4 Tips For Less Stressful Travel With Littles

4 Tips For Less Stressful Travel With Littles

When we had kids, I fully anticipated that when we traveled we’d just have additional suitcases to pack, for said extra tiny tourists.  Then we’d all be on our merry way without much further consideration. WRONG. So very wrong. 

I’m no expert in this field but I’ve learned a thing or two over the last 3.5 years.  Today I’m sharing 4 tips that have been lifesavers to make traveling with littles, a little simpler:

1. Pack It Up or Pick It Up?-

Children require SO.MUCH.STUFF.  Why?  How???

How is it even possible that someone so tiny requires so much crap? Unfortunately, there’s just no way around packing all the things; diaper bag, medications, ample changes of clothing, bottles, bottle parts, breast pumps, pacifiers, blankies, things to keep them occupied, and so on & so on. Whew. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. So where do you trim the excess?

One of the big space hogs we’ve found to be is diapers. With two toddlers still in diapers, each averaging 5-6 diapers a day, a week-long trip is conservatively 35 diapers per kid, or 70 diapers total. And that’s without any extra to spare, without any nighttime diapers, or swim diapers. Other than a handful of diapers to get us through our travel day(s), we now buy them at our final destination, or have them shipped to where we are going ahead of time. (Thank you, Amazon Prime!)

Other things we pick up once we arrive are the girls’ go to snack items, diaper wipes, bug spray, sun screen, over the counter medicine, etc. It makes the pre-departure checklist a bit shorter.

Depending on where you’re headed, we’ve also rented baby gear. Strollers, high chairs, wagons, beach toys, all of it can be rented ahead of time and delivered directly to you, by a gear company. Especially in popular beach destinations and tourist locations, these companies are super prevalent.

2. Purposefully Packing

Obviously we’ve all been around long enough to have learned that rolling items in your suitcase is the way to go. Everything in my suitcase gets rolled and strategically placed. It’s taken me ten years of travelling with my husband but I can now proudly say that I can pack for an ENTIRE WEEK, with plenty of clothing to spare, inside of a carry-on suitcase.  -Which is a big feat, right ladies? Especially for me! 

A week’s worth of clothing in a carry on; isn’t she lovely?

{Side Note/Background Story:  Our first fight as a married couple happened at the airport, leaving for our honeymoon.  When my giant suitcase was put on the scale and we were given the charge for the weight overages, my new hubby of less than 24 hours wanted me to throw stuff away! Can you imagine?? Well that certainly didn’t happen, but a tiff with at the Southwest counter did.  I haven’t lived that one down. What I have done, is get great at packing!}

Here are a couple of helpful tricks for getting the most bang for your buck in that little suitcase:

  • Dresses are My Best Friend – A dress is a whole outfit! It’s one piece! One garment to pack, as opposed to two or three separate items. Dresses have become my go to in vacation & travel attire. Easy to pack, easy to plan, easy to wear and little to think about.
  • Double Duty – Any separate pieces I do pack, have to pull double duty. Other than special occasion wear, I try to rework multiple items like jackets, blazers, jeans, etc. Last February we went to Florida and I brought with me an oversized white linen blanket scarf. It was the perfect accessory for the trip. I wore it on the airplane as an easy extra layer, I sported it multiple cool evenings out to dinner, and it worked perfectly tied around my waist as a cover-up at the pool. Bing. Bang. Boom.
  • Pack for Black, Brown, or Nude. (NOT all of them!) – I use to pack a pair of black heels, a pair of brown boots, a nude belt to go with my nude colored clutch, etc. Now I’ve found I can generally pack for a week or so using one neutral and make all my clothing work around the same color palette; rather than several different ones for different outfits. It’s not hard but does require some planning ahead.
  • Travel in your Biggest Stuff – Travel days I always wear whatever is the biggest and bulkiest of my items that I plan to take with me. This is a great day to wear your boots, jeans, thick sweater or your tennis shoes so it isn’t taking up valuable real estate in your suitcase.
  • Lay It All Out – As I begin mentally packing for a trip, I start making a list. From there I start grouping items together that I think I’d like to bring. I’m thinking about the weather, what we’ll be doing in the daytime & evenings, which items pack & wear well (especially if there won’t be access to laundry), and what items I can wear more than once or style more than one way. This also helps me get a good idea of what items I should travel in (my bulkiest items), and visually whether everything will fit in my suitcase.  If I have too much and have to remove an item I want to verify it won’t throw off another outfit I have planned.  Seeing everything together really helps me know if it will all coordinate, if I should need to mix things up. I pack this exact same way for each of my girls.
  • Don’t Stress Over It! – Chances are if you do forget something, you can buy it at your destination and call it a vacation memento or souvenir! Or, get creative and make due with what you have.  One time in Hawaii I arrived to discover I’d forgotten to pack a strapless bra, an essential item when you’ve packed a suitcase full of sundresses & tank tops. So I removed the strap on a bandeau bikini top I had with me and used it as a strapless bra.  No one was any the wiser and it worked perfectly. Problem solved.

