5 Mothers On Favorite Strategies For Travel With Kids

Dan and I had an unspoken commitment to one another that our travel wasn’t going to slow down too much with kids or maybe we didn’t have a choice given family abroad and bicoastal. Either way, by the end of Bodie’s first year we had done 15 or so trips. Even as a seasoned traveler with young kids, I still enjoy a fair amount of careful planning and minimalist packing especially for carry ons so we’re organized. Given it’s summer holidays and many of us are in some stage of packing or unpacking, I asked women I admire who happen to be equally frequent travelers, their ideas on setting up their families for success on long flights and travel. I added my own tips in in the end!

Svenja, mother to two, New York, NY

If it’s a night flight always consider that it takes 2-3 hrs until they dim the light... flights around 6 PM are great so the kids are not really tired until they are done with service etc. Day flights around nap time may (or may not) work as well. I would always try for a little sleep on the plane so you get a break!

I would never ever travel without the Babyzen YOYO. Lifesaving. And for babies: a carrier. So after a long flight, the toddler can relax in the yoyo and the baby can sleep in the carrier.

I love the ToteSavvy for the bag organization.

Don’t forget a change of clothes for kids AND you! I boarded the plane with fresh vomit on my shirt last week.

For activities for your Toddler, we love the WaterWow, Sticker sticker stickers, Post its, Colouring books and crayons, Lightweight books, Magnetic dress up dolls and if you are ok with screen time: kid friendly headphones. Our baby just wanted what the toddler had. Lol. In general, I have one or two NEW toys so that they are excited to play. And snacks! AND: prayers. Lol. I reference these great ideas for a delayed plane.

When it comes to the other side of travel, with jetlag it helped us a lot to keep the kids as close to East Coast time as possible. When we’ve been to Europe, the kids went to bed around 10/11 PM which is nice for dinner etc AND they slept until 9/10AM. I would not recommend to fully adjust them unless you’re staying for a week or two.

YOU CAN DO IT! The more relaxed you are the easier are the kids.

Cristina, mother to two, Palo Alto, CA

A few pieces of advice for traveling with kids:

Lower expectations and increase flexibility - your trip will not go exactly as planned and it will be okay. The more flexible you can be and the more realistic your expectations can be, the more pleasant it will be for everyone. The baby may skip naps, your toddler may eat snacks for lunch and dinner.

If you have a baby or toddler, bring a baby carrier. Depending on where you’re going, strollers may be more stress than help.

Ignore the time change. Just operate as if it was always that time (so, for example, if you’re going east to Europe, just push through until a doable 7/ 8pm ish bedtime and go to sleep). Trying to acclimate yourself to the new time zone ASAP (even on the plane before you get there) will set you up for fewer crashes and meltdowns (hopefully). Remember, remain flexible and lower expectations!

Susan, mother to two, New York, NY

This has really changed depending on our kids' ages. When we only had our first, now three years old, we always tried to book flights during his nap time so he would sleep on the flight and/or have take off around when he ate to be feeding him when we took off to avoid ear issues.

Now that he’s three, we pack a lot of books/magnatiles/tegu blocks/ magna-doodles. We don't do screen traveling unless there is one on the plane so it's a lot of building with blocks and cars.

Our oldest has just started getting car sick so make sure to pack wipes, changes of clothes, and extra blankets. When driving in cars be wary of books!

Alex, Mother to three, San Francisco, CA

I think 12M-3Y is the toughest time and we just took my 18M old twins from SF to NY...

On timing, I like daytime flights that take off right around their 8am nap time. We often get a good two hour nap upfront and another on the ride from the airport to our destination.

We slowly feed them yogis, happy baby teethers, pouches, and bananas throughout the flight. We swear by the Tommee Tippee Thermos, which is large enough to carry two 8oz bottles worth of milk at whatever temperature your baby likes. We carry the bottles separately and transfer the warm milk at the last minute.

