Here’s my basic list of DOs and DON’Ts:
1. DO become a minimalist. This is probably the hardest, albeit most important adjustment. Ditch packing like you’re going on a girls’ trip or your honeymoon. DON’T pack those extra heels. Just don’t. You can do your laundry wherever you stay, either on-site or at a laundromat. This will save you pit stains at the airport. Seriously try to pack your family’s must-haves into ONE bag (we’re, personally, still working on this one).
2. DON’T bring your pack-n-play. DO ask your hotel if they have one. Most hotels/resorts have them for a minimal nightly fee. If you Airbnb often, find family-friendly places that come stocked with your family needs: pack-n-play, stroller, high chair, etc. Just contact the owner in advance.
3. DON’T rent car seats with your rental car. Although this seems super convenient (Dave and I have done this many a time), it’s SO expensive. After our recent trip to California, we realized that we could have purchased a brand new car seat for the amount it cost per day to rent. DO buy a car seat bag (like this one), stuff it with the car seat and other necessities like diapers and wipes (big thanks to our friends, Aubree & Lockwood, for this travel tip!), and check it FOR FREE with your airline. Most airlines allow 1 or 2 baby items to be checked free of charge in addition to your free luggage limit. If you choose to bring a stroller, your can also check it at the gate for free (just don’t forget to grab it on your way off the plane).
4. DO wear your baby. Whether you have the Moby Wrap, Ring Sling, Ergo, Tula or Baby Bjorn, you’ll need both of your hands free to carry luggage or to hold your wild child’s hand.
5. DO feed your baby on take-off and landing. Fact: plane rides can cause some serious discomfort to your inner ears. Babies and toddlers do not know how to equalize that pressure, nor can they chew gum. It is best to feed your baby (by bottle or breast) on takeoff and landing. Some babies may be more sensitive to this pressure than others, but we have, fortunately, never had a problem with our babies by utilizing this knowledge. Oakley is a toddler now, and when his ears start to hurt (he’ll grab at them) we encourage him to drink water. DO keep your sippy cup filled and on-hand for the entire flight for the toddler and older kids. This brings me to my next DO:
6. DO bring liquids through security. HA- let me specify. You are allowed to bring bottles and sippy cups filled with your fluid-of-choice through security for your little ones. You can also bring a cooler of breastmilk if you wish. You can pre-make bottles of formula too. You may be asked to step aside so they can test the cup of unknown liquid (on the outside of the cup), but this only takes a minute. DO take these liquids out of your bag and run them through the X-ray machine separately.
7. DON’T bring sugary treats for your kids. This only makes their antsiness worse. and certainly, DON’T order that sugary beverage called “Apple Juice” on the plane… you know, the one that every parent orders for their child on the plane. A quick google search shows that 1 can of Minute Maid Apple Juice contains 36g of sugar. For comparison purposes, 1 can of Coca Cola contains 39g of sugar. Yikes.
8. DON’T travel without some kind of activity bag for kids. Here is the one I made for Oakley: Sitting on a long flight is hard enough for adults who can control their impulses (sometimes). Don’t expect your little one to control theirs for that 4-hour (or longer) flight. For Oakley’s bag, we filled it with books, sticker books, little toy cars, a craft, snacks, headphones & an iPad with pre-downloaded movies on it. He loved it. 🙂 We try to limit screen-time as a last resort, so we also have started using age-appropriate audiobooks for long car rides. Click here for a good list of audiobooks kids will love. Find one that won’t annoy you as you’ll also be the subsequent listener.
9. DO take many stops on long road trips. This may mean your 5-hour trip turns into a 9-hour one, but plan accordingly. During our recent road trip up the California trip, we stopped at 2 beaches and then a 3rd time to pick strawberries. It was definitely well worth the added trip time.
10. DO plan road trips around kids sleep/nap times. This may be more inconvenient for you, but we’ve found it to work really well. Book that early flight (yes, the one that requires you to set an alarm for 3 am), your kids are likely to sleep the entire flight. Leave for your 2-hour road trip during nap time, and maybe reserve your longer road trip for bedtime.
I dare you to try it out! Go where your heart desires, and bring your littles with you!