3. Park Time

Here’s the biggest shock of all about road tripping with toddlers: Stops Are Never Short.

Let me say that again: STOPS TAKE FOREVER!

I remember when it was just Bob and I. We could tag team the most efficient pit stops ever: “Okay I’ll run in and grab lunch for both of us and you pump gas. Let’s plan to be back on the road in five!” With two toddlers in car seats we’re lucky to get both diapers changed in five minutes. The best advice I can offer is don’t fight it.

My family has been traveling to the Outer Banks each summer for more than 30 years. Once we had kids we just figured the 17 hour drive would become a 17 hour drive with more Disney music in the background. We were wrong. Every time we’d stop the girls would need to run around and burn off all that pent up energy. That coupled with diaper changes, gassing up, and getting everyone fed, our five minute stops were topping out at an hour and a half or more. And, God forbid, if we cut the stop too short, getting back into car seats became a terrible event; complete with tantrums that lasted well into the next leg of our trip. There was no winning.

Until we started doing this: Our favorite way to make the most of a road trip pit stop is to find a public park or elementary school to playground. Google Maps is great at helping us find an exit that offers everything we need. We can gas up, grab some drive through and take it to a park to eat. Then we let the girls play outside for an hour or so. We all get some fresh air and by the time an hour is up, everyone is all too happy to return to whatever movie’s been keeping them occupied. This little trick has been a godsend and our new favorite way to do road trips with toddlers.

4. Pack Prizes

The first time we flew with a baby, my youngest she was about 6 months old. As we were boarding the plane I struck up a conversation with another mom who gave me the single greatest travel tip I have ever received regarding babies and flying. She said “Bring a lollipop. When the cabin pressure changes or if the baby gets fussy give her a small taste of the lollipop. She’ll settle down immediately.”

We promptly put this little experiment to the test and I can tell you: it has worked for us time and time again. We have disembarked airplanes on more than one occasion where people commented, “What a joy! I never heard a peep from her the whole flight!” Or, “I didn’t even realize there was a baby sitting behind us, she was so good!”

I’m not saying you should feed your baby candy on the regular, but a small taste of a little sucker in a dire situation, is acceptable in my book. Between the distraction of the sweet treat and the constant swallowing that a lollipop causes a baby to do, it helps to keep tiny baby ears from getting stopped up; and helps keep 150 of your closest friends in that giant metal tube happy too!

(Clockwise, Left to Right – Entertaining themselves with slime and window clings. Bottom left, we still pack suckers for each of the girls when we fly to help with pressure change & popping ears. We use those little baby bottle shaped suckers, because they come with a lid. They’re great for popping the lid back on when they don’t need them and uncapping them quickly when they need them again, rather than going through a handful of suckers in a flight. And lastly both girls, playing with lots of stickers and their Leap Pads.)

Now that my girls are toddlers, I still pack plenty of ‘prizes’. My diaper bag is full of little things they’ve never seen to bribe them to behave amuse them throughout the flight. In the weeks leading up to a trip I keep my eye on the Target Dollar Spot and stock up on things to entertain them with. Some of our favorite items include: window clings, stickers, slime, felt activity sets, new coloring books, and their Leap Pads with fully charged batteries.

Another favorite idea is to grab one of those days-of the-week pill boxes for each kiddo at the $1 Store. I fill each compartment with toddler size snacks: raisins, pretzels, M&Ms, Goldfish, Cheerios, fruit snacks, etc. My girls love opening and closing each of the little lids to discover their snacks, and they’re kept entertained while doing so! Bust out some new stickers for them to personalize their little treat boxes with and you’re pretty much Mom of the Year in the eyes of a 3 year old!

So there you have it! Any toddler & kiddo travel tips you’d add? Let’s hear them! I’d love to know what’s worked for you!

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