Summer and road trips go together like peanut butter and jelly, but add a couple kiddos to the mix, and suddenly your spontaneous getaway can be complete and utter chaos.
It doesn’t have to be that way! With a little planning and preparation, you can tackle any travel plans with ease and grace – and possibly even enjoy the luxury of doing your hair and makeup beforehand.
As someone who has traveled with an infant, toddler, and preschooler cross-country and transcontinentally, below are some of my tried and true travel tips for both plane and car.
1. Make a List
I’ll totally ‘fess up to being someone who is old school with her lists, and I love the satisfaction of checking off completed tasks.
Car trips are easier: I make a list of everything we’ll need for not only the trip itself, but also once we get to our destination. Extra pacifier so we’re not scrambling to find one wedged between the carseat and the scary half-chewed Goldfish that lurk under the carseat? Check.
For airplane travel, I like to make a couple lists: one for stuff I’ll need for me both on the plane and at the destination, and a list for the kiddo, both for on the plane and at the destination. Here are a few items to consider for long plane travel for babies:
- pump (if pumping)
- food (including spoons)
- diapers (from Italy to Indiana, I brought 15)
- extra set of clothing x2
If you’re traveling to a friend’s or parents’ house, order some diapers/food/etc. and have it shipped there before you depart so when you arrive, you’re not worried about getting to the store to buy supplies.
One tip: if flying across the ocean, I recommend bringing a tiny bottle of soap with you, and buy a bottle of water post TSA to use to wash bottles. Airplane lavatory sinks are not advisable for washing bottles, but if you pack your own soap and water, you can make do with one or two bottles. Also, if you can afford it, I’d highly recommend purchasing a seat for your baby on the flight. Having a familiar place can be a lifesaver in getting a baby to sleep, plus, it lets you have a little flexibility and room to stretch if/when the baby falls asleep.
Also, make friends with the baristas at the coffee shops! Many are more than willing to heat up a bottle for you, or put milk directly in your bottle if you ask.
2. Buy Cool Gear
One piece of gear I’d highly recommend is the Go-Go Babyz Travelmate, which basically turns your carseat into rolling luggage. It sounds crazy, but you strap your carseat onto it (a simple process that even me, the non-DIYer can handle), put your child in his/her carseat, and then wheel. I don’t know how many parents asked me where I got ours when I was traveling often with my daughter. Serious Godsend.
3. Tips for Older Children
Now that my daughter is older, it’s a lot easier to keep her entertained on airplanes and on long trips. I buy a bunch of new iPad apps, pack her favorite snacks – including “special” items she typically doesn’t get at home, and she’s pretty much set. That said, when she was a toddler and we were flying from Italy to Indiana often, I would buy five small gifts from the Dollar Store equivalent, wrap them, and every other hour or so, I’d let her unwrap one. I’ll totally admit to using copious amounts of tape, too, so it took her extra long to have to open them. Shh…
4. How Do I Get a Passport?
If you’re traveling out of the country, you’ll need a passport for you and your family members, including children. As of today, the average processing time is 4-6 weeks. If you expedite it, it’s 3 weeks. I recommend that as soon as you are considering an out of country trip, you start on the passport process. Here’s a quick rundown on what you need for a passport:
- Evidence of U.S. Citizenship: U.S. Birth Certificate
- Evidence of Parental Relationship: Your own U.S Birth Certificate
- Photo ID: A copy of your driver’s license
- Parental Consent: Both parents must appear in person with the minor and provide consent. If the minor has only one parent, there are additional rules.
- Passport Photo: in color, 2” x 2” in size. If photographing a baby, eyes must be open and ears visible.
- Application Forms: DS-11, found here.
- Passport Fees: right now, the cost of a minors’ passport (under age 16) is $95 plus a $25 execution fee.
With some preparation, travel with kids is no longer daunting, and the more often you do it, the more comfortable you’ll feel.