We love tactile “quiet books”, especially the Montessori one by DeMoca. The kids also love to play with the tray table and cups and we walk them up and down the aisles. Other moms I know swear by confining kids at this age to car seats but we’ve decided it’s too much to haul two of them for the twins. We DO always carry Ergo baby carriers because we’ve found that they go down and stay down much better in those than by just being held.

For our 3.5 year old, headphones are almost enough. He can focus happily on a movie. We always bring a coloring book and crayons and his Rainbow Toyfrog magnetic Drawing Board. Before he could focus on a movie but after the age when he would eat them, he has LOVED puffy stickers. We buy them on Amazon and look for whatever he’s into at that moment (trains, construction equipment, princesses). He’s happy for hours sticking them all over the tray table and back of the seat in front of him. The puffy ones are VERY easy to remove afterwards. They are definitely not organic but they are a lifesaver.

Neha, Mother to two, New York, NY

I think organizing and checklists helped me get comfortable with traveling when we first had Bodie. Our first flight was when he was 11 weeks old and I think the most cumbersome part of travel was the upfront packing to make sure we had everything we needed for the flight and stay itself (if the destination was domestic we often ordered bulky essentials and had it shipped to the hotel or home we were staying). We take two carry ons - a Birdling weekend bag that keeps snacks and toys easily accessible for Bodie and a ToteSavvy organized with all the essentials in a small tote for Lyla.

We use our Baby Bjorn Travel crib for Bodie and will use a hotel crib for Lyla as they tend to be smaller. We pack all sleep related goods like sleepsacks, sound machines and sheets in the BabyBjorn bag. We used this car seat bag which you can check for free and is roomy in case you want to tuck in there other bulky things to make your suitcases lighter. Our babyzen YOYO went everywhere with us and can go on the flight and tuck nicely into overhead. Now with Lyla, we bring our BabyBjorn mini carrier onboard to keep our hands free. Our Yoyo we can use for either kid but there’s a kickboard we can attach to the back so we’re not bringing two strollers.

We still time flights with the baby’s nap if we’re going domestic and if we’re international we love an overnight flight. We had a lot of luck with Bodie sleeping overnight on flights and so far Lyla seems the same. Often we’ll bring some of their sleep things - loveys and sleepsacks and books to “mimic” sleep routine. Like Svenja said above, be prepared for the flight service and lights to be somewhat disruptive.

We get to the airport with at least an hour and a half to spare so that it’s a calm experience for everyone and there’s no stress. Actually airports tend to be quite entertaining for kids since there’s so much going on outside the windows so you can actually have a coffee and relax by the windows and watch the airplanes. And let them run around to get all the wiggles out.

Once on the plane, while Lyla is still not walking, we’ll walk her up and down the aisle for distraction but she’s pretty happy with small toys like indestructible or jellycat soft cloth books and things like plastic cups, empty snack wrappers or tupperware. Snacks keep her the most happy in a pinch so we have an assortment of HappyBaby puffs and teethers on hand. We bring enough empty bottles for the number of feeds and a Munchkin formula container to easily store multiple feeding mix (we do try to offer milk or water at take off and landing).

I found the hardest stage to be post walking and pre attention span for activities so 1-2 with Bodie. We brought the most goodies and new toys with us at that stage including a variety of Annie’s snacks and little cars and balls, window stickers, play doh, tiles, magnetic cases, stickers and magna doodles. Now he is pretty happy with our favorite coloring book, his leapfrog laptop and a movie.

As far as when we’re on the other side, as you can tell by Svenja and Cristina’s opposite views on this, everyone has their approach. I tend to like to follow the kids lead but I find going East to Europe much easier as the kids go to bed late and wake up late and I’m happy to keep them on that. Going west, I tend to be more apt to encourage them to get on that timezone and I let them have as much sunlight as possible to help their clock reset so I’m not waking up at 4am!

Do you have trips planned for the summer? What ideas would you add to this list?