Travel With Kids: Packing

travel with kids packing

Tomorrow my son and I leave on a jet plane to Boston, which means I’m in the midst of packing RIGHT NOW. So what better way to procrastinate than to write a post on the very subject? If you’re going to be flying with your young baby or child might I suggest my post about Flying With Kids, for your prep and enjoyment.

The Bag

duffleFirst things first, what are you going to put all this stuff into? I have a bag that I love. LOVE! It fits an insane amount of everything inside it for me and my son. It rolls, has backpack straps, has multiple pockets for stuffing odds and ends in, and is considered a duffle bag.

The difference is that it opens like a piece of regular luggage. Half is like traditional luggage and the other half is like a duffle. It’s this one from L.L.Bean. We got it online, on sale (because it was red) and with a gift certificate. I think we paid $90 for it. A steal! You don’t need to have a fancy bag, but if you’re in the market, I highly recommend this one.

Right now ours is packed with our portable booster seat, a training potty, our toiletries, a package of diapers, package of wipes, all our clothes, 5 picture books, baby monitor, Nook (sound machine for sleeping), my son’s sleep bag, our shoes, Bananagrams, and a 6″ bouncy ball. We’re going to Boston for a week in the springtime this trip, but this bag has also been on a 3 week stint around Spain, 3 weeks in Maui, multiple trips to and around California, a week during the spring in Maine, camping, and will be accompanying us to Alaska later this year. Big trips, small trips, one bag and a decent carry-on/backpack is all you need.

When putting everything in your bag, step away from the traditional method of folding and stacking. Use whatever Tetris skills you have to get your items to fit. Roll, fold, lay totally flat, turn things inside out and backwards. Stuff your socks and underwear in the small spaces between other items. Lay flat items under or between clothing and nestle breakables in the middle of everything. Make use of every pocket (interior and exterior) nook and cranny. If your bag has interior straps – use ’em. Cinch those bad boys down with all your might. All packed, our bag weighs about 45 lbs. That leaves 5 pounds to spare for the TSA’s 50 lbs weight limit. Boo-ya!

Consider This

luggageObviously the age of your child will determine a whole lot of what you decide to bring along, but there are a few things I think are universal when packing for (or maybe with?) children.

  • Make lists. Include everything you plan on bringing: clothes, medicines, toys, sound machines, baby monitors, tooth floss, etc. Check them over & over. Cross off items that are packed and at the end of the day, make a final list of small items like chargers, deodorant and computers. Anything that you don’t want left behind by accident.
  • Bring at least one outfit per day and 2 extras. It can seem like a lot, but unless you have access to a washing machine, it can save you time washing extras in the sink. I HIGHLY recommend staying in places where you can wash clothing (other peoples homes, laundromats  hotel laundering services, etc). It may take a couple hours of your vacation, but it will make everything that much nicer, I promise. I mean really, who doesn’t like clean underwear??
  • Limit toys to 2-3 small items that don’t make noise or have small removable pieces. We went on a trip for 3 weeks and I brought everything but the kitchen sink and regretted every moment of it. Not only did most of them NOT get played with, but we ended up having to ship most of them home in a boxes.
  • Books are good, but make sure they are ones your kids actually like. You can also take library books, but I wouldn’t mention that to the librarian.
  • If your kid is going to watch movies or use a digital device, get them their own headsets. Earbuds suck in general and a toddler won’t tolerate such ear abuse. We like these.
  • I’m a firm believer in kids carrying their own carry-ons, or at least dragging them behind them. Trunki’s are good for younger kids because they can drag them or ride on them.
  • A thin or inflatable pillow is nice for small people who may, or may not, nap on the plane/car/bus/train. Or maybe you just need to cushion their elbow from continually jabbing you in the thigh or stomach while they use you as their personal Barca Lounger?
  • Consider the length of your journey and pack appropriate snacks/food for travel times. It’ll always be healthier and cheaper this way. And bring your own empty water bottle to airports and fill them up at the drinking fountains past security.
  • If you’re bringing medicine: according to the TSA medicine is allowed in “reasonable quantities” in your carry on. For instance, my son is anaphylactic-ly allergic to cashews so we always carry an Epi-pen with us. On airplanes I carry Benedryl as well, which is 4oz. I always present it with any other liquids and it’s never been questioned. They might be put through some extra screening, but carry any important medications on you. If you’re concerned, bring a doctors note too. I also bring pain reliever in my carry on and check the rest.
  • Car seats shouldn’t cost a dime to check at the airport and will save you $$$ at your destination if you don’t want to rent one. It is standard for the larger car rental companies to rent child seats at a daily rate. You can call taxi’s or hire drivers that also have car seats available in most countries.
  • Umbrella strollers for those trips where there might be more walking than your wee one can handle. These can also be used at the airport and checked at the gate. You will have to run it through the security scanners first.
  • Bathing suit or cold weather gear, depending on destination.
  • Sunblock of choice.
  • Hat if appropriate.
  • Your portable booster seat, if you use one.
  • Any children’s soap, toothpaste, toothbrush or toiletries your kid might use.
  • IMPORTANT: if you’re flying make sure to bring your child’s passport or copy of their birth certificate no matter how old they are, 0-18.

