Traveling with multiple kids, on airline flights, and possibly to different countries has the potential of being a very difficult task. With a little work and planning it can be somewhat painless! Through our travels, I have made some great decisions and some mistakes too. So here is what I’ve learned, what works for us, and what doesn’t work.
1.) Research, research, research!! Don’t head out of town without a plan. I always structure a few days with activities. I also leave other days open to relax or fill them in with activities we find when we arrive in our destination.
2.) I always pack a thin small blanket for each child in their backpack. Many airlines don’t provide blankets anymore and they really make a huge difference in their comfort. It may make the difference if your little one will sleep or not…huge!
3.) I always dress my kids in bright colored clothing when traveling through airports. I have kids that are natural explorers, even during the wrong times and at the wrong places. If they are dressed in hard to miss colors, they are easiers to spot if they decide to wander.
4.) Check your luggage. I have seen so many families running to catch connections, carrying everything but their kitchen sink, and screaming at their kids. Kids are unpredictable and enough stress. Leave the luggage hauling to the airlines.
5.) Keep the numbers easy. One carry-on for each person, that’s easy to manage. I also always write on my hand how many pieces of luggage I need to pick up at baggage claim. Count, check, double check, and count again. I know it sounds crazy, but once we left a carseat at O’Hare airport on the baggage carousel. The worst part was we didn’t notice it missing until we were loading into the rental car with 4 tired, crabby, and grumpy kids under 8. Big bummer!
6.) Don’t pack fruit or meat products when leaving the country. Other countries don’t allow you to bring it in and trust me, it will end up being a hassle. I thought the dog who sat down next to my daughter, wagging his tail, was just adorable. Ya, it was cute until we had to spend the next 10 minutes digging through every piece of carry-on luggage to find half of a smashed banana. Not fun after traveling for 12 hours.
7.) Always carry on enough clothing to make it through a full day if luggage goes M.I.A. Dad always carries a large backpack with PJ’s, a change of clothes, and swimsuit for each person. At least if the luggage is lost we can still have fun at the pool.
8.) If you are heading to a beach or lake, bring your own life vests for your kids. Many places (especially south of the border) will not have the right sizes or any life vests at all. It is a huge piece of mind knowing that your little loves are safe while enjoying the water.
9.) When heading off to those tropical vacations, get a prescription for some antibiotic ear drops before you leave. There is something about swimming, different water bacteria, and humid climates. Every water centered trip we’ve gone on, I have had at least one kid with at goopy and gunky infected ear. Kids always have a way of informing you of this at 2 a.m.
10.) Bring a stroller as long as possible. It might seem unnecessary to drag along a stroller for your preschooler, but it comes in very handy. Even if it is just for restraining purposes while navigating through the airport. I wish I could still convince my grade school kids to ride in a stroller.
11.) If traveling to another country and language will be an issue, be prepared. If you have medical or dietary concerns plan ahead. Our family has issues with food allergies, so I preprinted a card in Spanish explaining our situation when traveling to Central America and Mexico. See my post on Traveling with Food Allergies for more information.
12.) Don’t leave electronics at home. I am all about quality family time and limiting the time glued to a screen, but really parents are only human. The DS, itouch, and iPads are a great distraction (or free babysitter) when I am trying to enjoy a moment of peace with my husband. It is my vacation too!
13.) Learn while you travel. There is nothing better than, while creating memories & having fun, to teach your kids about another culture or way of life. Leave the resorts and tourist spots. Shop at a grocery store, eat where the locals eat, and talk to people that are different than you. Be a traveler, not just a tourist.