Traveling With Kids: My Must Haves!
Updated: Jan 9
I can remember the day we booked our first flight to Florida to see my mother. She moved down just three months prior, days after my first son, her first grandchild was born! We decided that we would alternate taking trips back and forth every few months so that we wouldn’t miss too much of the baby’s growing up and so he would know his grandparents. So, here I am, beyond excited; we got the email confirmation, we’re leaving in a few weeks, omg I can’t wait!!
Then the reality hit. How the hell am I going to fly to Florida, for a week, with a 3 month old baby and possibly be able to bring everything I need?! I mean, look around! We’ve got 6 different types of apparatuses, 2 strollers, our everyday diaper bag and our weekender diaper bag, ALL the diapers and wipes…and the list goes on!
After I got over the initial skepticism of this actually being manageable, the panic set in. I’ve heard horror stories of babies on planes and their little ears being in pain! The last thing I wanted was for him to be hurting and the second to last thing I wanted was to be “those” people with the screaming baby! “Oh Mr. Extremely kind flight attendant, is that offer for a cocktail still on the table?!”
Spoiler alert, he was a perfect angel and we never had an issue. In fact, he nursed and went to sleep for the entire flight, there and back…couldn’t have gone better. Sorry, if you’ve experience anything different. If it makes you feel any better, we attempted to travel down again when he was about 21 months old and I was 8 months pregnant with my second. I was alone, with my son, as my husband was traveling. Long story short, I got stuck on a plane, on the runway, for 7 hours. SEVEN HOURS, with an almost 2 year old. Did I mention I was also 8 months pregnant? It was an insane experience. When they were finally able to pull back up to the jetway to have us switch planes, I almost just went home. I didn’t though. We got on the new plane and off to Orlando we went. Again, my toddler being a perfect angel. I almost made the nice woman sitting next to me his unofficial godmother. He was sitting on her lap, singing and coloring. People are really amazing.
Now to the point of this post; travel tips! I don’t know it all and I’m sure there are so many better methods than mine, but I can definitely offer you ideas or advice that we have found worked for us and were truly helpful! Here we go!
1. Infant carseats are allowed on the plane! You will have to buy a seat for it [but if it’s not a deal breaker to NOT have it, you can see if there is any empty seat next to yours at the time of boarding and they’ll let you snag it for free! [This is what we did,] and then you can place it rear facing, like in the car, but it can make it’s trek with you, same as if you were driving to Starbucks! This worked so well because I had the travel sound machine and after I nursed him, I placed him right in there with his waves playing and he slept like he was in the car the whole time! If you get up there and they say it’s a no go, you can leave the seat with the stroller and they put it right under the plane with the extra carryons! Usually, before you get off the plane, your stroller is waiting for you! Usually.
2. You can pack ANYTHING you want [if it’s legal, of course] in a carseat travel bag, without weight penalty. For one the trips down, when our son was older, we actually brought our Graco forever carseat with us, in a carseat travel bag. It can be worn like a backpack and they don’t weigh carseats or count them as luggage. So, it’s a great opportunity to pack all of those extra diapers, wipes, snacks, shoes, clothes…you get the picture. I wouldn’t put anything breakable, of course, because it does go under the plane! It will come out with your other checked bags, on the conveyer belt, at baggage claim.
3. You can rent carseats with your rental car! Once we were two boys deep, we were like the luvs commercial and totally got over our skepticism in rental carseats. I will say, the ones we had were not the cushy, high end carseats we had at home. They were an off brand that left a lot to the imagination, and they took a minute for my husband to install, but we did it and for approximately $10/day each, it was worth it to not have to bring ours. One kid was one thing, two was a whole different ball game. Now, we have 3 and we just don’t leave home. Just Kidding!
4. If you are traveling to see family and the opportunity to buy a carseat is an option, I’d recommend it…and then have them return it once you leave! When I go down with my husband, we rent a car. That time I got stuck on the plane and was alone, my parents picked us up from the airport, so this was the only option we had to make that plan work. My son was also past the stage of spitting up and was still in diapers, so accidents and other bodily functions weren’t an issue. We returned that carseat in as perfect condition as when it was purchased! Especially, because we only really used it to come and go from the airport and maybe a restaurant run during those few days!
5. Hotel rooms usually offer a crib or pack n play, for free, if you ask them ahead of time! When you book your room, either ask the associate or put it in notes under special accommodations, if you’re booking online. I bring my own crib sheet, but this has been extremely helpful when traveling with the kids! One or two less things to pack or worry about!
6. I’m going to link one of my favorite travel accessories, for just around town! It’s a forehead strap that keeps their heads held up when sleeping. I #founditonamazon and it’s my go to recommendation, for once your little ones go forward facing in the car. If they’re anything like mine, the second I pull out of the driveway, it’s like they have narcolepsy and out they go! I can’t stand to see the bobbing head resting on their chest or knees. My neck hurts looking at it. With anything, you have to watch them closely and make sure it’s positioned correctly. My oldest got to the point that when we’d leave the beach, he’d be so tired and he knew he’d fall asleep, so I’d get him all settled and place this little gem across his forehead. Out he’d go and him and his trachea would have a peaceful ride up the parkway.
7. The travel sound machine. I have two; an actual travel one that runs on batteries and clips onto his stroller, infant seat, pack ‘n play etc and then our regular ones that we have plugged in, in their rooms all the time, but they also run on batteries when unplugged.
8. Winter items that I couldn’t live without are my infant seat or stroller seat buntings and my stroller gloves! They attach and remain on the seats and handle, so you just fold up your stroller and throw it in the car or leave it outside your apartment door [in our case, when we lived in Hoboken]. When you pull it out or need it, everything is right there, ready to go! My brother-in-law [a 25 year old, bachelor in Hoboken] actually got me the gloves because he saw them on a stroller in his building and thought they’d be useful! The best gift ever!
9. Rent what you need! There are companies out there who literally rent whatever equipment you need for your vacation. Just google “rent baby equipment” and check out what populates. There are some specific to different areas and some who deliver to all of the major areas of travel. Some offer pickup and delivery, depending on where and what. I’ve seen some with cleaning fees and delivery fees, but overall, it isn’t that much for the benefit of not having to worry about it!
10. Just try to enjoy it. You have kids. Kids cry. They don’t always adapt and sleep well out of their environment. We just spent the weekend from hell [come nap time and bed time] an hour away from home, in LBI! Try to make the best of it, be flexible, patient and have lots and lots of wine on hand!
Photo is on the plane home with my toddler, 8 mos pregnant!
I hope you found something here helpful and I wish you the best in your travels! Thanks for being here!