Sunday, May 16, 2010

travel stuff

Just got back from vacation and we survived! 7.5 hours of traveling, on two planes each way, with 3 kids, it was crazy but successful. Trust me, people reminded us we were crazy plenty of times, but we are brave. I would much rather travel with the kids then not travel at all. Plus, we've been doing this since Brody was a baby (he's been to 7 states already and Piper has been to 5), but we have never done it with 3 kids. Mark and I made a list of all the travel advice we could think of. Some of it may or may not apply to your family or your travel plans, but if one thing helps we would be happy (and no, we never drug the kids).

Travel Tips with Young Kids

Airplane Tips (we travel Southwest)

1. Pack fun bags for the kids. Put a bunch of new, different types of things in each one and do not let them see it until they get on the plane. Between the two older kids we had Wikki Stix, card games, Leapfrog, DVD players, new movies, paper, markers, crayons, little toys, Barbie, jewelry crafts, stickers, etc. Trust me, I didn't spend a ton of money. Most of it was from the $1 bins at Michael's.

2. Do not take a million carry-ons. We had 2 car seats, a boppy, a backpack for Mark and a rolling bag for me. The kids do not need their own bags and you do not need a purse too. Make it as simple as possible.

3. Always check in curbside so you can unload all your bags and get rid of them right away. It may cost you a tip but it's well worth it and less lines for the kids to wait in (they will have enough of those). The curbside guys can do pretty much everything that can be done inside. Even on our return flight we did curbside before we returned the rental car.

4. Since we are a family of 5 (needing 4 seats and a lap infant), we had to split up on the plane. The hardest child goes with one parent (our 2 year old), and the two easier (baby and 5 year old) with the other. Dad and the 2-year old sat behind me and the other two, so she would be kicking our chairs and no one else's.

5. Always nurse your baby on takeoff. It's worth having a hungry, crying baby when you are waiting to get on the plane then to have a fussy baby at takeoff. Plus I try to time those feedings with naps. It's the one time that nursing-to-sleep is your best option.

6. I always take my boppy (and of course nursing cover) on the airplane. Easier to nurse baby and have the baby sleep. I even keep the nursing cover on to let them sleep easier.

7. Some airports (not all), will let you take a Smart Carte (luggage carriers) all the way up to the security belts so you don't have to lug all your crap in line. So nice!

8. Southwest lets you take 2 bags per person for free. Save a few bags in case you want to bring stuff back.

9. If you have a lap child it is SO worth it to take your infant seat (don't forget the base) with you on your flight. If the flight is not full, you get to have a free seat for the baby. If the flight is full, you just check it at the gate and it's waiting for you when you get off. First thing we do when we get to a gate is go to the counter and find out if it is a full flight. On our flights this vacation we got to have that extra seat 2 out of 4 flights. So worth it!

Hotel/Vacation Tips

1. Before you get to your destination, find the closest Target/Walmart and MapQuest it from your hotel. Make that one of your first to-do's so you can buy snacks, extra diapers, etc.

2. Say yes to help. Let whomever wants to help you, help you. Let airport people help you, flight attendants, hotel people, etc.

3. Rent a car. I know it gets expensive, but look for good deals. The minivan was good for us this trip. Do a lot of research. It's worth it to be able to get to the grocery store, look for cheaper food, etc. Now don't forget to find out how much parking is at your hotel ahead of time. It's VERY expensive to park at hotels in New York/San Francisco so you might want to split your time or consider other options.

4. Pack a small first aid kit, a screwdriver/multi tool, extra batteries, and lots of plastic grocery bags. Trust me.

5. If your baby loves a baby swing.....either take or buy a travel swing. We bought one the first day of our vacation and it saved our asses. It wasn't cheap but it went everywhere with us (on the beach, at the pool, visiting family, in the room) and we brought ours home with us in our luggage or we could have left it in the box too.

6. If you are staying at a resort, especially on the beach, do not get suckered into renting cabanas every day. At close to $50 a day, it can get crazy for a week. But you also need your kids to have a place to rest without going up to the room all the time. We went to Walmart, bought a $20 heavy duty beach umbrella (and a corkscrew digger for it) and a $15 beach chair. We put it up every day and it was perfect. We also brought both things home with us.

7. Our hotel's self-parking was kind of far. So for $4 extra a day (minus the tips) we parked valet. SO WORTH IT with 3 kids! We called down for our car ahead of time whenever we were leaving. Easy, easy. I never had to wait for Mark to bring the car around.

8. If your hotel has a Concierge or Club Level, think about staying on it. We had breakfast and snacks all day, as well as free drinks and water. That stuff gets costly after a week so we felt like we saved a lot of money. If the price difference is reasonable, definitely consider it.

9. Really think about what you are packing, especially for long vacations. Do not take everything with you. I pack enough diapers for 2 days and buy diapers there. I don't take all the food we own, but take snacks for the plane and food in our bags to start and buy more when we get there. Balance out your needs.

10. My last tip brave. Traveling with kids is work, but it's rewarding. You set the tone for their adventure. I prayed for peace and patience before we left. They were amazing. I didn't get to relax or read a book on the plane, but I kept them busy and it paid off.


Whitney said...

Very informative. My mom told me when i first had jo to always bring the baby's favs. i loved the swing so they brought it everywhere. i also have pics of being poolside in a travel swing. So cute!

The Shaft's said...

thanks for this! I will be going back to the states as soon he has his passport! And we will head to your house first! :)