|Maya is ready for overstimulation on our nine hour flight to Sicily.|
Now that we have welcomed June with open arms and the official start of summer is just a few weeks away, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk a little bit about traveling with kids! Most of us will be taking some sort of family vacation. Whether it’s a staycation, a road trip, or travel that involves getting on a plane, one thing is for sure, traveling with kids of any age takes work, effort, and a whole lot of patience. But as I remind parents, it’s completely doable! We’ve been traveling with Maya since she was an infant. She took her first flight at 2.5 months, and since then she has joined us on frequent trips to New York, a European vacation to Sicily, a Caribbean escape to Aruba, and a family reunion in Austin, Texas. We’ve also done those long car rides to Disney and Sarasota and look forward to doing some more traveling with both her and Rocco in the future (traveling with two kids is a whole other ball game and blog post)!
- Leave your pride at the gate– If you are going to worry about what everyone is going to think of you and your baby the moment you walk onto that plane, you’re screwed. You can’t care. You literally have to leave your pride at the door and accept that there may be a chance your baby can act up or get wild, or your baby may not even flinch. The reality is that you will always get side eye from someone- whether it’s from your seat mate or a neighboring traveler. It comes with the ‘traveling with a kid’ territory. I remember my first flight, the old man sitting next to me, rolled his eyes and murmured something to his wife about having to sit next to a baby. But I kept my cool. By the end of the flight he turned to me and said, “she was so good on the flight. It’s like she wasn’t even there.” As parents, we know how to calm our kids and how to get them to simmer down, but sometimes, it’s out of our control and we just fail miserably (this is the part where you drink some wine). And it’s okay. My issue, even as a mom, is with those parents who don’t even try or don’t seem to have any consideration for other travelers, letting their kids kick seats, run around, throw stuff, and even scream, without any reprimanding. I’ve been a victim of these misbehaved misfits. They give kid travel a bad name. Don’t be that parent. Also, buy your seat mates some wine. A few little bottles of wine go along way in keeping complaints at bay.
- Plan flights according to your baby’s sleep schedule– Someone gave me this tip when I was pregnant with Maya, and it was the wisest travel tip we got! We booked all our flights either really early in the morning, during nap times, or right before bedtime. It worked like a charm. The night flights were my favorite because usually 30-40 minutes after take off, Maya was out. So she slept in my arms while I dosed off or read a magazine. I hate early morning flights so I rarely take those, but flights during Maya’s nap time were also a success. After playing a little bit or taking her bottle, she would fall asleep without a hitch. A pacifier or a bottle help during take off and landing if they are awake and soothes ear pressure. If they’re sleeping, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Let those babies sleep!
- Pack a bag of tricks– I never left home without a ‘bag of tricks’ and that bag continuously evolved as Maya got older. When she was an infant, it was about a few sensory toys and touch and feel books. Thankfully as an infant, she was more interested in eating and sleeping. As she got a little older, we packed more interactive toys- toys that played music or games (keep that volume low) and I always travel with a DVD player (we don’t own IPADs. I’m old school). So there was lots of Sesame Street and Baby Einsteins in the later months. Now as a toddler, whether on flights or car rides, we bring 2-3 Disney movies or a cartoon, reading books, coloring books (Target and Party City sell these great $1 play packs that will give you a good 30 minutes of entertainment), flash cards, and play-doh. I have a love/hate relationship with Play-doh. Because it provides endless amusement, I try to forget how messy it can be. It’s important to know how long your travels will be and what kind of activities your kid enjoys. These two crucial points will determine how much you put into that bag of tricks and what you put it in it as well. And don’t forget- CHARGE CHARGE CHARGE. Nothing sucks more than your device dying on you mid-flight. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. Most flights now come with electrical outlets under the seats. Call your airline and find out. Same goes for WiFi if you do travel with IPADs for the kids.
- Pack snacks or die– We’ve all experienced the wrath of a hungry baby/toddler. It’s torture. Whether you are on a flight or you have reached your destination and are well into your travel itinerary, ALWAYS PACK SNACKS. And when you think you have enough, pack some more. You never know if you’ll need more. I pack everything from juices, to organic food bags, fruits, crackers, and veggie chips. I come fully loaded. If you’re traveling with a diaper bag, remember that diaper bags are exempt from carry-on regulations as well as liquid restrictions, which means pack it with as much milk, snacks, juices, baby yogurt, baby food, as you need and see fit. Imagine how you get when you’re hungry- ready to attack or eat anything in sight- multiply that by 100 when you’re dealing with a hungry child. So come prepared. That bag of veggie chips might be your lifesaver while you’re at a museum.
- Stroller naps are your friend– Let’s face it. Kids need naps. Especially infants and toddlers, and whether you are sightseeing, having lunch, or enjoying a beautiful beach day, a nap is just part of your daily routine. Coco and I aren’t the type to go back to a hotel or to our room so that Maya can nap. We let her nap in her stroller and thankful she does. We got her used to this at a very early age. She’s three now and still stroller naps. There are so many advantages to stroller naps: 1) it doesn’t break up your day. Mobile naps allow for convenience. 2) While baby naps, you can enjoy a nice lunch with your other half with a silent third wheel 3) When your baby wakes up, there’s none of that lallygagging when you are trying to get out of the door. Just have that snack ready to go when your tiny bossy pants wakes up from their slumber. When Maya naps while we are in Disney, Coco and I take advantage and ride all the roller coasters we can’t ride because she’s too small. If we are back home in New York, we’ll pop in to a restaurant for some appetizers and drinks while she sleeps. For your sake and sanity, don’t create a high maintenance child- get them stroller napping from the start!
- Be flexible. You will lose some of your routine– If you go on vacation thinking that you will keep your child on the same exact routine they have while they’re home, you are setting yourself up for a miserable vacation. You have to be realistic and you have to be flexible. Kids, even infants, know when they are out of their element. Some of them need zero time to adapt while other kids may take a day to realize, “oh, it doesn’t look like I’m going home anytime soon.” All kids are different and getting adapted to a new setting is completely normal when you are traveling. If you are traveling in different time zones, expect that your children will also note the change. Naps may happen at different times, bedtimes can be either later or earlier, and when they get home, they will experience jet lag just like you and I. When we got back from Sicily, all three of us were up like clockwork at 4am for two days. So we would get up, get dressed, and put Maya in her stroller and take her for a walk by the river or go have a very early breakfast at the diner. And guess what? She survived and so did we. There were a few things that we kept consistent even if nap times or bed times changed. We packed books to read, gave her baths before bed or going out with her soap from home, and like previously mentioned, we packed a few snacks from home for on-the-go adventures, not too many, because we also wanted her to eat what we ate at restaurants. But at the end of the day, we didn’t push for naps or bedtimes as soon we arrived at our destination. We basically let her settle into her own schedule. If we noticed she was overly cranky, then we would step in and put her down. Some days she took two naps, some days one, but after a day or two in a different time zone, she fell into a schedule. So go with the flow. Relax a bit. Sometimes schedules and routines will change and that’s okay. Enjoy your vacation because it’s yours too, and most importantly, enjoy traveling your kids!