Traveling with kids isn’t always easy. Long gone are the days that I used to board a plane with my trashy magazine (s) in one hand and my coffee in the other. I chuckle when I remember how I used to view solo travel days as difficult because those plane rides were so long and the seats were so cramped. Seriously, 20-something self? Little did I know that with kids those plane rides would seem ten times longer and those cramped seats feel 100 times more cramped when holding a jumping toddler on my lap and attempting to find a suitable snack for my hungry 5-year-old.
In spite of the challenges, we travel frequently as a family with our two kids under 6– both internationally and domestically. Our desire to see new and interesting destinations trumps any concern we have about the difficulties of traveling with our two little ones. It’s taken some trial and error, but we finally have a system for traveling with our children that allows us to ALL have fun. Today I want to share my 4 tips that will change everything when traveling with kids.
TIP 1: Pack For Your TRAVEL DAY
A successful travel day kicks off a successful vacation, so smart packing is essential. First off..pack healthy homemade travel snacks. I never leave for a trip without our amazing travel cooler filled with protein-packed snacks because if my kids have balanced blood sugar throughout the day, they are less likely to throw tantrums in the middle of the airport, or worse, ON THE PLANE…
Next up…pack a miracle travel backpack with all the travel essentials. This backpack has seen us through ALL of our travel with kids. I debated about the cost at first, but it is worth every penny in my opinion. It is large enough to fit everything you need and is easy to organize so you can access toys, clothes, and diapers (it fits 12!) without having to repack it every time you search for something. My husband jokes that if needed I can pull a rabbit out of this thing. While I don’t usually pack a rabbit, I DO pack a very specific list of travel essentials that can be found here.
TIP 2: Skip the Hotel and Rent a CONDO (My Number One Tip!)
Staying in condos instead of a hotel is a game changer when it comes to travel with kiddos. Having access to a kitchen with small children is a big bonus. No longer does the entire family have to wake up early to dress and scramble downstairs to make it to the hotel breakfast buffet before it closes. Instead a quick and healthy breakfast can be made in the condo, and everyone can eat in PJs. And instead of heading out to a restaurant for dinner when the kids are tired and melting down, you have the option of eating at home. After the kids go to bed (in actual bedrooms) you are free to enjoy some down time chatting in the living room instead of sitting in a dark hotel room surfing the internet while your kids sleep two feet away. The difference between staying in a condo vs hotel is remarkable. This one tip has changed everything for us as it relates to enjoying our accommodations while traveling with kids. Hotels are reserved when my husband and I travel alone.
TIP 3: Make Lunch the BIG Meal Out
I’m a foodie and eating at new and interesting restaurants is fun for us on vacation. My husband researches all the sightseeing we do on trips and I research all the restaurants to visit. Before kids, my husband and I made dinner reservations every night while on vacation. For a while we tried to eat dinner out with kids, however, most of the time our kids were so tired from all the sightseeing that it wasn’t very much fun. And in some countries restaurants don’t even serve dinner until 8 or 9pm which is way too late for our little ones. So a few years ago we stopped trying to eat dinner out and we started making lunch a big deal instead. I still pick a list of fun restaurants to visit, and instead of dinner reservations we make lunch reservations and enjoy a lovely meal together.
This was a hard one for us but it’s made a huge difference in our travel experience with kids. My husband and I want to see as much as possible when we visit a new location, especially when visiting a new country and paying a hefty price tag for air travel to get there. We’ve had a few trips that felt more like work than vacation because we carried two tired kids all over the place trying to see it all. So a while back we decided to change how we sightsee when we have our children with us. We now pick one or two sights to see per day and we start in the morning. We do our sightseeing before lunch and then eat a little later in the afternoon at a restaurant. If the kids are feeling up for it we see something smaller in the late afternoon and then head back to our place for a home cooked dinner and a reasonable bedtime.
Have a Wonderful Vacation
These tips have made traveling with our two small children enjoyable. I no longer wonder before we leave about whether or not the trip will be fun. Because we use these tips every time we travel, we know the whole family will have fun together. Sure, maybe it’s not as luxurious as staying at a nice hotel or as adventurous as seeing all the sights in a new place….but….that’s not the stage of life we are in right now. Our stage of life moves at a slower pace, and requires a kitchen! It won’t last forever, but for now while we have little ones…these travel tips make all the difference.