The holidays have always been a busy season for me and my husband. With our parents, siblings, nieces and nephews all four hours away, we’re always the ones who have to travel to see family.
Our daughter, Cate, experienced her first road trip when she was just 6 weeks old. Since then, we have spent countless hours on the road together. While Cate is usually an easy traveler, babies and young children thrive on consistency, which is disrupted by travel. As many of us make travel plans for the holidays, I’ve compiled a few of the tips and tricks I’ve learned to help make trips with young children a little easier. I’ve also included some advice for air travel from my good friend and fellow Primrose mom, Leslie. She and her husband are raising two little frequent flyers, so she’s a pro!
A REAL MOM’S TIPS FOR CAR TRAVEL
Here’s some helpful tips we’ve discovered from our road trips with Cate:
- Make a packing list. As any new parent knows, babies come with a lot of accessories. So, how do you fit bottles and pacifiers and rockers and bouncers and swings and diapers and toys in with all your other luggage? Well, you don’t. Instead, make an inventory/packing list of what you use daily and prioritize what is most important to pack, and leave behind items that can be borrowed or substituted. Some of our must-have essentials include:
Extra outfits, bibs or blankets
A pack-n-play or rock-n-play sleeper
A travel medicine bag with a thermometer and any medicine we may need
- Snacks on snacks on snacks. Toddlers get hangry, so for road trips, I pack a cooler with bottled water and bottles or sippy cups of milk and juice, as well as travel-friendly snacks I know are a hit. Fig bars, cheese and cold cut turkey are our favorite car snacks, because they don’t make much of a mess. Other travel favorites include cereal, pretzels, raisins and pouches of yogurt or applesauce.
- Entertain them. When Cate was a baby, I would pack a bag of some of her favorite books and small toys to keep her entertained in the car, and provided her with some familiar play things at our destination. Now, I have a collapsible storage cube that stays in my car so we always have a few books and toys with us. Coloring is also a great distraction.
- Plan travel around sleep schedules. To help keep sleep schedules and make travel easier for everyone, we do our best to leave for a trip either at bedtime or naptime. When we leave at night, we get to do our normal bedtime routine before getting in the car. When we leave at naptime, we usually just put her in her car seat with a blanket and a sippy cup of milk.
A REAL MOM’S TIPS FOR AIR TRAVEL
Here’s some advice from Leslie on flying with your children:
- Allow for extra time. When checking in for a flight, Leslie says, “You need every second of those two hours you don’t give yourself.” If you’re driving to an airport, make sure to factor in stops for potty breaks or diaper changes, nursing and to stretch. Pro tip: Do not stop at a restaurant with a play place if you want to make your stop brief and avoid a meltdown!
- Check your bags and car seats. If you are flying with children, you’ve got your hands full already. So, check your luggage and only carry on a bag with in-flight essentials, including a light blanket, snacks, sticker books and any electronics. Car seats are free to check, so put your child’s car seat in a travel bag and fill it with big, awkward-sized items you can’t get in her luggage, like diapers.
- Be strategic about seat assignments. When Leslie books flights for her family, she always purchases the aisle seat and a window seat (leaving the middle seat open) in hopes that a solo flyer won’t book the dreaded middle seat. If the seat is booked, she offers an aisle or window seat so she can sit by her child.
- Flying while nursing? No problem! Leslie recommends getting a window seat so you only have to worry about covering one side. She wears a nursing top layered under a loose sweater or oversized wrap that can double as a cover-up. Also, nursing your baby as the plane descends helps prevent her ears from popping.
Happy holidays and safe travels!