The Fashionable Baby 1 month – 2 Years

I’m going to assume you have a good idea of what the climate is like wherever you’re travelling. Obviously pack accordingly for anytime you’ll spend outside and what makes you and your child comfortable. Here’s what I suggest, in general, when packing for children under two:

luggage1

  • For travel dress baby in layers. Planes are either way too hot or way too cold. Be ready for both. Bring a change of clothes for baby and parent. Bring more than enough diapers and wipes and always bring a burp cloth or two.
  • Any sleep aids you use: baby bags or swaddling blankets, baby monitor, sound machine, any cuddly friend your baby sleeps with at home.
  • Breast pump, baggies, formula and bottles if necessary.
  • Diapers and wipes. Remember, there are probably store where you can purchase disposables once you reach your destination too.
  • Bibs. One per day and 1-2 extras.
  • Bathing suit or cold weather gear, depending on destination.
  • Sunblock of choice.
  • Hats if appropriate.
  • Umbrella stroller and/or baby carrier of choice.
  • Car seat, if not renting one at your location.
  • Passport or copy of birth certificate.
  • Any baby soap, toothpaste, toothbrush or toiletries your baby might use.
  • Baby carrier of choice. If you’re flying, you won’t be able to wear your baby in the carrier during take off and landing if your child is sitting in your lap. Don’t ask, it’s not allowed.
  • Water for nursing moms, formula for babies and any snacks or sippy cups for babies eating solid foods.

Movin’ and Groovin’ 2+ years

There will come a point when your child has a say in what they bring with them on trips, so I’m going with what I know here and will let you work it out with your child if you think they are ready to start making lists of their own.

If you have a delicate flower of a child who doesn’t get dirty and likes to wear pretty clothes, than pack those. If you have a rough and tumble little person who you know is going to make a wreck of whatever they wear, than pack enough to get you through your trip comfortably. Better yet, stay somewhere that you’ll have access to a laudramat and spend a couple hours doing laundry. It sounds like a chore, but it can significantly cut down the amount of stuff you’ll want to bring.

  • Any sleeping aids from the 0-2 list above that will help your toddler sleep as comfortably as possible.
  • If there isn’t a bed and your child is too big for a rental crib (like my huge child) I’ve packed an inflatable camping mattress and pump for some of our longer trips. It’s worth it if it means your child will sleep more, and if they are prone to rolling off the bed (just sayin’ it’s a reality in my house) it’s nice to have them closer to the ground.
  • Are you potty training (or something like it)? We have this portable potty at home and we bring it with us.
  • We tend to eat in a lot when we travel so we bring our portable booster seat. Obviously this and the potty are optional. If we didn’t bring these two items we could easily pack my husbands clothes in the same bag too.
  • Depending on where you’re travelling, bring the minimum amount of shoes and only ones you know your kid will wear.

The most important thing to bring with you on any vacation, which wil save you time and (most importantly) patience is…grandparents. If you can fit them into your luggage or even into the seat next to you, this will be the very best investment in travelling gear ever. EVER.

porter spain
Now go show your kids the world. They’re gonna love it!

This post featured on the following blog carnivals: Party Wave Wednesday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Tasty Traditions, Small Footprint Friday

Travel With Kids: Flying

travel with kids flyingWe were pretty certain that after we had a kid our travelling would dwindle to the occasional trip to visit family. Thankfully, that’s not happened and we’ve gotten to experience truly wonderful sights and cultures with our child in tow.

P has been charming flight attendants since he was 2 months old, he’s now 2 years old. He’s been to Hawaii 4 times, Maine, Spain, and California many times to visit our family there. We’ve flown non-stop and we’ve had to make connections. Big airports, small airports, customs, baggage, international, trams…we’ve done them all. Our upcoming trips include Boston, Alaska, and California a couple more times for good measure.

porter with flight attendant
Be kind with flight attendants and they’ll be kind with you.

