Whew, we’re finally back & ready to rock! I love when I come back from vacation with a renewed drive to hit the ground running! Verses when I come back with cranky kids, to a messy house & jump right back in to a schedule so busy that the suitcase sits on the floor unpacked for a good week. Ok, I’ll be honest, even on the good returns the suitcase since on the floor unpacked for a good week. Whatever.
So as I was saying, this trip to Florida really gave me a chance to come up with all sorts of ideas for summer projects, recipes & conversations to have here on the ol’ blog. Inspiration also hit when we were flying home. As we started to descend I looked at my two sweet girls & realized something. That trip wasn’t too bad. In fact, it wasn’t bad at all. I realized that traveling with my kids by myself had finally become something that was totally doable. I thought that perhaps there are a few of you who like me, have DREADED traveling with your kids & maybe wouldn’t mind some tips of what I’ve learned over my countless trips on planes, trains & automobiles.
Here it is, my ultimate travel secret, grab a pen…
I first started flying when Sam was 8 weeks old. I believe I packed her entire nursery into my massive carry on bag. It’s a common newbie mistake, you don’t want to be caught unprepared so you bring EVERYTHING. Here’s the problem with that, if you pack every single item you might possibly need, you might think you’re avoiding being caught unprepared but in reality you’re just going to end up being annoyed. Annoyed that you can’t find anything when you need it, (why do the pacis always disappear in the bottom of the bag when your kid is screaming their head off?) not to mention how frustrating it is to schlep a giant bag around while toting a kid. I always feel bad for moms or dads when I see that tell tale red mark between their head & shoulder from a massively overpacked diaper bag.
So here’s what I do every time I travel with the girls. I pack 3 bags. (aside from luggage that contains your clothes, we’re just talking about what you need to have constant access to) By having all my necessary items split into three areas I always know where to find something right when I need it! Also since there are 3 of us the bags fit easily under each persons seat when we fly.
#1 The Entertainment Bag
I usually stock up on things like coloring books & stickers a week or so before the trip when I make my Target run. If you’re flying you don’t want to solely depend on electronic devices since you’re going to have at least 30 minutes during the trip where you have to turn them off. Think of what your kid likes to do that doesn’t require a ton of pieces or an overly complicated work space. For example I’ve learned that legos & airplanes do not mix, there’s no wiggle room to be digging around for tiny fallen pieces. Same goes for markers with caps, I’ll let Sam use them on the plane but Sophie gets crayons because she never puts the cap back on.
My go to items are this Melissa & Doug Sticker by Number Puzzle (Sam will spend a good hour on one of those, I LOVE them!), this Color Wonder Mini Coloring Pad, & these Reusable Sticker Pads. (those are all very girl specific but they all make boy versions as well) I also give each girl their own pouch that contains their coloring items, stickers & maybe a little surprise treat. You want to avoid conflicts at all costs. Your kids not having to share a pack of crayons & possibly get in a fight over who has the pink crayon & heaven forbid if one breaks the other ones favorite color, is TOTALLY worth the extra $2! On that note I also highly recommend buying the exact same of everything for your kids. I know it can be tempting to buy one the Dora coloring book & the other My Little Pony but unless you’re absolutely positive they won’t fight over what the other has just buy the exact same thing for each child.
(Yes my 2 almost 3 year old has a pacifier. If you’d like to know more about that please click here)
For a long time both of our kids shared the ipad. One would get the ipad & the other would use the portable DVD player. It worked out ok until Sophie started liking her own kind of apps & movies on the ipad. After about the third sobfest over ‘it’s not fair she’s had it longer than me why don’t I get the ipad when is it my turrrnnnnnn” I decided it was worth every penny to buy a second ipad. In fact, we bought an older one that had been refurbished from Mac & it wasn’t too expensive. Of course you can’t have an electronic device on public transportation without….HEADPHONES. Let me tell you, I’ve been through about a dozen headphones over the years. The buds, while cute, do not stay in their tiny ears & anything with a foam cover over the speakers (imagine your bright yellow 90’s walkman) is just asking for a kid to yank it off. I finally found these & they couldn’t be better. Great fit, great sound & durable. Mommy likes. Oh, and before we end the ipad conversation let me say if you want an ipad cover that will protect your ipad but will also be like traveling with a small tank you can get an OtterBox. They are literally indestructible. We used them for awhile because Sophie inevitably drops her ipad every time she gets her little paws on it but I just couldn’t stand the extra weight & bulk for traveling. Now I use this ipad case, while they aren’t that protective they get the job done & also make a great stand for the ipad to sit on the plane’s tray table.
As for the snack bag I usually stuff a gallon baggie with individual servings of goldfish, crackers, apple slices, cereal bars & fruit snacks. Just remember no liquids if you’re flying! Speaking of, I always pack two empty sippies as well. I use ones that don’t have a valve because they tend to leak with the change in air pressure during the flight. Simple flip top lids are the best. After I get through security I pick up a big bottle of water & fill the cups & save the rest for me.
I use this tote for items that I don’t want the kids to have access to. It includes my diaper & wipes case, (make your own with this tutorial, mine is going on 5 years & is still strong!) blankets for the girls, (anything to get them comfy enough to nap!) my magazines & laptop.
BAG #3 YOUR PURSE
I can get how this one could seem dumb. I mean, why wouldn’t you just combine bags #2 & #3 into a huge totebag? Well, for me I found that once we got to our destination I hated not having a regular sized purse to use. I would pack a bunch of cute outfits for different fun outings on our vacation & would be stuck with a giant diaper bag for my purse. I also survive by my purse in my regular non-vacation life. It’s usually pretty well organized with everything I need. I want to have that same set up when I travel as well. Of course you could just put your purse in the suitcase but I like to keep mine on me. I’ve found it just works.
And that’s it my friend! I hope this helps take some of the anxiety out of traveling with your little ones. Take it from someone who’s been there, while I can’t guarantee your kid won’t embarrass you by screaming their head off I can tell you that by taking my advice you’ll at least be smartly prepared for it. And don’t worry, there’s always bar nearby somewhere.