Today we’re talking all things traveling with kids!
But first, story time. 🙂
I was pretty honest in detailing what a wild flight we had getting from Kansas City to Orlando last month, but the truth is that the chaos started the second we left the house.
We left around 4:45 p.m. to make the two-hour trek to Kansas City, and Sadie was unhappy as soon as we got in the car. Of course she was; This is usually the time of day where she’s happy and playing in the playroom. I had to sit in between the two car seats in the back seat and entertain her via funny faces and noises the entire two hours. HEAD. ACHE (literally – I always get headaches sitting in the back seat.)
Once we got to the airport, Hadley immediately started dancing around that she had to go to the bathroom. Okay, let’s go to the bathroom. As soon as we get in there, she starts sobbing hysterically because she sees an automatic flusher. SOBBING. She refuses to go to the bathroom. Because I’m the boss in this relationship, I tried sitting her on the toilet anyway, but she went all straight-legged and acted like that toilet seat was lava. Not gonna happen. Then we forgot to get a gate-check tag for the stroller, so I had to board without Jamie while he waited on line for a ticket. Frazzled, I sat down in my seat on the plane and thought “Why are we doing this?! We know that traveling with kids is stressful! Why are we making this big trip voluntarily with a three year old and 11 month old?”
I think these things almost every time things get crazy during our travel days, but traveling to a fun place is almost always worth it. When the trip is over, we usually forget or laugh about the chaos of traveling with kids and only remember the sweet memories we made.
It seems like no matter where we’re going, how many of us are going, how long the trip is, or what time of the day it is, our travel days are always hilariously chaotic. Always. I’m sitting on the couch typing up this post with a smile on my face about to burst out laughing just mentally recalling some of the hilarious stories from the past. BELIEVE ME when I say that every trip we have some kind of shenanigans (lost luggage, toddler bathroom issues, canceled flights, toddler barf one hour into a 12 hour trip while I was pregnant with a deployed husband, a dog doing his biz in the car, the same dog locking us out of the car, fever spikes, you name it!)
So here goes my number one tip for traveling with young kids: Expect there to almost always be a level of controlled chaos. 🙂 Because they’re kids! And whether kids are home or traveling, they’re going to be unreasonable and unpredictable.
Expectation management is EVERYTHING!
Despite the chaos, we travel a lot! We don’t live near any of our family or close friends (besides the new friends we’ve made here in Kansas), but we also refuse to let proximity keep us from fun times with the people we love. So, we get in the car or on a plane and just go! We agree that the money and the chaos are usually worth it, even when we’re inevitably banging our heads against the steering wheel dying to get home. 😉
Almost every time I write a post about traveling, I get questions asking for tips for traveling with kids. I’m super happy to answer this, as I have some new tips to share after adding a second kid to the mix.
And by the way, I combatted the flusher issue by holding a piece of toilet paper over the sensor while she pleaded with me to “cover the flusher” during our first park day at Hollywood Studios. I knew if the toilet flushed on accident that I’d lose her trust forever and that the bathroom would be an issue the rest of our Disney trip. Thankfully, I was able to keep it from flushing until she left the stall. Three year olds!
- Everybody gets one small carry-on. I use my Vera Bradley backpack (seriously comfortable and worth every penny), Jamie uses his backpack, and Hadley uses her owl rolling suitcase.
- We always check our suitcases.
- Carry-ons only have necessities (empty water bottle, sippy cup, wipes, diapers, changing pad, one complete change of clothes per person, snacks, entertainment – i.e. kindle, book, etc.)
- We use a stroller. We check all bags, wear carry-ons on our backs, and push the girls in the stroller. Then we gate-check the stroller. I’ve gone both the baby carrier route and the stroller route (both several times), and the stroller is overall easier in my opinion.
- We don’t make a big fuss about checking car seats. We usually just stick them in a big garbage bag, tie it up, and check it, assuming the risk of damage. We’ve flown with Hadley’s car seat a half dozen times or more, and we’ve never had an issue.
- We always shoot to arrive at the airport 60-75 minutes before our flight (60 for a tiny airport or 75 for a large airport). We give ourselves 30-45 minutes to check in, go through security, hit the bathroom, fill our water bottles, and find the gate. Then we have the other 30 minutes to board. There is nothing worse than trying to keep kids entertained in a crowded airport for more time than you have to.
- We always fly Southwest. Always! Hadley knows our airplane will be blue. 🙂 Our luggage, car seats, pack n play, etc. all are free (I believe this is the only airline to offer free baggage.) We pick our seats and are all together 100% of the time. They are so kind and simply just the best airline. We use their premier credit card and fly for free often.
- If we have 10+ hours of driving ahead of us, we aim to pull out of the driveway by 4 a.m. It’s a mental thing. Jamie and I are totally like-minded when it comes to this. We love when it’s noon and we already have 7-8 hours of driving under our belts and only a couple more to go. We both agree that it makes a long trip go by so much faster! We pack the car the night before, get the girls up right before we have to leave, and put them in the car still in their pajamas. If they don’t fall back asleep, they are usually very quiet for 2-3 hours. At our first stop, we’ll change their clothes.
- We bring a ton of snacks and drinks so that nobody gets “hangry”.
- Often we pack our own sandwiches for lunch so that we don’t have to fuss with wasting time eating out or making a mess with drive-through food.
- Hadley watches movies on her tablet the entire day. The only time she’s usually allowed to watch her tablet is on car trips, so this is a total treat for her. She has the Kindle Fire and we use this to secure it to the headrest in front of her. We will get Sadie a tablet soon because we have a lot of driving to do this summer!
- We assign rolls before every stop. Who is going to the bathroom when, who is taking who, who is walking Teddy when, who’s collecting and throwing out trash, who’s pumping gas, yadda yadda. This way, once we park we hop out and make the most of a quality stop without feeling frazzled or rushed.
During your vacation
- Pack more than enough snacks for the entire trip that you know your kids will eat. Often the friends or family that we are visiting will have some requested favorite foods and drinks on hand, but we always pack way more than we think we’ll need, just in case.
- The “Sleep Pillow” app is a lifesaver. When we stayed in the hotel at Disney, we made the room pitch black when it was time for the girls to sleep and laid them down. Then we would lay down too and stay perfectly still and quiet while that white noise app roared loudly. They’d maybe fuss for a few minutes, but usually they’d pass out within a few minutes.
Southwest’s reward credit card rocks. You get one point for every dollar you spend, and we score flights all the time for as little as 5,000 points each way. That means that once we spend $5,000 on our credit card, we’ve sometimes earned a free one-way flight. Most other airlines require at least 25,000 miles round-trip for a super quick flight. If you live near an airport with Southwest, this is the reward card for you. Please let me know via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or in the comments if you’d like an invite to get their card. Just give me your email address and I’ll send you an invite to receive 40,000 miles after you spend your first $1,000 in the first three months of having the card. (Super easy to do if you put most of your bills on it.)
Do you have any wild travel stories to share? I’d love to hear!
What tips do you have for traveling with kids?
Do you have a rewards credit card? What do you love about it?
Whimsical September Email List
Hi! I’m a proud Army wife and mom to two little girls (ages 1 and 4), and I love sharing our lives with you. I blog all about motherhood, our time in the military, our travels, our meals, my fitness journey, my fashion favorites, and so much more. I truly enjoy sharing it all! I can’t get enough of birthday cake ice cream, weekend sunrise runs, or making my girls belly-laugh. I write almost daily about my family’s lives, and though I like to keep things light, I also share the messy parts too. Welcome! So glad to have you around. I’m active on Facebook and Instagram and would love to communicate with you there!