Monday, 19 May 2014

Travel Series Part I: 20 plus tips and tricks for traveling [with the kids]

Welcome to Mommyhood: Air Travel Tips
I've traveled a lot in my day. Before having my son, I would fly from the Netherlands (or whichever European country I was in at the moment) to the US to visit my family at least once to twice a year, not to mention all of the country hopping I got to do within Europe. 

I still remember how terrified I was the first time I boarded a plane on my own. There was so much to figure out and I was so scared I would forget something, miss the proper boarding time, or just manage to ruin my entire travel experience. Now that the weather is warming up and vacation time is getting close, I can't imagine feeling that way with a small child (or more) in tote! 

That's why I decided to put together this post to share some of my travel 'wisdom'! Or rather, some of the tips and tricks I've picked up along the way. I know it can be scary and overwhelming even if you don't have a child with you. That's why this is going to be my first real series! I'll be posting all sorts of travel related tips on Tuesdays for the next four weeks. Today, I'll be going over some general things to think about, mostly related to air travel tips. Let's dive right in!

20 + Air Travel Tips (with kids!)

Welcome to Mommyhood: air travel tips

  • Call beforehand to find out what your airline offers for families and ask any questions. You want to be as informed as possible and as prepared as possible before you get to the airport. 
  • Take a stroller if you have too many things to carry. Most often, they will be checked at the gate. If an airline doesn't do that and you need to have it with, book with a different one! I would also bring a baby carrier of some sort so you could strap the child to yourself and still dump your bags in the stroller. 
  • Keep passports, travel documents, hotel reservations, everything near by and within reach. If you are traveling to the US, you have to fill out a landing card (citizen, resident, or not). Same for Russia. If you are traveling to Europe, you don't and passport control is actually rather easy.
  • Safety, safety, safety! If you will be renting a car or depending on where you will be traveling, you may want to bring a car seat for your child. It is typically free for overseas travel, but you should check with your airline. 
  • Take an empty water bottle that you can fill once you go through security
  • Get there early for air travel. If you are traveling from the US on an international flight, you will likely need to be there up to three hours before the scheduled flight. Security takes a long time and you need to account for extra time for kids. 
  • Make sure everyone has easy on and easy off shoes. Don't put your kids in lace up shoes or boots. It's uncomfortable and takes extra time to go through security. Plus, your hands or feet may swell during the flight. I've worn boots a few times and then had a lovely situation where I took them off during the flight and couldn't get them back on at the end. Luckily, I had some flats in my carry on, but was stuck carrying my boots in hand. 
  • Don't go into the airplane when they start boarding your seat (unless you don't have assigned seating). But really, if you are flying in one of those large planes for international travel, boarding can take up to an hour or hour and a half, and then taxing ... well, that can also take an hour (if you get delayed). Can you imagine trying to get a toddler to sit still for two hours? If you know how to do that, please, share with me! 
  • Make sure that your child has something to chew on or drink during liftoff and landing. If you are traveling with an infant, try nursing or giving a pacifier. For older kids, something to drink, munch on, or give them some gum. This can help with air pressure changes and pain in their ears.When my son was about five months old, nursing prevented a screaming baby.  

Welcome to Mommyhood: air travel tips

Check me out (discretely) breastin' my kid in the plane.
  • So, while I have no idea what you think of nursing in public (as a traveler or a parent), but I'm sure you'd rather see (gasp! shock!) something like the photo above rather than hear a screaming infant for... well... quite a long time in quite a confined space.
  • For infants, you can also request a little bed/sleeper thing so you can put the baby down. All you have to do is call your airline and they will arrange it for you - it is free. 

Welcome to Mommyhood: air travel tips

Something like this. 

  • Bring snacks for everyone. Let's be frank here - airplane food sucks. Bring healthy snacks for yourself and for your kids. Do not give them sugary foods - the last thing you want is a kid on a sugar rush in a small space. A disaster is going to happen and you and your child may end up in tears. Just sayin'.
  • Make sure that you are allowed to bring your healthy snacks into your destination country if you plan on doing that. Sidenote: please make sure you are careful with this - you need to declare that you are bringing food into another country! You can get a large fine for this and it's usually not a problem as long as you check before you do it! Go watch Border Security, and you'll see what I mean. 
  • Bring coloring books and colored pencils, crayons, or stickers. Something light to entertain the kids. 
  • Bring a light sweater or something with long sleeves for yourself and your kids. It can get cool in the plane or airport.
  • Even though I will be doing a separate post on what to pack, do make sure you have a change of clothes (or two or three) for your child in your carry on. A change of clothes for yourself might not hurt, either. We had a poo-splosion in an airplane and Mommy needed a change just as badly as the baby. Yea, I was really glad I had brought another shirt for both my husband and I inspite of his protests that it was not necessary. Totally worth it. 
  • Bring a comfort item - a lovie or a light blanket to encourage your child to at least cuddle and relax even if they don't sleep
  • Technology. Yea, yea, aps and games can be useful in a time crunch
  • Bring a new toy, game, puzzle, book, or just something that your child isn't normally allowed to do for during the travel time. The likelihood of a nap is slim, so you need to make sure that you have the tools you need to entertain your kid. 
  • Make sure you let your child roam around. I hate sitting in a plane full of people and seeing a full on tantrum because the kid has already been sitting for two hours and obviously just needs to walk/run down the aisles. Obviously, not during times of turbulence, but I would much rather see a kiddo running up and down the aisles a few times than hear him/her screaming. Seriously. It works. My kid does it. 
  • Bring a cup, spoon, plate etc that your kid is attached to or that helps make eating easier. Obviously, don't bring their special steak knife, but a spoon can definitely go into a plane. 
  • Bring an extra duffel bag/suitcase for the way back. We all acquire little knick knacks or souvenirs while on holiday. You don't want to be stuck with more things than suitcases. 
  • If you are traveling to a country/state with a time difference- you can try adjusting your kids to the time while you are still at home. Take them to bed a half an hour to an hour earlier/later every night for a week.  
  • I've read articles where they advised flights to be scheduled during nap time so that/because the kid will sleep the entire way... I don't know about that one. My son loves new environments and wants to explore. For us, what that means is that he will not sleep or will sleep very little anyway which in turn means one very grumpy little boy who, while completely exhausted, will not sleep. It depends on your kid, but basically, don't count on them sleeping... at all. If they do, awesome! If they don't, be prepared!

Bonus travel tip:
  • For travel to the US or when you have a layover in the US, please note: You will have to clear customs and immigration the first time you arrive if you have been outside of the country. You will have to get your luggage and then they will check it again until your final or next destination, depending on where you are flying. It's not that big of a deal, but just be aware if you have a layover in the US, you need to make sure you give yourself enough time for this. The worst thing you can do (even sans a whiny child in tote), is have to run through this process. Trust me, forty minutes in Chicago's O'hare is akin to a Mission Impossible Movie. 
Phew! That was long! I hope this helped, and be sure to come back for the next few Tuesdays to check out my other travel tips. 

Be sure to visit the other posts in this series here:

Pstt! Check out my Road Trip Survival Guide for more traveling advice!

Today, I am linking up for List it Tuesday at Real Life at Home and Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, and Savoring Saturdays hosted by Raia at Raia's Recipes and Eva at Whole Food Mom on a Budget.

Thank you so much for stopping by!