P’s always been an easy travelling companion and, with the exception of that one time he had a head cold, he’s never been THAT kid. Here’s my biggest thought on whether a baby/child will be a good traveller. If they eat out at restaurants well, I think it’s a good indication that your child can handle being cooped up in a flying can, with a bunch of strangers, for many hours on end.

Will it be easy? No, not like when you didn’t have kids. And certainly not like when they’re older and can plug into movies or books for hours on end, but it’s very possible and definitely worth it.

Through our travels there are a few things we’ve learned that I think you might also find helpful, or at least worth considering:

  • Travel Business/First class if you can afford it
  • If you can bring the grandparents, DO IT!
  • Give yourself at least 30 minutes longer than you used to (pre-baby) at the airport
  • Get a chiropractic adjustment for yourself and baby a couple of days before you go
  • Be patient with yourself, others and especially your baby
  • Avoid the red-eye if you can
  • Make lists and check them

As a side note, if you’re pregnant and planning to fly you should read what WebMD has to say about the subject, talk with your care provider, and then make an educated decision. Here’s the link to the TSA website for travelling with children, where they lay out what your child can expect when trying to get through security.

porter sf airport
The more the merrier!

It can be stressful at times, but after you’ve arrived at your destination it will all have been worth it. Just think how good you’ll feel having accomplished such a task as flying with a baby and all the memories you’re about to make on your trip. I’ll break the rest down by age, since that does indeed make a difference.

Infant – 6 Months

Assuming you had a normal pregnancy and vaginal birth doctors seem to agree that it’s safe for mother and child to fly as soon as 2 weeks after birth (source 1, 2). Why anyone would voluntarily do this at 2 weeks post-partum is beyond me. Barring any big life moves I recommend staying put for a month or two and developing some semblance of sanity routine before venturing into the world of TSA, cabin pressure and time zone changes.

What To Bring

  • Your baby’s passport (required for international travel) or a COPY of their birth certificate. Don’t forget this. Ticketing agents don’t always check them, but when they do you’ll be glad to have it.
  • A change of clothes for baby and mom. Let me stress that MOM does indeed want a change of clothes. I’ve experienced the worst possible blowout, EVER, on an airplane and paid for it for the rest of the flight. Not pretty folks, not pretty at all.
  • If your breastfeeding you can bring one of those cover/sheet do-dads, but it gets really hot on an airplane. Like Bikram yoga hot. I found that wearing a very large, comfortable, maternity shirt that I could stretch over the baby worked much better. Then you don’t have to fumble around with a giant piece of fabric while confined to a tiny seat either. After a year, I just started whipping out the boob, stare if you want, I don’t give a darn.
  • If you’re bottle feeding, bring formula. TSA will let you bring liquids through too, but they will test for the gun powder and flammable liquids that you’re really trying to smuggle in and then they’ll pull you aside for a little one-on-one time. Just you, a TSA agent of the corresponding gender, and some sanitary gloves. Mmm-hmmm.
  • A pillow. For the first bunch of flights I brought my Boppie. It was cumbersome, but it made feeding and holding a sleeping baby for hours manageable. It’s worth it to bring some sort of cushion.
  • For a wee babe you can carry them in your arms or bring your baby carrier/sling to spare your back and free up a hand for dragging luggage/diaper bag. You should know that even though it seems like a dandy idea to have your baby strapped to you during flight, you will be required to TAKE BABY OUT of said carrier during take off and landing. If you’re flying in Europe with a lap infant they have a special baby seat belt, that connects to your belt, which is required to be around your baby.
  • If your baby is sitting up, or able to ride in an umbrella stroller, bring one of those. It’s great for loading up with a baby, or other baby items, that you’re going to trudge around with you for the duration of your trip. It will have to go through security, will be checked at the gate, and (unless the airport staff hates you and sends it to baggage claim) it will be brought to the door of the plane when you exit. Do everyone a favor and leave your jumbo multi-child stroller at home, or at least check it with your baggage.
  • Technically, kids under the age of 2 fly free if they sit on your lap. That’s how we’ve always done it. Airlines do this so families won’t stop flying because paying for a baby ticket is outlandishly expensive. If you’re a safety first type then you can bring your car seat on the plane, but you will have to purchase a full price ticket for your baby.
  • Bonus while travelling with a child under two is that you will often get to skip to the front of the security line, you don’t have to go through those obnoxious full body scans, and people are generally helpful and friendly.
  • You can bring your car seat with you wherever you travel and check it for free with your luggage (unless you get a mean ticketing agent who hates you).
  • And in case you’re getting overwhelmed, don’t forget to bring more diapers than you think you’ll need, the appropriate amount of wipes, and your little changing mat. They don’t typically sell these at airports.

