20 Tips for Traveling with Kids

Nancy Ray Traveling with Kids.png

I’ve been traveling with our kids since they were babies! I remember taking Milly to 5 different states via 4 different flights and road trips when she was just 4 months old. I flew alone and met my husband during his work training, I did a road trip to a conference with my sister, and we have done several road trips to the beach and mountains (about 3.5 hours in the car without kids). I’ve flown solo with a newly potty trained 2 year old and a 2 month old. (I was stressed, but they did awesome!) And I’ve learned lots of tricks and tips along the way.

My mantra : if it’s a short trip, KEEP IT SIMPLE. The less you can carry, the better! Narrow it down and just keep the essentials for a weekend trip. With that said, if we go on a week long trip, we bring all the things because it’s just easier in my opinion!

I know I’m not the most well traveled mama, but I figured I might as well share what I know. I hope this helps some other mamas out there!

Here are 20 Tips for
Traveling with Kids!

  1. Pack for the kids 3 days before you leave!
    This will relieve so much stress. I always pack for the kids well in advance, and I pack for them before I pack for myself. You will inevitably have some last minute things you’ll need to throw in their bag (white noise machine, monitors, lovies), but having most of it done clears your mind and allows you to fill in the gaps.

  2. Leave an hour earlier (at least) than you plan for.
    AT LEAST. Honestly, we aim for 2 hours earlier. Just getting out the door requires a lot. Inevitably, there will be a poopy diaper as you are loading up the car, a melt down or two, and you’ll realize, “I haven’t eaten a thing all morning and am about to pass out.” So you’ll need to stop for 5 minutes and eat something.

  3. Create a master family packing list and re-use it for every single trip.
    You can download mine for free below! Just keep in mind I have 3 kids 3 and under, so it’s definitely more for the toddler + baby mama. I print this bad boy out every time we travel and work through the list. I always have a pen handy, crossing off everything as I pack it, and adding to the list if their needs change. (Our camping list is another level, but that’s for another post another time!)

  4. Throw the schedule out the window on travel days.
    The sooner you embrace this, the better. I know you work SO hard to get the kids on a schedule! I do too. But schedules are meant to be flexible, and you will be less stressed if you just don’t even worry about a schedule when you travel. Your kids will get the sleep and food they need, I promise. They will bounce right back into their normal routine the next day! They will probably be even more tired and will hopefully nap even better after a travel day!

  5. Choose a stroller or a Sling - not both.
    Unless you KNOW you will have a need for both of them, it’s best to choose one or the other. This especially applies to airport travel! It’s just too much to try to get through the airport with both. Commit and make it work! (I’m wearing my Solly Wrap in the photo above - my favorite baby sling for airport travel because it folds up so tight!)

  6. Make a carseat plan 2 weeks in advance.
    Disregard this one for road trips, because the carseats will obviously just be in the car. But for airport travel, you have to think about this in advance. You can either check your carseats or reserve carseats in your rental car. If you have a rental car, I HIGHLY recommend the latter. Just renting a carseat is much easier than bringing your own!

  7. Think of others around you first!
    I’m primarily thinking about traveling on a plane. Think about everyone else first, and just do whatever you can to keep the kids quiet! Let them sleep. Let them watch stuff. Nurse the baby. feed them gummy snacks. Let the airplane be the indulgent spot that your kids look forward to!

  8. Have a diaper bag that doesn’t zip
    One time my husband suggested we take his favorite backpack as a carryon diaper bag. The night before, I told him absolutely not. He tried to make a pretty good case for it - he packed up all their things and threw it on his back and almost convinced me of how easy it’d be to carry. But when I had him practice stuffing it under the table (aka the “seat in front of him”) and getting something quickly with a screaming baby on his lap, we went right back to the open diaper bag. The key is EASY ACCESS. You want something you can easily reach into and pull out with specified pockets for snacks, pacis, and sippies. (The one pictured above is actually an Ona Camera Bag since I was traveling and shooting that trip.)

