Don’t Fear Air Travel With Kids, It’s All About What You Pack
I used to travel for work every other week. I was a master packer since I was on the road so frequently. However, the first time I took my son on a cross-country flight, we were flying alone. I was stressed. I had seen so many parents struggle on flights during my years of frequent travel and I wasn’t going to have my husband for back up.
I figured, the only way to make our flight go smoothly was to pack well, just like when I traveled for work. Luckily, my oldest is an easy kid so our trips trained me for traveling with my youngest, who is a strong-willed child (to put it nicely).
If you are thinking about taking a Last Minute Travel getaway or gearing up for a family trip and are anxious about what to pack, I’m sharing my tried and true travel packing tips. We have logged thousands of miles traveling to the east coast to visit family and here’s what works for our family. I know it will work for yours!
Packing for Air Travel
When I traveled alone, I used to try to get everything in a carry on so that I wouldn’t have to wait for my bags. Those days are long gone now that I travel with kids. Many of our east coast trips involve me and the kids flying solo, so I need my hands free – not to be dragging tons of bags through the airport. I now just budget checked bags into my travel budget and use the time at baggage claim to let the kids run off energy before getting into a car.
I try to stick with a light backpack for each kid and either a backpack or small wheelie and tote for me. We also take our stroller to the gate, so I need to be able to push the stroller and keep an eye on my oldest when I travel alone. There’s no way I can load myself down with several carry-ons.
If you need to travel with car seats, I strongly recommend checking them before you get to the gate. Most airlines don’t charge to check a car seat. I have taken a car seat on the plane and regretted every second of it. It was heavy and bulky and left us very crammed in our already small space.
Backpacks Are Your Friend for Travel with Kids
I never had a backpack (outside of school) until I had kids. Now, I let each kid pack a travel bag for the plane with toys and entertainment for the plane. I supervise to make sure they have enough activities to keep them busy and to ensure the bag isn’t too heavy since they’ll be carrying it. Even better, if you can find a rolling backpack, I highly recommend investing in one.
In addition to their entertainment backpack, I have a backpack with necessities. Think about what you would need for the amount of time at the airport and during your flight and double (or triple it). For example, rather than having a diaper an hour (total overkill), I have 2 diapers an hour. That way, if my bag gets lost, I don’t have to stress about getting to a store for diapers right away.
I also fill my bag with snacks such as granola bars, cut fruit, crackers and even popcorn. I buy a few bottles of water once we pass security. My kids are picky eaters so I try to make sure I’m covered with their favorite snacks so that they aren’t hungry.
My final backpack item is extra clothes. Both of my sisters-in-laws have flown with kids who got sick on the plane and didn’t have extra travel clothes with them. I now have a paranoia about it so I always have two changes of clothes for each kid and one for myself. I also pack our tooth brushes in case our bags don’t make it to our destination.
I know it seems like a lot of stuff goes in my backpack. If it’s too full or too heavy, you can always switch to a small wheelie that can be stowed. I prefer backpacks because I can put them under the seat in front of me rather than having to jump up and down to get things.
Mix Things Up in Your Checked Bag for Travel with Kids
If you have more than one checked bag for your air travel, make sure you mix up your clothes. What do I mean? Don’t pack all of your things in one bag and all of your kids things in another bag. Try to have a few outfits for everyone in each bag.
I can’t tell you how many times all but one of our bags arrived at our travel destination. Thankfully, we always mix things up so no one is left with the clothes on their back and the two carry on outfits for a week.
Pack What You Need And Then Some for Travel with Kids
My formula for packing for travel with kids is to pre-plan their outfit for each day then add an extra two outfits. In addition, if we travel to somewhere that is warm during the day, but cooler at night, I pack a few pairs of pants and at least two sweatshirts. I don’t know about your kids, but my kids can rarely wear the same thing twice. They spill food or just get dirty in everything they wear so I don’t plan for a lot of re-wearing.
Of course, if you aren’t staying in a hotel, you can get away with less, provided you don’t mind doing laundry. I personally prefer staying in hotels and try really hard not to do chores (outside of standard parenting) during my vacations. Travel with kids is already work. I don’t want to add more to my plate and feel like I didn’t get away from regular life.
Travel with kids is definitely not as simple as travel without kids. You need to be more prepared. You have to parent. Your kids may be more difficult since they’re not in their routine. That’s why I take steps to simplify things as much as possible so that I still feel like I’m on vacation.
Do you have kid travel tips that you swear by? I’d love to hear them!
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