Practice makes perfect! The more you travel with your children, the more comfortable you will be. Here are our top 10 tips for traveling with our littles:
- Be prepared for international travel – passports!
– Get your passports ready ahead of time. Typical processing time is 6-8 weeks, but you can always pay extra to expedite it in a pinch. In some cases, you can even get your passport the same day.
– You can take your passport photos at home! Easiest thing to do is to lay your baby on a white blanket (or sit propped up with a white blanket as the background). You can have your photo printed on 4×6 paper from most pharmacies.
– Once you have your passports, add flag post-its to the information page. You can identify each family member with his/her own color without flipping through each passport to look for one in particular.
- Give yourself extra TIME for everything!
– Everything with kids seems to take extra time, so make sure you budget enough time for everything. Checking in before you get to the airport and allowing extra time to go through security gives you peace of mind plus time for your toddler to run wild in the airport to get their energy out before the flight. You do not want to be that family being called to board the plane 30 seconds before the door closes.
– The same goes when you plan out your trip itinerary. It would be tiring for anyone to stay in 7 different cities in 10 days; to do that with littles would be completely exhausting and not a vacation at all. Cut down your itinerary by staying more time in fewer places!
- SAVE time by enrolling in TSA pre-check and Global Entry (for U.S. citizens).
– Some countries have priority lines for families with regards to check-in and security at airports. The U.S. does not, but you can enroll each member of your family in the TSA pre-check and Global Entry programs to save yourself some time at the airport. While there is a fee, many credit cards now will reimburse you for the cost. Keep in mind that while lap infants can be added to your ticket for domestic travel and have TSA pre-check, they will still need to have their own global entry membership in order to participate. It is best to get TSA pre-check and global entry for all members of your family if you plan to travel often outside of the country.
- Pack wisely without overpacking!
– Use packing cubes to make it easy to look for tiny baby items. Each family member can have their own color.
– Don’t forget that you can buy things at the destination, so you don’t need to pack two week’s worth of diapers and wipes!
- Understand the rules of your airline for children. Lap infant rules are different for domestic and international travel.
– All airlines require a fully-paid ticket for children age 2 and up.
– Everyone needs a ticket, even children under 2: you can either add them as a lap infant or buy baby his/her own seat.
– Domestic travel: baby should fly free, though some airlines may have a tax for the lap infant.
– International travel: baby needs to pay taxes on the cost of the ticket even if the ticket is technically free. This needs to be done ahead of time by calling the airline once your ticket is booked.
– If booking a lap infant with points, make sure to call ahead to get the lap infant ticketed. In many cases, the ticket may cost 10% of the parents’ monetary fare + taxes.
- Email hotels in advance of your stay.
– We learned to email the general managers of hotels before our stay to introduce ourselves. It takes an extra step, but shows the manager that you are looking forward to staying on their property. As well, you can also ask if there are any free upgrades available to make the stay more comfortable for your family. We haven’t always been successful, but there were a handful of times we were upgraded to a larger room or suite! You never know.
- It never hurts to ask.
You miss 100% of the risks you don’t take, so just ask! When we traveled to Aruba for my college roommate’s wedding, our first 2 nights were booked with points at the Holiday Inn. This hotel had been undergoing a renovation with 1 building out of 3 completely modernized. Needless to say, our room assignment was in an older building and the room was downright dirty. We were disappointed, but didn’t think to do anything until we walked into another building while checking out the gym and noticed that their rooms were so nice and clean! Long story short, we went straight to the front desk to speak to the manager and ask for a room change to the new building. We were initially told no, but after pressing and insisting that our room needs to be clean for our two young children, the manager found us a room in the new building.
- Be as hands-free as possible, especially with multiples.
You only have two hands, and you will definitely need both when you’re traveling with young children. We don’t often baby wear when we are at home, but do tend to do it a lot while traveling so we are not running around trying to catch the kids. I also think it’s very important to buy a travel stroller that is easily pushed & maneuvered with just one hand.
- Be strategic about choosing seats on airplanes.
When we were just traveling with 1 child (as a lap infant), we often chose to book a row towards the back of the plane for my husband and I. We would choose 1 window and 1 aisle in the same row, leaving the middle seat open. The back of the plane is usually one of the last to fill up, and no one would choose a lone middle seat unless there were no other seats. If you were lucky enough to catch a semi-empty flight, you’d luck out with a whole row for 2 adults + 1 lap infant. This has worked perfectly for us a number of times. You should also be aware that the middle seat *can* get booked by a lone traveler. In this case, it shouldn’t be too hard to convince the person in the middle to switch to a better seat with one of you!
- Check out your credit card benefits before you go.
Many credit cards now give free access to airport lounges and other benefits, so make sure to bring the ones that would allow for these features. If you’re traveling internationally, it would also be good to bring along a credit and/or debit card without any international exchange fees.
And last but not least, be flexible and enjoy! Remember that things are harder with kids and certain events may throw a wrench in your plans, but if you’re mindful of switching gears when necessary, it will go a long way toward enjoyment while traveling with them!