Thanksgiving is notoriously the “biggest travel week of the year” and while we are staying home and hosting for the first time in many years, we are no strangers to travel with kids. I actually put together this travel video (at the end of this post) in August when we returned home from over two weeks in Italy with our then ten month old and two and a half year old. Let me tell you, we learned a thing or two.
Kids will always throw you curveballs, but I pulled together the things that we found most helpful for traveling with kids and while these particular things apply more to vacation and further distance travel, hopefully there are takeaways for you if you’re braving travel this week!
1. Pack reliable, healthy snacks wherever you go
We are a plant based family (no dairy, no meat), Oshiolema is gluten free, Keogena doesn’t eat eggs…we are a bit of a tricky bunch. Even if you’re not as ridiculously challenging as we are to feed on-the-go, you just never know what the airport/train station/gas station will have. Even when you arrive, maybe some of your staples won’t be there. Yikes! Knowing I have our favorites (at the time of this trip, Keogena needed to have instant oatmeal twice a day to help gain weight) on hand knowing all the ingredients and having the peace that you’ve got go-to snacks on hand is the best feeling. For us on this trip, I packed pouches with pure fruits and vegetables, clean fruit and veggie bars, granola bars, “teether” snacks, protein bars for me and protein powder for O and I.
2. Make breakfast their biggest meal of the day
We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day…but usually, as adults, we ignore it. Travel day is usually the day I begrundgingly prep oatmeal and berries and toast and the works for one reason: my kids are happier for longer when they eat breakfast. At least for us, traveling essentially means shoving them full of snacks to keep them happy (i.e. quiet) and snacks can kind of derail kids really quickly. That first big healthy meal on travel day and every day of our trip just kicks things off really well.
3. Aim to have at least one meal at home base
This one is more specific to vacation, but if you’re staying at a hotel and exploring somewhere, it’s tempting to be on the run and eating at a restaurant or someone else’s house or on-the-go, but regrouping at home tends to be really comforting for us and also saves money from sneaking out of your wallet (eating out for every meal=all.the.pennies.
4. Allow for indulgences
This may just apply to me and be me preaching to myself, but I’m pretty strict when it comes to sugar and sweets for the kids. Keogena doesn’t really eat any sweets whatsoever because she’s 14 months old, but Oshiolema has much more opportunity and awareness at almost 3 years old. He has his dad’s sweet tooth but aside from the face that sugar turns him into Jack-Jack on The Incredibles, I’d rather bake him something when it comes time for a treat. When we’re on vacation or visiting family, I let that go a bit. (My mom is somewhere laughing at the “a bit” part-she’s always making fun of me and sneaking him sweets.) I want the experience of traveling to feel special and that means being much more free in that department.
5. Be prepared for changes in their sleep
Ahh, sleep. I have a completely different reaction to that word after having kids, especially when it relates to travel. Gone are the days of sleeping in, ordering room service, or staying in bed and strolling into the kitchen for breakfast at 11am. To be honest, I’ve never been able to sleep past 9 in my entire life, but give mama the option, you know!? For this trip we had an 8 hour time change which is obviously extreme. I’ve found that anything over 3 or 4 hours of time change takes the kids a good 3-5 days to adjust.
This trip was a war-zone from 11pm-4am. Man oh man, one of them would fall asleep then the other would wake up…one couldn’t fall asleep for hours, one would fight their nap…phew. It wasn’t pretty. Just pray for the best but prepare for the worst and don’t be afraid if old habits come back up. They’ll go away! I probably nursed a minimum of 3x a night which hadn’t happened in months at that point, and Oshiolema started night-waking again which he hadn’t struggled with in a long time either. New environments throw them off, but don’t stress about it. Just pack a reliable concealer and sneak a nap in when you can!
6. Try to have their best nap at home base
We’re still in the two nap phase with Keogena so we always planned on having at least one of her naps at home. For this particular trip, we usually had her first nap in the apartment or hotel and used that time to spend one on one with Oshiolema. Later in the trip, we’d come back for the nap they take at the same time in the afternoon. Car naps and stroller naps consistently can sometimes just not be as awesome as napping in their crib or bed. You’ll know your kid- but this ends up being a great break in the day.
7. Choose your form of transport very wisely
before this trip, I kind of despised our double stroller. It seemed so cumbersome compared to our dream of a single stroller-the Bugaboo Cameleon 3. We still use it every week and I can’t recommend it enough, but it did make switching to a double stroller so hard for me! Of course, Bugaboo has a double stroller but for me personally, I didn’t want the double-wide size. I ended up settling on our current double stroller, the Baby Jogger City Select. after TONS of research, but when it came time to use it, I was so intimidated. We have a kick stand that Oshiolema can sit on with the Bugaboo stroller, so I just used that. Well, I knew for traveling we had to have something they could both be comfortable in for lots of walking and decided it was time to give the City Select a fair chance.
Guys, I’m so glad I did.
You’ve got to know what will work for you and your family but for us and our needs this was absolutely perfect. It has so many different configurations so they could face each other, face away from each other, they could both be reclined to sleep or both be upright to explore…it was just perfect. It helps to really evaluate what you’ll need for the ages and stages of your babes. Maybe you’ll just need a baby carrier and an umbrella stroller-maybe you won’t bring a stroller at all! But take a minute to look over all of your needs and choose wisely!
8. Plan kid-friendly activities ahead of time
This is pretty exclusive to vacation too, but I am a real planner when it comes to traveling. I do crazy amounts of research and dig thorough articles, interviews, pinterest, instagram, travel magazines, good ol’ google and books to make sure we see everything we want to see. I love to plan ahead of time what would be most fun for the kids. Maybe there is a museum nearby that caters to the kiddos, maybe it’s a toy store, a bakery or even a play place! I can’t even tell you how much they light up knowing we thought of them.
9. Immerse them in the culture
Broken record here, since I don’t think it’s crazy necessary to “Immerse them in the culture” of Dallas when visiting my family…but when we travel somewhere new and different I love to really explore. Just going from hotel rooms to cafes to shops can leave us missing out on the whole experience so I try to get us out in nature and to museums to really help the kids learn just how incredible this world we live in is.
10. Remember it’s more than worth it
Traveling with kids can be hard sometimes. It doesn’t matter if you drive or if you fly, if it’s near or far, traveling with ducklings in tow always calls for extra planning, prep and patience. Our kids have bene on more flights than I could ever count and in cities all over Italy, Canada, Jamaica and across the U.S and not once have I regretted taking them on a trip. I think they learn so much and each new experience leaves them more aware that there is life outside of their daily routines. I always try to remind myself that these memories will last much longer than the sleepless nights and uncomfortable car rides.
I hope you found this helpful, enjoy the video as a taste of sweet, sweet summer in November!