Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Traveling with small kids: what we learned

When Matt and I started our family two years ago, we knew that we wanted to continue traveling and experience new places as a family.

Last year, when Ryan was 9 months old, we took our first family trip to Turks & Caicos and LOVED getting to experience a new place with our little guy.

This year, we decided we wanted to experience the New England area and landed on a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine with Ryan, now almost 2, and Natalie, who turned 5 months on our trip.

Traveling with two kids is completely different than traveling with one baby. Two kids mean you're considering two ages, two schedules, two routines, two personalities, and two little ones to divide attention between if/when things falls apart.

One of our biggest takeaways from our most recent trip to Maine was how much thinking was involved in every day. We were constantly thinking and planning and re-thinking and re-planning as the days took shape.

That being said, we learned a LOT from this trip. Some of these things were shared with us before we left from friends and family who had tackled the airport and travel with two, and other things we learned as we went.

Here are our biggest takeaways and tips to make travel with two young kids as smooth as possible:

Strollers at the airport:
If you have a stroller in the airport, you get to walk to the front of the security line. With the current state of security in the Atlanta airport, this saved us at least an hour of waiting in line.

My sister-in-law gave me a bag for Ryan's carseat that wheeled (like this) which was great, but if you don't have a carseat bag, an oversized trash bag will do- they will tag it there for you like they do with all of your checked luggage.

Carseats check for FREE!

Natalie stayed in her carrier, which was attached to our stroller, all the way to the gate. I had a large trash bag in the bottom of the stroller to place the carrier in before checking it at the gate. They'll check it without the trash bag, but it kind of grossed me out now knowing where it would be going or what it would be touching.

Time of flights
This of course only works if there are multiple flight times to choose from, but on our way out, we were able to book a flight that timed perfectly with Natalie's feed and put us getting in the rental car right at the start of Ryan's nap.

On the way home, we weren't so fortunate and got on the plane at the start of Ryan's nap. Because of this, the flight out there was super smooth, and the flight home was a little rocky at times, hah. 

Sitting in the back of the plane
The back of the plane is the loudest part, which just makes a mama's nerves much calmer in case either baby has a moment. Plus it's like added white noise for your hopefully sleeping babes. ;)

In Ryan's little backpack, I packed some toys that he hadn't seen or played with in a while, along with a coloring book and a few of his miniature "friends" from Daniel Tiger. I also packed a DVD player with a new movie, and I downloaded a couple of apps on the iPad for us to play together. I also had a sucker packed as backup if we needed it. I think anything new or different to grab their attention and keep it for a little while is key for helping the time pass faster for all parties involved. ;)

Using a backpack as our diaper bag was huge on this trip! It sounds crazy, but all of the different compartments made packing for a whole morning or afternoon out of the hotel so much easier than trying to fit everything in a typical diaper bag. We also planned out each day the night before and packed extra clothes, food, toys, etc. to have on hand just in case the stretches between coming back to the hotel got long. It also helped to have Ryan's backpack of toys with us for times when we had to stop so I could feed Natalie. Oh, and on the bags topic, just bring a box of quart size and gallon size ziplock bags. I never think I will need them and always end up using them for everything.

Suitcases & Clothes
We always unpack everything and "move in" for the time we're staying at a hotel... I'm big on everything having a place and not searching through suitcases to find what we need. Since I couldn't do laundry on this trip, we used one of the suitcases as the dirty clothes hamper. At the end of the week, we folded up the dirty clothes and packed one whole suitcase of all the dirty clothes and kept the few clean ones that were left in the other suitcase. This made unpacking much easier when we got home since the laundry was already divided, and I didn't end up washing clothes that were still clean. We also laid out our clothes the night before when the next morning started early.

Planning days around the kids
Even though it looks like we planned a crazy number of activities on this trip, we really thought about what would make the most sense for our kiddos when we planned the timing of each activity. We made sure we were home for a long afternoon nap each day, and if the morning was extra full, we'd plan for pool time or a walk in the park, or something less physically taxing post-nap. We also tried to keep bedtimes pretty much the same or earlier since our days were so full. We also worked in some car naps for Ryan since we knew one long afternoon nap might not be enough for all of the activities we were fitting in each day. So if we started the morning hiking on the mountain, we'd take the long route back to give him a 20-30 minute snooze while we enjoyed the views from the car.

We loved getting to try new restaurants since there were SO many recommended to us by other people and Trip Advisor, but one of the best decisions we made on this trip (Matt gets all the credit for this idea) was eating our lunch in the hotel each day. There was a grocery store within walking distance of our hotel, so we got what we needed for sandwiches plus some fruit and chips, and enjoyed our lunch in our room each day before nap. Eating out takes up at least an hour of the day when you consider the walking and waiting, and expecting our kiddos to hang through that when they were tired from the morning was not going to be fair to them. Plus, making our lunches each day saved us quite a bit of money! 

One night, we also ate our dinner in so that we could put the kids down early and enjoy a date night on the patio, watching the sunset while we enjoyed our meal. I just made an easy spaghetti, so nothing too time consuming, but having that early evening for the kids and time for us once they were down was great for all of us. :)

We learned on this trip that a one-bedroom room is not ideal anymore with two kiddos. We started out in a one-bedroom and then were thankfully upgraded (for FREE!) to a two-bedroom suite. It helped for Ryan to have his own room to sleep in and for all of us to have more space to spread out. I also packed their sound machines and sheets and then used the hotel's crib and pack 'n play so we didn't have to worry about packing those extra bulky items.

I think that about covers what we learned from our trip! We both feel like next time will be easier and that traveling with two kids will continue to get easier the more we do it, so we would say to just go for it! 

Sure there will be moments where things don't go well or when grandmothers on the plane are giving your husband suggestions on what your 5 month old daughter might need to help her not cry while you calm your almost two year old who almost fell asleep on his dad's lap and then decided he absolutely needed his mom at that very moment even though she happened to be wearing his sister who was sound asleep, but hey- you'll still have great memories and get to laugh at the not-so-great ones when it's all said and done.



  1. You and I planners!!! I plan everything when we travel. We're planning our first family trip in February to visit Ted's nana and I'm already organizing and making lists in my head!! Good to know about the carrier! And what do they do with the stroller? Does it go under the plane too? I'm thinking by 11 months he won't be in the carrier - just a stroller. But we'll definitely need to check a car seat... Good tips girl! Looks like everything went smoothly! And I love the idea of dinner in the hotel room for a date night!

    1. Yes, they put the stroller underneath and have it waiting right outside the plane when you deboard. Love that you're already planning!

  2. This is a little known tip someone gave me years ago, and I love to share with new parents.

    If you are flying Southwest, when you check-in, ask how many, if any, open seats there are on the plane. If there are plenty, they will let you bring your baby car seat onto the plane with no charge, and keep the little one in it if you'd like right next to you.

    1. That is great to know! Thanks, Laurie!

  3. These are great! I'm traveling with my six month old in a few weeks for the first time! Question, what about getting bottles & milk through security? Does it have to stick to ounce rules?

    1. Good question, and no, bottles do not have to stick to the ounce rule- thank goodness! Have fun on your travels with your little one!!