  9. Don’t try to control sleeping or peeing.
    You can do little things to help, like try to keep them awake until they are in the car or on the plane, or suggest they try to use the potty before leaving. But don’t make this a big deal. If they throw a fit and don’t want to use the potty before the plane, just say “OK!” and know you might have to take them on the plane. It really isn’t the end of the world. I always say, “Let’s try, and if you do you do! If you don’t you don’t!” The bigger deal you make it, the more they will turn it into a power struggle.

  10. Always pack the things you think you won’t need
    Like kids Tylenol, the thermometer, nail clippers, bandaids.

  11. Just bust out the snacks
    Be sure to bring snacks they love! But seriously - don’t be afraid to bust out the snacks to keep them happy and quiet. Even if it’s within 5 minutes of leaving the house or before the plane takes off!

  12. Nurse / bottle feed / give paci to babies during take off and landing, unless they are asleep.
    This helps with the pressure in their ears! No matter what time the last feeding was, I always try to nurse my baby during take off and landing. If I know he/she won’t be hungry, I try a paci, or I let him suck his fingers. The thing to remember is that is helps with ear pressure and pain, as it helps their ears to release pressure naturally. But only the sucking will do that! But if they are sleeping - LET THEM SLEEP. I’ve had plenty babies sleep all the way through landing the plane and do just great.

  13. Learn to change a diaper on your lap.
    And if you don’t learn to do it ahead of time, don’t be afraid to try something new. I always change a baby’s diaper on my lap in the plane bathroom or in the front seat of my car. Just be quick!

  14. Just decline beverage service on a plane.
    I always bring empty sippy cups that don’t leak in the diaper bag and buy a big Smartwater. I use the Smartwater bottle myself, and fill up the kids sippies beforehand. It’s just too stressful to have those cups on our trays - even with the lids they still can spill! (But say all the YESES to pretzels!) Also, if you bring a sippy cup with a straw that closes/opens, unscrew the lid a little & screw it back on before you open it on the airplane - or else water will go everywhere because of the change in pressure!

  15. If you fly, fly Southwest.
    There are so many reasons to fly Southwest, but flying with kids is the top of my list. It’s cheap. They allow you to board after group A, no matter what your boarding group. Checked bags fly free (up to 2 per person), but you ALSO get an additional 2 baby items per child to check for free (like 1 carseat and 1 base, or 1 carseat and 1 stroller). We always fly Southwest. Plus, they are the nicest people ever!

  16. Back extra onesies for the babe.
    You know why. Another mama once told me to also pack an extra shirt for yourself because you could get spit up and poop on you. I usually don’t do this to keep things simple, but I know I might need to buy a shirt in the airport if things get crazy.

  17. Get a Known Travelers Number so you can always be in the TSA line!
    Look up info on how to register for a Known Travelers Number. I think it’s around $85, but in my opinion, it’s worth it. Be sure to plug it in when you book a flight!

  18. Request a copy of their Birth Certificate as soon as they are born!
    We learned this the hard way. One month ago, I was packed and ready to get on a plane. I went to look for Beaufort’s birth certificate the night before, and I realized WE NEVER GOT ONE. Will had to go to an office early the next morning before their flight to pick it up! It was highly stressful and he almost wasn’t able to fly with me. So stop what you’re doing and make sure you have a copy of their birth certificate!

  19. Always bring headphones for your toddler.
    This goes back to # 7! Keeping the toddler quiet is a way to love and serve those around you. We have these but are looking to buy these amazing kid headband headphones!

  20. Say yes to ALL THE HELP.
    If you can plan to travel with another adult, do it! If a nice man offers to carry your bag, say yes and thank you! If a flight attendant looks friendly and you need to pee, ask if she would hold your baby! One of the most encouraging things I’ve found when flying with kids is how much people love your baby and want to help you. Complete strangers make you feel like a celebrity as you walk down the aisle of a plane. Just soak it in and say yes to all the help!

I would seriously love to hear from other traveling mamas: what are your favorite tips? Comment below!

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