Tips + Tricks: Traveling with Babies & Toddlers
For those of you with upcoming trips or lots of traveling for the Christmas, New Years, and beyond, we chatted with a mom of two and frequent traveler Ashley of Hither & Thither on how to make the process as seamless as possible. In just 2014, Ashley and her family traveled to Italy, Seattle, Hawaii, Florida, among many other places, so she’s got plenty of experience to pass along… Enjoy!
1. Traveling is always stressful, but even more so during the holiday season. As a frequent traveler, are there any ways to make the trip even slightly more pleasant?
The goal: More time, less stuff. In an ideal world, I’ll have finished packing well in advance so that we’re not rushing around at the last minute. We’ll get to the airport well in advance of our departure, and we’ll come back on a Saturday rather than a Sunday to start the week relaxed. In other words, there will be plenty of time. I’ll also have arranged for diapers and a few other things to be shipped ahead to the hotel or house where we’re staying, and have streamlined our suitcases to the bare minimum. Nothing is worse than shlepping around an excess of stuff, especially with young children who can’t yet carry their weight.
2. Do you think there’s an ideal time to travel with little ones (early mornings, after dinner, during naptimes, etc.)?
I’ve always preferred to drive or fly when the kids are sleeping—it’s hard to spend over three hours on a plane without some respite. We were lucky that my son was a pretty dependable sleeper, once we had a routine in place. But I do think it depends on the child: if they’re likely to fight it, or if you don’t think you could get them to sleep in your arms, red-eye (when everyone else is silent) might be more stressful than passing the hours in a noisy, light-filled cabin.
3. What are your top tips for flying with babies? Are there any must-haves you swear by and always include in your carry on?
I always pack our carry-on as if we’re going to have a day-long layover. Think of that when you ‘re deciding how many diapers, how many ounces of formula, how many changes of clothes or toys you bring along. I’ve written a post with some favorite tips—like having your partner board the plane and set up the overhead space while you stay off the plane and play as long as possible.
4. What are some of your favorite ways of keeping a toddler occupied on a long car ride? Any go-to toys for car rides/flights?
Almost every carry-on bag has included a reusable sticker bag, paper and crayons, a few favorite books, child-friendly headphones (screen-time rules go out the window, but audiobooks are great for the older toddler), masking tape, and lots of snacks. Here is a series of games I came up with for flights, all using Cheerios.
5. If there’s a time difference between home and where you’re traveling to, how can you get your kids on a new schedule?
The trick is to set your clock to the new time immediately. Eat on the new schedule and expose everyone to as much sunlight as possible in the new timezone. That said, keep the old clock (the body clock) in mind and be prepared with snacks the make it past expected mealtimes (and a bed around expected nap times without suffering major meltdowns.
6. Any unusual or unexpected travel tips you’ve picked up over the last few years?
While not unusual, I’ve really found renewed enthusiasm for preparation after having kids—in all manners. Before a trip, we go to the library and check out books related to our destination and talk about what’s exciting or different about where we’re headed. We talk about what we’ll do there and what we’ll eat. It makes a big difference! If Hudson is happy and enthusiastic, we all win.
7. Any major travel success stories? Or disasters (or just plain funny ;)?
Our visit to Paris with our son, when he was a toddler, was filled with laughable moments. From taking him to La Maison Angelina (a tea salon where we learned he is not a fan of hot chocolate) to watching him get on stage at a Marionette show, it was a memorable trip! I recall in particular being excited for him to ride on a vintage carousel at Luxembourg Gardens: Unfortunately, it was a bit of a fail (albeit a comically sad one). The vintage carousel has no standing place, as the horses move using suspension alone, and so children must ride unaccompanied. This means that Hudson was too little to ride a horse and would only be allowed to sit in a carriage. Good thing, too, because it was so fast! As the horses whipped around, and children reached for rings, Hudson wailed and wailed and tried to break free of the ropes that tied him to his seat. With every turn, he’d see us and reach his arms out crying “off, off” making the tongue-click sound he used for horses’ hooves in between sobs.
It seemed to last forever. Finally, the ride slowed. I tried to play it cool, but I just wanted to go rescue him so badly. I started walking beside him but it wasn’t coming to a stop. Aron looked at me like I was crazy and started laughing as I found myself fast-walking beside the carriage for an entire revolution.
I immediately thought about that book Bringing Up Bébé, and the description of the cliché, hovering American parent who shouts “weeeee” like a food every time their child goes back and forth in a swing (guilty) and felt my cheeks grow flush.
Luckily, even the man with the rings took pity on Hudson and soon he took my place, walking beside the tear-streaked boy and trying to untie him before the ride had truly stopped. I practically ran once he was in my arms. I ran to the playground, which was closing, and pleaded with a slightly shocked gatekeeper for just one ride down the slide. What a ridiculous scene!
Thank you, Ashley! Some more travel posts from Ashley that may interest you: