When we travel my husband usually carries all of our passports. However, when we go through checkpoints everyone needs to have his or her own passport and ticket. Since all of our passports look exactly the same from the outside I used washi tape to differentiate them to make passing them out a little easier. I left my husband’s blank, I taped mine near the top and my daughter’s near the bottom. We happened to have different patterns of tape but if you don’t just vary the position and it will work just as well. I wish you happy travels and fast-moving customs lines!
There are lots of theories on packing for a trip, this is mine.
Plan very carefully, pack only what you need and then you can fly with just a carry-on anywhere you go. When you fly carry-on only you get to skip the ticket counter and the quibbles and problems of other people trying to check items in line ahead of you, you get to skip the baggage fees, you get to skip baggage claim, the airline can’t lose your luggage and once you reach your destination you move with ease through transit. All of this leaves you with more money, more time, more flexibility and less stress. Yay!
Despite every single person I know telling me I was crazy, last October my family of 3 traveled for 11 days in Europe with just 3 carry-on sized backpacks. This made our lives so much easier. We had no trouble getting our luggage in our tiny rental car while we had it, we had lots of floor/table space in our friend’s home and hotel rooms, we moved with ease through Tube, train and Metro stations not to mention the streets of London and Paris. The friend who took us to the airport even commented, “It looks like I’m taking 3 kids to school not a family to the airport for a European vacation.”
How did we do it?
- We used 2 carry-on size convertible backpacks and 1 smaller one for our daughter. We also rolled our clothes and used packing cubes.
- We packed small toiletries and shared the space in our 3 allowed (1 per person) 3-1-1 bags.
- We used technology to our advantage with phones, iPods and eReaders serving as our entertainment.
- We made sure everything we brought could be used at least 2 ways.
- Each person packed a limited amount of color coordinated clothes;
- 4 long sleeve shirts
- 3 short sleeve shirts
- 2 sweaters or hoodies
- 3 pairs of pants
- 2 pairs of shoes
- 1 semi-formal outfit for the wedding (did I mention we attended a wedding too?)
- 1 warm jacket
- 5 pairs of socks
- 5 sets of undergarments
- No more than 3 accessories (my daughter and I took scarves and my husband chose not to take anything).
- 1 pair of small gloves
- 1 warm hat
- 1 small umbrella (we were headed to England after all)
Some simple math would indicate that we didn’t have 11 of anything. My friends, laundry is YOUR friend on a trip like this. We stayed with a friend the first 2 nights and made use of her washer before we left her home. From there on out, we did laundry as needed at the hotel either in machines or in our room. I do a lot of hand-wash laundry at home managing my daughter’s dance clothes so it took no time at all. (To be perfectly honest, we pack this same way regardless of where we are flying not just on international trips.)
If you end up doing laundry in your room, I have two suggestions;
- Do it as soon as you arrive, it will have a much longer time to dry,
- Consider bringing a clothesline to string in the shower, though the lovely European heated towel racks will do in a pinch and are actually much faster what with being heated and all. As a rule hotels don’t love you doing your laundry in the room because they worry you will string it up everywhere or leave it draped over all of the furniture and ruin the finishes. If you keep it in the bathroom, especially in the shower, you will have no problems at all.
Trust me on this, 20 minutes of managing your laundry will certainly be worth the aggravation and space you save.
When picking out clothes, choose 1 color palette so all of your clothes will go together. Be sure to bring pieces that layer well so that you will be warm enough if it gets colder than you are expecting. We only had one day that was really cold, of course it was the day we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and later experience the tail of a hurricane sliding through Europe. Nevertheless we had fun and got some great pictures.
*Note: I have no affiliation with eBags, I just happen to like their stuff and have had good luck with everything have I purchased thus far.
So, you’ve booked your flight, packed your bags, packed your child’s bag, got your tickets and you are that the airport ready to go! Then you hear it, the announcement that your flight is delayed an hour or two or worse. Now what?!?
I’ve been there my friends, usually in a connection city and frequently when flying on an airline with a hub in Detroit. Once we were even in Detroit…5 hour delay. They’re not a bad airline just one I personally have had terrible luck with.
