We just got back from a great Spring Break in Southern California visiting sandy beaches and theme parks. It was pretty much my kid’s dream vacation. I’m no expert but after years of traveling to the Caribbean, Mexico and across the country with two kids, I’ve got a few travel tips that make vacationing work for us (and keep us coming back for more)!
1. Before each trip, we set expectations by telling the kids the general itinerary and sleeping arrangements, making sure to talk about proper behavior on the airplane, in hotels, museums, etc.
2. Things to consider when booking tickets:
- time of day for traveling – morning works better for us
- direct vs. layovers – a 2 hour layover might be a good time to have a real meal and get some wiggles out
- seats – we prefer to sit 1 adult/1 child in two different rows up near the front of the airplane because we are then first to get drinks and get off the plane
3. Rent a condo/house or make sure your hotel room has a kitchenette. As soon as we get to our destination, we always make a trip to Costco (in the US) or the nearest grocery store and load up on groceries for breakfast, dinner, snacks, alcohol and water, if necessary. This saves us hundreds of dollars on each trip.
4. Each child brings one small backpack. They must be able to carry it themselves at all times so they are only allowed to pack a blanket, one toy, and a book. I always get a new activity or sticker book for each trip. I pack all of the snacks in my carry-on bag.
5. Wrangling suitcases, car seats and kids adds stress so we pack 2 suitcases or bags for our family of four. We usually stay in a house or hotel with laundry and I’m happy to run to a few loads so most outfits can be worn two or three times. I’ve also been known to do laundry in a hotel bathtub.
6. Lollipops and pacifiers are great for kids that can’t pop their ears yet. I bring one per airplane descent and offer it to them around the last 15 minutes of our flight. They don’t need it every flight but I’ll tell you, they work miracles when you do.
7. When we fly, we place a priority on packing light so we don’t bring books or toys (with the exception of the one in their backpack). We bring our Kindle Fire and iPhones so we allow the kids to use technology more than normal. By downloading several new eBooks and apps ahead of time, the kids stay entertained on the flight.
8. Packing these few extra things can save the day:
- baby wipes for cleaning hands, faces and toilet seats
- 1 or 2 reusable shopping bags for wet clothes, dirty laundry and extra packing space. I love my Run Run Run tote.
- small plastic or reusable bags
- castile soap to wash bodies, laundry, produce and more
- phone, tablet, iPod and camera chargers
9. Car seats and strollers, to bring or not? For us, this depends on the destination and age of kids. When our children were 2 and under, we always brought a car seat for airline travel. Yes, it’s bulky but it made containing a young child on an airplane and nap times so much easier.
Now that we have a 3 and 6 year old, we only bring car seats when we travel in the U.S. since we are likely driving a car at our final destination. When we travel outside of the country, we tend to only walk and use public transportation so bringing car seats and strollers are not a necessity.
10. If you have a child in diapers and plan to go grocery shopping anyway, buy diapers and wipes when you get to your destination. It saves tons of room in your suitcase.
The Most Important Travel Tip
Just relax, it is vacation after all. Things will not always go as planned. The rules you might normally follow at home may need to be adjusted for your trip. We eat more sugar and processed foods, go to bed later and are generally just more relaxed about regular routine.
Sure, the kids notice the difference but we remind them that while we will enjoy these indulgences on vacation, things will return to normal once we get home.