One question I’m often asked is how with 2 young kids I manage to travel so often? Today, I am going to reveal my process. The secret of traveling with young children, why travel does not have to stop with child birth.
We Travel a lot with Children
For those that have been following the blog for a while you know my children have significant travel experience. Even if we limit the travel to the posts on this blog you can pinpoint trips as far north as Acadia in Maine, a trip to Barcelona, a trip to Martinique, and a cruise. This only begins to scratch the surface of what we do with our kids.
The longest trip my oldest son has been on was 13 hours in the air plus a layover (Hawaii). I’d estimate we do at least two 5-6 hour flights a year. We also do at least one to two 12 hour car trips a year. This is average per year since birth. Keep in mind my children are 3 and 6. So what gives? Am I nuts?
Fear of Traveling with Children
The common fear parents have when traveling with kids is they will completely melt down. You’ll end up with the kid on the plane that screams his head off causing every other person in attendance to curse your name under their breath. Now every kid is different and there are no guarantees, but I’ve found two keys to ensuring my kids can travel.
Experience is Key
The first key is experience. Have you ever noticed the more often you do something the smoother it goes? Well, the same with air travel. The more often you do it the more it becomes routine. The same thing happens for your children. The first few times they fly they are going to be scared. They don’t know what is happening and they might very well be that kid screaming his head off. But honestly as they get more familiar with travel it will become routine. At that point their behavior will start to blend with their non airline behavior for better or worse.
The Travel Sweet Spot for Children
So how do you get over the short term kid screaming timeframe? Well, honestly I’ve found there is a bit of a sweet spot here. Children over about 3 months and under about 1 year old are typically not yet mobile or entirely aware of their surroundings. As such they are easier to fly with. Between 1-3 when you still need to strap them in is about the worst time to start traveling. They are too young to be held captive by screen time (in-flight movies) and too old to want to sit still. So the key to this experience thing is to start young. Our first trip with our youngest was at 3 months, a flight to Miami. Our first flight with our 6 year old was to the Bahamas at 9 months. Both were some of the easiest flights we’ve taken with the kids.
Try Travel First with Family
The second key is proper planning. Young children do present a risk. You don’t necessarily know how they will react. As such I would always recommend a trial run with family or friends to help. Go somewhere near by and see if you actually bring everything you need. This allows you to adjust what you bring on your next trip. Then again buying too much can also be an issue. For example you want to pack diapers/wipes for at least 2x what you expect for the journey, however you don’t necessarily need to bring them all with you. Don’t forget, they have babies/kids everywhere so you’ll be able to find diapers/wipes in your destinations no need to transport a bulk package of diapers.
Plan, Plan, Plan and Plan Some More
Don’t just plan what you bring, plan your itinerary. Kids are creatures of habit. Usually having some sort of bed time routine and characteristics help shuttle them off to bed. Making that portable and flexible to adapt to your travel will help. Having smaller versions of their favorite stuffed animal or blanket, a noise maker for sleeping, and just planning the time to follow your normal routine are key.
You also need to plan for common issues. For example You might have difficulty popping their ear drums while on a plane. At very young ages a pacifier, bottle, or nursing on the plane will encourage ear popping. At older ages, a lollipop will suffice. It doesn’t end there though. Snacks, activities, and even changes of clothes, having all of that laid out before you ever step on the plane is also key. A key note: include both a change of clothes for your child, and you on your carry-on. Air pressure changes can result in wacky GI reactions and you may be a target.
How effective is this? Well, in the last 6 years our only major problems with air travel have been with customs at the end of redeyes. The kids melt down during customs. We’ve found having a stroller along to strap kids in during this period is invaluable. Honestly beyond that we usually use the stroller in the airports only to carry car seats since something like an ergo makes for quick passage through an airport. We’re currently taking this process further by finalizing the last child’s global entry application. (Again planning ahead). An important note, for global entry to work all members of your party need it, including any children.
For car travel our main problems were mostly night time travel when our child was rear facing. Other cars headlights would wake up our children. Again thinking ahead we provided ways to shield our sons eyes from upcoming cars until we forward faced him. These days there are no problems. It still comes down to planing. Plan more frequent stops, stop at places where the kids can run around while you eat (they can always eat in the car). Choose places where they can get the wiggles out while you stop and then nap while you drive.
As kids get older let them get involved to ensure they pack their favorite toys and outfits. That way they have what they want. But err on the side of less is more.
All Children are Different
Will all kids be this easy? Probably not, every child is different. But just as your child’s reactions to long flights and hours in the car over time, so will your ability to respond to his/her needs around that time. We are definitely more prepared for issues mid flight or drive then we were when our parenting adventure started.
Children Shouldn’t Stop Your Life, but Add to It
What does this have to do with personal finance you ask? Well at it’s most basic personal finance is about the pursuit of happiness. Spending more time in a relatively happier state then not, with money as an enabler. Some like myself enjoy travel, but society seems to tell us that with kids our travel must stop until they are older. Well I’m here to tell you children don’t need to be a hinderance to your travel enjoyment. Travel does not need to stop at child birth, you can travel with young children.
Do you have young children you travel with?