First things first, if your flight is cancelled, find a new one. If your flight is delayed to the point that you will miss a connections, talk to the counter agent and get a new connecting flight. If you will be stuck in the next city overnight, get a hotel room now, not when you get there.
Flight delays happen, heck 8 hour planned international layovers in Toronto happen. You can either roll with them or let them make you crazy. I suggest you roll with them, no need to see the inside of airport jail.
Suggestions for your new found time:
- Race your kids up and down the terminal or at least take a walk to “explore”. Do this at least once, you will be glad for the energy they burn off. When others look at you strangely, ask if they want energic or calm children to share the plane with them. They’ll acquiesce quickly.
- Let the kids make silly faces or play silly games, if you can keep them relatively quiet, you’ll get grins from your fellow travelers
- Watch the planes. Unless it is a massive weather shut down, other plans will be flying and kids love to watch them! Try to guess where those planes are going, make up wild stories. Heck if you know more about areonautics than I do, explain how planes fly or just ask your smart phone.
- See if you can spy the buildings in the downtown area of the city – even if you can’t see them, get the kids too look, it is good for at least 3 minutes.
- Look around and learn about the city you are in. There are frequently art installations in airports that tell about the history of the city or special events that are going on. In Charlotte, my beloved Charlotte airport, there are rocking chairs to sit in and relax. Ask around and find out why.
- Play “I Spy”(our family rule is you can’t spy people, I feel the staring and pointing that will ensue is rude).
- Let them watch a movie if it is a fairly long delay or layover but try to do so with your device plugged in, you’re going to need that battery life.
- Color pictures, play tic tac toe, or play some other game on paper – be creative, make stuff up.
- Go get water, 20 minutes later go get snacks, 20 minutes later go to the bathroom – use the facilities and then make silly faces in the mirror. Most other travelers will simply smile at you and your cute kiddos.
- Get a meal if you have time, hungry parents and/or kiddos stuck in airports spell disaster
The important thing is to try to make the best of it. My daughter still talks about the 5 hours in Detroit when we giggled and played our way through the airport, stopping for a smoothie and later a snack on the way to my parents’ house one summer.
My child hears this one a lot. I believe in teaching her to do for herself; as much as possible and as soon as she is able. I’m not lazy, I’m trying to teach self-reliance, life skills and a good work ethic. This is especially important when we travel. There are so many things to learn and when we are traveling or getting ready for a trip it all seems FUN!
When my daughter was teeny tiny, we did everything for her of course. However, since she was about 4, she has been responsible for carrying her own carry-on or managing her own bag in the back seat on a road trip. She could bring whatever toys or games she wanted but it had to fit in the little rolling backpack we got her. Her clothes fit in a carry-on suitcase with mine and her father and I managed those. As she has gotten older, she has gotten incrementally more responsibility. Just this last fall when she was 9, she packed her own convertible backpack and small purse/entertainment bag and jetted off to Europe with us for a wedding. Since we all had backpacks and flew carry-on only to Europe for 11 days, we were all REALLY careful about what we brought knowing it would be on our backs through airports and train stations aplenty. I was so impressed by her ability to cull her choices to those she knew she would need and those that she would use often enough to justify carrying. She was even very careful about her purchases knowing she had to carry them. She came home with postcards, pictures, a couple of books, bookmarks and candy. She’s 9, of course there was candy. She saved her money all year and we converted it to pounds and euros. She got to spend it on whatever she wanted but if she ran out, that was it. Thus continuing our lessons on budgeting. She was really careful with her money and even had some left when we came home so she could show her class what it looked like during her presentation. She made a scrapbook full of the pictures, postcards and her travel journal entries. (Whereas my scrapbook is still in pieces in a bag waiting for this weekend’s crop!)
Since she started reading, my child has been responsible for getting us to our gates for our flights and helping us find exits on road trips. Have we ended up heading down terminals we didn’t need to be in? Sure, but that little girl can now navigate an airport with the best of them, even in French if she has to. With family all over the country, she will be allowed to fly on her own at some point and I will know she has the skills she needs to get from point A to point B managing her paperwork, money, etc. as she goes.
