We've travelled enough times with our children, ranging from 6 months to now 5 years old that I feel I have gathered a few tips to share with fellow travelling parents.
Travelling can be daunting as an adult so it can be downright stressful when travelling with kids. I find that being super prepared ahead of time makes things go smoother but also knowing that plans can change quickly and to be prepared for the unexpected as well.
Tip #1: Bring a stroller if you are travelling with children under 5.
Check your airline first but they are generally free and you can check it at the gate just before you board your flight and it's waiting for you as you leave the plane on the other side. It will be invaluable to use in the airport, either for carrying all your bags or actually hauling your child!
I've brought my larger Uppababy stroller before but it is easier to travel with the smaller umbrella stroller.You can check it below the airplane but personally I like to use the stroller in the airport and I feel like it's less likely to get damaged when you check it at the gate.
This is where we dropped off the stroller.
Tip #2: Pack snacks and activities for them to do on the plane, regardless of age!
Flying can be boring so bring activities like colouring books, books, or the iPad to keep them occupied on the flight. Our kids didn't make a peep during the flight down since they played games and watched a movie on the iPad. They don't usually get to use it so it was novel for them. Check to see if your airline has an app ahead of time so you can download it and watch movies during the flight.
For snacks, we bring trail mix, granola bars and crackers. Unfortunately fruit is confiscated at the border if you are changing countries so don't make that mistake like my husband has before!
I also brought empty water bottles for everyone so that we could fill them up and use once we got past security.
Tips #3: Stock your carry on essentials
You don't want to carry too much onto the plane but it's also important to be prepared in case you are delayed, or someone has an accident. A change of clothes for the kids and an extra shirt for the parents to be on the safe side. Lots of wipes are a must! Each of our kids had their own small backpack, plus we brought a small rolling suitcase which we filled with their warm winter clothes, and their special blankets. There aren't any luggage carts between deplaning and customs, until you get through to baggage claim so I found having a rolling suitcase saved my arms and shoulders. I'd also suggest a backpack over a tote bag for the same reason.
Tip #4: Plan your travel around around the children's schedules, if possible.
The red eye might not be the best flight for children. You think they will sleep but there are so many distractions, the seats aren't comfortable and overtired= cranky.
That being said, sometimes you have to fly during nap time, or at bed time. Our last flight home left at 9:30pm, so well past our kids bedtime but having the whole day in Phoenix was worth interrupting their regular bedtime routine.
To make things easier, we did change the kids into their pjs before boarding the flight. We also brought along their special blankets to help them sleep and be comfortable. It worked better for one than the other and there were still tears but once we got home we were able to put the kids right to bed without messing around with pjs.
Tip #5: Give yourself lots of time while at the airport.
Travelling with children is not the time to cut it close. It's recommended to be at the airport 2 hours before an international flight. Remember, you have to park your vehicle (if you aren't being dropped off), and possibly take a shuttle from a Park & Jet lot so account for the time that it takes to do that. And we all know that it takes 3x longer to do anything with children ;) You will need bathroom breaks, and time to get food and water before boarding so you do not want to be rushed. Security can take extra time if you have a stroller or if you are bringing baby bottles and food that needs to be swabbed. If you are lucky, you might even get selected for extra security!
Just remember to breathe! Laugh!! You are going on vacation!!
What's your best travelling tip, with or without children?