With the changing regulations and costs for baggage on most airlines these days, it is hard to pack a single bag for one person, let alone an entire family. Since our child count has doubled we have to be even more strategic about packing and planning our travel arrangements. We travelled a considerable amount with our daughter, including a trip to Europe when she was eight months old, so we already had an idea of what infant travel was like and knew that we could do it. We put travelling with two to the test this past February as we booked a trip to Orlando. Here are ten tips that allowed us to remain in good spirits while travelling by air, with two children, to the Happiest Place on Earth:
1. Be Real– Set yourself up with realistic expectations before you begin planning your trip. Think about the stages your children are at and what they can realistically handle in terms of a travel itinerary and destination. If your 18 month old can’t sit still for longer than 5 minutes, it is likely not a great idea to plan a ten hour cross continental flight. Determine what they truly can handle and plan accordingly. Now that I have two children I know that everything takes longer and is more involved so I also have to be realistic about what I can handle too when travelling with both.
2. Fail To Plan, Plan To Fail– The more information you can have about your destination and navigating it, the better. This applies to all aspects of the trip, including your baggage allowance, the ride to the airport (what terminal are we at again?!), your seat assignments on the plane, the expected weather conditions, estimated driving times for car travel, location of rental car terminal within the airport (don’t book at an “off airport” location. Yes they have shuttles but you will also be shuttling all your humans and their stuff), restaurants that are kid friendly, etc. Take full advantage of online check in, early check in, GPS technology, and travel review sites to plan the most efficient journey which will also be less stressful.
3. Baggage Claim– When packing your bags, know your limit and stay within it! I have found it is easier to bring two larger bags for the four of us than four smaller bags. Having each adult share a bag with a child means there is room for some larger clothes and some itty bitty clothes. Planning complete outfits for each person and each day is also helpful so that you avoid bringing a whole bunch of random items to piece together during your trip. For children’s clothes I pack the complete outfit (along with any accessories) in a small ziplock bag and that way I have an outfit ready in a moment’s time and it also packs down much smaller. I have back ups where necessary but have definitely found that this eliminates most of my unnecessary items that I would otherwise throw in “just in case”.
4. Hands Free– I’m not talking technology here, I’m kicking it old school with the original hands free invention- carrying straps! I have a strict policy now that anything that does not get checked upon arrival to the airport must be able to be carried without using my hands. Backpacks are key here, and, if you have older children they can carry their own small backpack and be responsible for hauling their activities, snacks and treasures that will get them through this leg of the journey. My daughter loves this backpack for travel and it is just the right size, while I carry this backpack style diaper bag and it is perfect for all of the baby’s necessities and a few of my own. Once I check my stroller at the gate and sit with my infant on my lap, I still want to be hands free. This is where a baby carrier comes in handy both for the airport and also for use at your destination. We love the BabyBjorn Carrier One Outdoors as it works well for both my husband and I, wicks away sweat so we aren’t a dripping puddle upon arrival, and can be used as a back or front carry depending on the age of your child. This was a life saver at Walt Disney World where the sun was out in full force and we needed to let our son nap on the go. Being hands free of baggage allows you to open snacks, wipe faces, lift up children, push a stroller and hold small hands instead.
5. Homestyle– With the increasing popularity of AirBnB and private home rentals, small hotel rooms are no longer your only option. Forcing your entire family to stay in one room for the duration of your stay can be difficult as once bedtime arrives for the littles, the adults are stuck in a dark room, trying to be quiet. Booking a house with multiple rooms allows you the flexibility to put your children down for a nap or bedtime while you still have space to relax and enjoy yourself. There is also more room for kids to play, to store all that carefully packed baggage and these homes often come equipped with many of the supplies needed for children (like cribs, playpens, high chairs) so you don’t have to haul that with you. Bonus points for a location with laundry facilities so that you can bring less clothes and not panic when your infant blows out four outfits in one day (not that I’m speaking from experience…).
6. Made for life on the road– If your destination does not come equipped with infant cribs/playpens/gear, it may be smart to invest in a few travel specific products. The most useful item I have ever purchased for traveling with small children is a travel crib. With the ability to fold down small, weigh less than your child and fit in an overhead compartment on a plane, this gives you the security of knowing your little one has a safe place to sleep and bringing it won’t weigh you down too much. Runner up in the “most useful travel gear” awards is a car seat travel bag. Though it is possible to rent car seats with your rental car company or other gear rental services, safety is always a huge concern for me and there is little history or information about what this seat has been through or where it has been. I prefer to take my own seats and these travel bags make hauling them so much easier. An added bonus is that airlines are legally required to check your car seat for free so I have been known to stash a few bulky items in with my car seat to save me luggage space. #protip. This bag is my favourite and is worth every penny in protection, ease of carrying and space for a few extras 🙂
7. Hitch a Ride– In almost any travel situation, having a stroller on hand makes traveling with two so much easier. Even if you won’t use it at your destination, navigating just the airport becomes a much easier feat with a mode of transportation for the littlest members of your party. Where possible, have a seat for each child- there are so many great double stroller options available. In our case, our daughter has mostly outgrown a stroller but we knew that without an option to be pushed we would be forced to carry her, which is really no option at all when adding in a second child and all of our bags. If your first child is too big or unwilling to ride in a stroller, a ride on board is a duo dream come true. We could push the baby in the stroller while our toddler could hitch a ride on the board to give her tired feet a rest. This also allowed us to walk at a much faster pace and keep her contained in the airport and at Disney World- winning all around. With gate check right before we boarded the plane, we had our travel system and it’s occupants on hand for the entire airport rush and also used it extensively once we arrived to our destination.
8. Less is More- While it is tempting to pack as many things into a trip as possible, it is usually not as enjoyable when traveling with tiny
tantrumers children. Pick the things that you want to do and see the most, with something on the list for everyone, and try to build in rest and relaxation time and days in between. While our daughter would have loved to spend our entire trip at each of the Disney parks, we knew that it would be too hard on our infant son. So instead we chose to do one full day at Magic Kingdom and then one character breakfast at a resort separate from the park on another day. This way we got to experience more of the magic but the breakfast lasted only about two hours and left the rest of the day free to fit in naps and other play time. Where possible choose a shorter/easier alternative so that you can still experience things but in a less taxing way.
9. Creature Comforts– As much as I am preaching to pack light and only what you need, it is important to bring a few things from home that allow you and your children to function normally. A favourite stuffy or pacifier for the kids, your white noise machine or video monitor for peace of mind at bedtime and anything else that is key in your routine at home (within reason) should be accommodated. We have found that if we can set up our environment to be at least somewhat similar to home it allows our children to adjust much quicker to the change in scenery.
10. Have Fun! The bottom line is, you are making memories and among them should be fun ones. Take a deep breath, take breaks when you need them, take lots of photos, and take a moment to see sights through your children’s eyes. Experiencing all of these new things leaves a lasting impression on children and even though they won’t remember things they did as babies, you will, so do your best to enjoy it!
Your kids won’t be babies forever and traveling will likely get easier in the future. Exposing them to new and exciting places now and the means that you need to take to get there is a good way to create perfect travel companions down the road. Keeping a few of these tips in mind may help you keep your sanity and, if you are like me, may make you crazy enough to book your next trip!
Katie is a new mom of two and will be sharing her experiences in parenting a toddler and a newborn though this series “New with Two”.