All this planning and self-reliance has earned her the ability to help plan our trips. When we went to Florida a couple of years ago, we met Winter the dolphin for Dolphin Tale at her request. When we went to Europe this last fall, she got to choose museums and other locations to visit.
Our adventures encompass everything from science, math and literature to architecture, history and art of all kinds. There is no major structure, just listening and talking. I always do some research before we go, usually with my child, and for everything else there is Google.
So please, give yourself a break, don’t be your child’s valet at home or on vacation. Have your kids pack and carry their own bags, manage their own money, lead the charge through airports, do their own laundry, keep their stuff organized. Teach them the difference between credit cards and debit cards, what it takes to earn money, and to manage every day expenses. Teach them to deal with disappointment when things don’t go their way. Teach them to travel and to see the great big world around us, to enjoy what others have created, to celebrate differences and understand that this place would be really, really boring if everyone was the same. Encourage them collect states and countries along with you. The memories and the stories will last a lifetime.
This is all very easy for me to say, it is how I was raised so I don’t know any differently. My parents made sure we had all the necessary life skills to survive in the world. They also made sure we saw as much of this great big country as possible and taught us both how to travel and how to it love every minute of it – even if it doesn’t always go as planned. The missteps and surprises make the best stories anyway.
Yup, just two. Here they are.
1) RUN! As fast as you can, with a packed schedule, taking lots of pictures and usually eating on the go. I have done this a few times myself, especially if I don’t have a lot of time to see a particular city or know I won’t return.
2) Pick 2 or 3 things to see each day and then just see what else happens. This is my preferred method in most places and it is definitely the way I do it if I plan to return.
If you go with option 1, you will see a lot but won’t experience as
much of the place. You likely won’t meet many people and you may feel you need a vacation when you get home from your vacation. There is nothing wrong with this method. It is your vacation to do with as you please and some people really can’t stand to stay still when they flew (or drove) all that way. So run far, and run fast my friends.
If you go with option 2, you will see nearly as much but you will really get a feel for the place. Meeting the people who live wherever you visit is the best part! If you do it well enough, you will end up with new friends with whom you can connect on Facebook or your social media of choice. That way when you are lucky enough to return you get an even deeper experience as your friends show you the secret local places that most tourists never hear about. If you play your cards right, you may even get to stay with your friends for a couple of days on a return trip. I hope your friends are as wonderful as mine. I am awakened by a lovely singing voice who then brings fresh brewed coffee to my door on a tray. I look forward to returning the favor.
Dream up your vacation and see if you can’t balance the two. We’ve been known to schedule a “down day” every 3 or 4 days if we know that we will have a particularly busy schedule during the rest of the trip. It makes a world of difference!
The time has come. Your little is now 2 years old and you are rocking the SAHM gig. You decide you to fly to see your folks instead of braving the 10 hour drive by yourself with a very self-assured child with the patience of … a 2 year old. You can haul off and hope for the best OR you can learn from my mistakes and experience. My “little” is now a very accomplished 9 year old traveler with 100s of hours of travel under her belt but this is how we got there in the early years.
The travel outfit for your child (as well as an identical back up outfit or 2) is far more important than you would think. Remember that children age 2 and older MUST have their own seat on a plane, no more lap babies. This means they have their own seatbelt. They’ve never sat in a seat with a belt like that, they’ve always had a 5 point harness. So when that grown-up seat belt and crazy metal buckle get lodged up under their cute t-shirt and press against their tender tummies, they lose their cool, fast. Ask me how I know.
This is my recommended outfit for Littles:
- Onesie – kind of roomy, if it is too tight, it will cause its own problems
- Elastic waist pants, be sure they are a good fit and not too tight
- Zip up hoodie
- Shoes (seriously shoes, have you seen airport and airplane floors?) You should NOT have to remove your little’s shoes at security. At the time of this post, children 12 and under departing from US airports are not required to remove shoes.