I don’t know what it is about flying, but the air pressure seems to squeeze every last bit of bodily function out of your tiny baby while inflight and you’ll have to master the art of changing diapers in a lavatory. It’s very possible that this will be the most traumatic event of your baby’s life and he will scream bloody murder the entire time you’re in the lavatory. Or not. Either way, deep calming breathes become enormously helpful during these times.

Honestly, if it’s just a wet diaper I’ll change it right at our seat. Shhh, don’t tell. It is required that the dirty diapers be thrown away in the lavatory or off the plane. A flight attendant will refuse it in their regular trash pickups.

On The Plane

porter and grandparents fly
Business class is good, grandparents are better.

If it’s your first time flying you may have an overwhelming sense of guilt for what you may be exposing your inflight neighbors to. And yes, it may be loud and involve screams and glares and all sorts of bad stuff. But more often than not, your baby will be fine either eating (during take off and landing to keep their little ears clear) or sleeping. People are generally kind, and if they’re not than I say %$&! ’em.

When your baby is very little they don’t need toys or books, just loving arms and some food. I think travelling with really young babies is actually much easier than older ones, albeit a little boring.

If you’re travelling alone, make sure to get anything out you might need and stick it in the seat pocket, so you won’t be fumbling around too much. Hopefully you’re travelling with your partner, in which case you’re $$$ honey. Two sets of arms, someone to buffer you from the rest of the plane, and a person to feed and water YOU is always nice to have.

6 Months – 18 Months

When your child is older they will obviously be more active and interested in the world around them. This becomes extra fun when you’re flying coach and the person in front of you has big hair that a baby would love to tug on. It also means that when they coo and gaze at strangers they’re often going to get a smile in return, which is nice for everyone.

porter reads emergency cardThe previous list holds true here, and if your baby is into toys/books you should bring a couple. Bring a bottle for your baby to sip on (if they’re not still nursing) for take off and landing. If your baby is eating solids, bring them. Again, liquids are okay, but they will be scanned by TSA at security and there’s a good chance you’ll get a rub pat down too. But mostly, just be ready to be the most interactive parent you’ve ever been in your life. Now, dance monkey!

18 Months – 23 Months

In doing some research I found out that if your baby celebrates their second birthday while in the air, you will indeed have to buy them a ticket. So don’t travel on your baby’s birthday at midnight.

When P was about 18 months he got too big to have a pillow and sit on my lap. I still wore the same huge maternity shirt in case he wanted to nurse (he often didn’t), we brought along a couple of toys/books, and I even loaded movies and apps onto the iPad for the brief time that they would hold his attention.

Honestly, this is the most uncomfortable time to travel with a child. They’re getting bigger, they need to move more and are ready to throw down a tantrum at a moments notice. This is when Business/First class is super nice if you can afford it. More dancing, more monkey, go!

2+ Years

On our most recent trip Porter got his own seats. It was great. Despite his obsession for putting the tray table up and down, we both had space. His interest in airplanes and airports was very inspiring. I brought a pillow (tied up with a shoe lace) in hopes that he would nap, but he didn’t, shoot.

I didn’t bring the umbrella stroller (we checked it with luggage) and instead opted for a Trunki. A lovely carry-on which contained his toys/books/diapers, which is conveniently capable of pulling your child on. You should seriously check it out. Porter rode through the airport some of the way, pulled it some of the way, and when he was over it I just slung it over my shoulder.

porter plane 1Before getting on the plane, talk with your child about what to expect. Get a book (like one of these) that explains the airport/flying process, and certainly remind them that they’ll have to wear a seat belt. Show them the signs on the plane and the different parts. Don’t be afraid to enlist a friendly flight attendant to talk with your child. Sometimes a perfect stranger has a positive effect on your child’s desire to stay seated.

During take off and landing P and I practiced opening our mouths very big. We then licked pretend ice cream cones and swallowed the pretend ice cream. Imagination, works like a charm!

At this point you’ve made it! Now your child is really expensive and considered a full human being – at least to the airlines. Gone are the days of cutting in front of the security lines. On the upside, we’ve mastered art of standing up while changing a diaper in the lavatory. If you have the distinct pleasure of potty training while travelling, more power to you! The success you’ll feel after your baby uses the onboard lavatory for the first time is oddly empowering and definitely a momentous occasion worthy of turbulence and exaltation. Now, go enjoy your trip!

Anything I left out? Add your ideas in the comments.

This post featured on: Party Wave Wednesday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Tasty Traditions, Small Footprint Friday