In the April 2011 edition of Conde Nast Traveler, The Perrin Report by Wendy Perrin had an informative article titled “The A-Z Guide to Traveling with Kids“. Within the article Wendy challenged readers to submit their own top tips for travel with little ones. I am passionate enough about this subject to regularly blog about it on “pintsizepilot.com“and to write my entry on a 15 hour flight from Australia to Canada, wedged between my two kids aged 3 and 6. After more than 60 domestic and international flights with young children, I feel that through trial and error I have learned a few things that might help others planning trips with their kids.
Here is my A-Z list:
When booking accommodation and vacation packages, don’t forget to ask the reservation agent for help in getting the best for your family. Easily accommodated requests such as “Could we have a room on a high floor?”can make things more fun for the kids (great view, longer elevator ride).
On ascent and descent of an airplane, you do not always have access to entertainment systems and the tray tables need to be up (limiting the types of activities you can do). Having a couple children’s books with you can kill that agonizing thirty plus minutes before the seat belt sign is turned off.
Not only do I make sure I pack for every possible scenario with my children when traveling, I want to feel good too. I always pack a little bag full of goodies that will keep me feeling sane including some kind of headache relief medication, moisturizer, facial toner, lip balm, tooth brush, mouthwash, deodorant, and emergency chocolate. These few things can make the difference between feeling haggard or feeling like you can handle another hour.
My disaster kit is packed as if I can look into a crystal ball and see that the plane is going to be delayed on the runway in Los Angeles where my little angel will start projectile vomiting, failing to cease until Sydney, Australia. It includes more spare clothes, diapers, wipes, formula, pacifiers and medication in it than I actually think I could possibly need. Preparing for the worst will either have you patting yourself on the back for being so tremendously organized, or put you in a complete state of relaxation knowing that you are ready for anything.
Setting realistic expectations is very important when traveling with kids. Understanding that you will be playing in the pool not floating on it, building castles in the sand not wiggling your toes through it, and being prepared to celebrate happy hour at the exact moment your child nods off, will help to set you up for success.
Online forums subscribed to by passionate travelers and industry experts are great for getting answers to travel questions quickly. For instance travel with children on flyertalk.com is a great resource for anything to do with flying, airlines and airports.
If you are booking a vacation rental property or villa, for a small fee you can often have it pre-stocked with groceries. How nice would it be to arrive with a fridge full groceries and a hamper full of any extras you need for your child (diapers etc.)? Another idea is to get groceries delivered to your house on the day you arrive home from a trip so you do not need to shop in a state of jetlagged delirium.
Found at most pharmacies, these individually packed cloths are handy to have in the pockets of bags and purses brought on your trip. Hardly a moment goes by when I don’t catch my kids trying to lick a wall or an armrest just to see what it tastes like. I especially like to have them on hand after some time spent at a public play area.
While expensive, this is a fantastic and compact entertainment system for your child. If you are sharing one between kids, take Wendy Perrin’s advice and get a Y splitter allowing you to attach multiple headsets to it. On airplanes, I like to use Silly Putty as a stand for the touch to stop it from sliding around on the tray table like other metal and plastic holders.
While they look like candy, they are a little healthier as they are sweetened primarily with fruit juice concentrate. They are nice to have around for those difficult moments when distraction techniques simply are not working. From personal experience I recommend not handing over the whole bag at once, but allocating them one at a time to make them last as long as possible.
A U.S based boutique hotel chain that does an excellent job catering to families through their KimptonKids program.
What a dirty word to utter in respect to a vacation, but alas, it is a part of traveling with kids. Some resorts offer special perks such as free laundering of kids clothes. If you really want to take full advantage of this service, have items laundered throughout your trip and then send in everything right at the end so you can go home with a bag full of clean clothes. If this is not an option, in-suite laundry can be an attractive room feature. Don’t forget to pack some spot remover and extra laundry soap.
Remember to bring on holiday any membership cards for aquariums, science/space centers, and museums that your family belongs to. Many attractions have reciprocal agreements in place so you can attend their sister facilities at a discounted rate or for free.
A night light is handy to have on holidays to help comfort your child in a new environment. If it is battery operated, you will not need to worry about a power adapter when traveling abroad, but you may want to bring some extra batteries with you.
If you are able to travel outside of school holidays in off season, you can get some sensational deals. Websites such as familygetaway.com offer some great packages during these times.
These soft mesh bags, such as those made by Eagle Creek come in a variety of sizes and colors making it easy to keep each family member’s clothes separate and easy to find. They are also very reasonably priced.
Although there will be many activities you will want to do with your kids on vacation, it is important to schedule in a little quiet time. A few minutes of rest or reading should help to reduce the frequency of full scale meltdowns and have everyone refreshed and ready for the next big event.
Websites such as Tripadvisor.com Â and Familyvacationcritic.com allow you to read reviews written by families like yours. A few minutes spent on these sites can provide you with ratings information and other valuable insight when booking accommodations, car rentals and attractions.
I think this was designed for adults but how cool would this be for a super hip globe trotting kid? While not widely available, it can be found in the U.S. at kickboardusa.com
The Trunki is a ride on bag for your toddler that fits carry-on specifications and literally stops people in their tracks in airports with cries of â€œWhere on earth can I get one of those?. Not only will your little one love cruising to the gate on it, but it also provides great storage for their toys and activities.
While most modern appliances have the ability to convert between 110v and 220v (don’t forget to check), when traveling abroad you will most likely need a power adapter to plug in your baby monitor, bottle warmer and electronics. A universal power adapter kit will provide what you need for most countries. The only catch is that if you want to plug in more than one appliance or electronic simultaneously, you may want to purchase additional adapters (about $5 each at travel stores).
If you are traveling with a spouse, try to remember that you are in this together. There is always a little bit of stress involved when traveling with kids and a lot can be said for staying united and keeping a sense of humor. What’s not funny about an exploding diaper anyway?
If all else fails, how about a nice glass of Shiraz to take away the stress of the day? Or, how about getting proactive and offering to buy your neighbors on the plane a glass of wine to soften them up in case things go a little sideways with your child?
Getting through screening at the airport can be a little challenging with a child. Have them wear slip on shoes, and either take a pass on any metal accessories or put them in your carry on bags until after security. When in line, explain to them what is going to happen up ahead. If they are old enough, they can assist by taking off their jacket and shoes and putting them in the bins on the conveyor belt. With any luck a sympathetic attendant will fast track you.
It is hard to have too many. They are great for potentially leaky bottles and sippy cups, wet bathings suits, and soiled diapers or clothing. If using Ziploc bags makes you feel like an eco-terrorist, commit to washing and reusing the ones that didn’t contain anything too nasty.