them again. From the mini shampoo bottles, to his shoes, to my hairbrush – everything went in the bidet. My husband was disgusted. “Emily – this is SOOO gross,” he would say. He’d remove all the items, bring William over to the sink, wash his hands, and then put a towel over the bidet to try and discourage the behavior. Oh PLEASE. Yeah right. For two days this went on. I laughed, and my husband grew more and more frustrated. Finally I sat Joe down and explained that the “germ-o-phobia” had to stop. I reasoned that the bidet was just a big sink – it was probably pretty clean – William wasn’t hurting anything, better the bidet than the toilet, and was this really the way we wanted to spend our vacation? Fighting with our one year old over alleged “germs”? No thank you.
29.) Understand that there’s a time and a place for putting your foot down. This goes along with the last story. All my husband was doing with the “bidet battle” was driving himself crazy. It wasn’t worth it. Just like trying to get William to eat his vegetables and sit through a 2 hour dinner at a very nice restaurant – also wasn’t worth it. Instead, we took turns walking with him outside the restaurant every half an hour, and we let him eat buttered noodles. So shoot me. Another little anecdote from our trip. We “Ferberized” William when he was 6-7 months old, and other than when he’s been sick or teething, he sleeps in his crib, every night, for 10-12 hours. So, you can imagine our surprise when he REFUSED to sleep in the hotel crib in Italy. And by REFUSED, I mean he was standing, red faced, screaming at the top of his lungs, with big ‘ol’ aligator tears streaming down his face – REFUSING to sleep in the crib. Joe and I quickly decided that it wasn’t a fight we were willing to have with him, and we let him sleep with us for most of the trip. To us, it wasn’t worth it to have him wake up our entire floor of the hotel. And – the story has a happy ending. The night we got back to our house, he was back in his crib with no issues other than the jet lag.
30.) Have fun. This should go without saying. But in the midst of all the craziness of traveling with kids, it is all too easy to get wrapped up in the details, and to miss the bigger picture. Sarah said it best, “Remember how lucky you are to get to do this with your family.” That is so incredibly true. To take it a step further, enjoy getting to see everything through your child’s eyes, enjoy watching them explore, and enjoy making memories that you will cherish for a lifetime. That is what is most important. Have anything to add… anything I missed… anything you loved? Please let me know! XooX