Here is why I recommend this specific outfit. Even if that mean old belt or buckle gets under the hoodie, it won’t get to skin which has caused more than one child to just lose their mind. You can take the pants or hoodie off if your little gets too hot. Generally planes are chilly though and this outfit will keep them warm enough. It is an easy outfit to change diapers in. If you are unfortunate enough to to have to change a diaper on a plane, either do so in your seat or leave the pants and hoodie on your seat and just take your pouch with diapers, wipes, onesie and diaper disposal bag to bathroom. Most airlines request you don’t leave soiled diapers in airplane bathrooms, some forbid it. Don’t ask the flight attendants to handle soiled diapers either, the FDA forbids it as they handle food.
These are the other vitally important things you should take in a small, well organized backpack that will fit under the seat in front of you. I usually use zipper pouches to contain like items.:
- Snacks- twice as many as you think you will need for the flight and terminal time. Hungry child stuck in an airport=bad day for all
- Sippy cup (you are usually allowed to take one cup of baby formula or milk through security if you are traveling with a very small child). Some airports are more strict and allow this only if you have an actual baby, not a toddler, with you. Be flexible here.
- Entertainment- 3-4 favorite books, 3-4 quiet toys, iPod/iPad or similar stocked with games and/or movies, chargers and an EXTRA POWER supply
- One comfort item for child (a blanket is best because it helps keep them warm if the plane is especially chilly)
- Diapers/wipes/onesie/diaper disposal bag/waterproof changing pad in a quick change zipper pouch- twice as many as you think you will need for the flight and time in terminal(s)
- Extra outfit for child, 2 if you will be traveling for more than 6 hours total
- Extra shirt and maybe pants for you – kids spill things, on you, at the worse possible time. Yup, I’ve been there too.
- Pacifiers if you use them – pressure changes can cause major ear pain for little ones and sucking on a pacifier, thumb, bottle or sippy cup helps. The pressure will be worse if the child has an ear infection. Three, count ’em, THREE times this happened to us before our little was 5 years old. She has only had 4 in her life. She didn’t get them on the plane. Each time we left home with the infection and the medicine to fight it. It was uncanny!
- Your purse/wallet
- Your phone
- Your itinerary
- Your tickets
- Any medication you or your child need. (You’ve got to declare liquid medication at security. Take it out of the bag and put it in the bin with your shoes and 3-1-1 bag.)
One carry on, that’s all, everything else gets checked. Make sure you adhere to the weight limits for bags set by your airline. Check your airline website under checked baggage. You will likely have to pay per checked item so pack those carefully too, roll up space bags are your friend.
Be sure to bring an umbrella stroller and get a gate check tag from the gate agent before your section is called to board. Your fellow travelers will thank you or at least not scowl at you as you rush to get the tag on the stroller while getting your child out and trying to fold it up. You’ll leave the stroller plane side at the end of the jetway and get it back plane side at the next city.
That’s it – a backpack, a stroller and a child. This will be plenty to juggle.
Check the car seat, there are great car seat bags that will protect the seat in transit. (If you just feel you have to bring the car seat on the plane with you, it MUST go in the window seat unless there are 2 car seats next to each other, it is never allowed in the aisle seat. The flight crew will make no exceptions to this, ever.) Remember if you bring it, you get to install it in your parents’ car … after a flight with a 2 year old. Sooo, you might ask your parents if they know of someone they can borrow a car seat from and then you can leave yours in your car. Before you leave you will also need to measure your child from the seat to the top of their shoulders so that your parents can set up the shoulder straps properly when they install the seat before you arrive. Otherwise you get to reposition them in the airport parking lot and reinstall the seat, and you know where this is going.
If you forget something you absolutely need, buy it at the airport or find another family to take pity on you. Do not pack too much for “just in case”, you only have 2 hands and one small backpack.
This is the one instance where I will suggest you check anything; when you are traveling alone with children too young to carry their own things.
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” -Confucius
Aiplane at Sunset Photo Credit: By Cubbie_n_Vegas from Las Vegas, USA [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Text added by DreamDepartExplore