The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year but if travel is part of your celebration plans, you may find yourself feeling a bit of a Scrooge. Whether it be by plane, train or automobile, travel with kids can be tough. We’ve all been there! We’ve put together a list of tips for surviving holiday family travels as an early gift to our Nookster families.
Traveling with Infants
As you may have discovered, it’s astonishing how such a small human being can require SO MUCH STUFF. It’s even more true when you’re traveling. You’ve got the stroller, car seat, pack-n-play, baby carrier, toys, clothes, etc. The list can go on and on! Add your expedition through security into the mix and it can seem like trying to break through a forcefield. The goods news is that TSA has gotten a bit more flexible (and better equipped) when it comes to screening for fluids like breast milk and formula. Here are some easy to-dos that will make your dreaded trip through that security line a bit less challenging:
- Have bottles clearly separated inside the diaper bag so you don’t have to search for it.
- If your baby is formula-fed, wait until after the security checkpoint to fill your bottles with water. Most airport shops like Hudson News carry room temperature water.
- Wear shoes that are easy to get on and off. Trying to take off riding boots or strappy sandals can be extra challenging while holding a baby and loading gear and luggage onto the security belt.
Most, if not all, airlines will allow you to check a stroller and car seat at the gate for free. Take advantage of that and maximize on the storage your stroller offers. Also, try to keep the baby in the stroller prior to the flight so making the shift into mama’s arms once on board is a welcomed change. Try not to pack for every emergency that could ever happen. Keep it to the minimum:
- Change of outfit (for the baby and maybe a top for you)
- Diapers and wipes
- Board book or small toy for entertainment
- Pacifier (x2) - you know one is bound to fall on the floor at some point during the flight
- Empty water bottles to fill up after you get past security
- Snacks or food packets for babies over 6 months
Leave the rest of your packing to the checked luggage. Chances are if you’re stuck at the airport for a few more hours, what you need is available in one of the stores nearby anyway.
Traveling with Toddlers/Preschoolers
With your pared down diaper bag for your infant, save a little room for your older kiddo(s). Or better yet, pack their own backpack that they can wear with all of their own goodies inside of it. Get a couple of toys and wrap them like presents. Don’t tell them about it until they’re on the plane and, instead, use the presents as incentives for good behavior. Try to get toys that will occupy them for a period of time like a small Lego set or a new book. Download a movie they really want to see and make it an extra special airplane surprise with some cool, new kid-friendly headphones. Don’t forget their snacks too. Suddenly when you’re on a plane, your kids will be parched and famished despite having eaten right before boarding.
Before you leave, talk to your older child(ren) about the travel plans. Tell them where you’re going, what to expect, etc. Remind them about talking to strangers and the buddy system. No matter the age of your child, look into something like Safety Tat that has your emergency information on it as well as any important medical information for your child such as allergies.
Depending on the length of your trip, plan ahead and don’t worry about packing things that you can purchase once you arrive such as diapers, wipes, toiletries, etc. If you’re visiting friends or family, reach out to them ahead of time and see if they or any of their neighbors/friends have any larger items you can borrow such as travel cribs, car seats or strollers. This will not only save you the hassle of having to lug it to and from the airport but also means they’ll be ready for you once you arrive, saving you the stress of figuring it out and allowing you more time to enjoy your vacation.
Find something fun and unique to easily identify your checked bags. So many bags look the same these days. Look into something like the Luggage Hugger or make your own to cut down on the time at baggage claim or to be able to easily tell someone what to look for.
Taking presents to family? Ship them ahead of time and save some room in your luggage for the presents you’ll be bringing home from them!
There are a few key things to think about when staying in a hotel with young children. Before booking the most affordable one with availability in a decent location, do a little bit more research and call ahead to inquire about some essentials:
- Whenever possible, book a suite or make sure you have connecting rooms
- The location of a local park or outdoor area for the kids to get out
- Your room’s location as it relates to the hotel’s pool, restaurant, etc. Depending on the age of your children, you may or may not want to be right on top of the action.
- Cots and/or travel cribs for toddlers and babies. Some of our Nooksters pack either their LilyPad playmat or a custom-sized LilyPad to put into their travel cribs, which provides their babies that sense of home while on the road.
- Childproofing service - believe it or not, some hotels actually have safety kits and if you’re lucky, they’ll do it for you!
Stay Ahead of the Curve
Download your airline’s app, if there is one. If not, there are plenty of great travel apps to choose from that give you local weather, flight delays, baggage claim updates, estimated security wait times, etc.
Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Here are some quick tips we found useful:
- Spring the extra few bucks for early check-in so you don’t have to even think about it
- Pack extra snacks so nobody gets “hangry.”
- If possible, travel on off-peak days or early in the morning or late at night to avoid the bigger crowds.
- If you’re sensitive to sounds, pack earplugs.
- When booking flights with connections, try not to book the one with the 30-minute connection. Give yourself a little extra time to make your next flight.
No matter what your holiday travel plans are, try to remember to breathe and have fun! It’s the holidays and everyone, including you, is traveling. Things (and people) are bound to get mixed up, lost and delayed. In the grand scheme of things, it’s just a small blip on the way to some family fun and memory-making!
Happy holidays and safe travels from your Nook family!