Traveling with Kids –Some More Tips
Yay the pandemic is over! OK, not quite, but we are traveling once again. I’m writing this from the friendly skies, coming back from a work trip where I also took my four-year-old along for the ride. The whole family leaves in four days for another trip to Denver, so it’s a good time to reevaluate approaches to family trip planning (here are some past posts on how to pack, organize your family travel adventures and minimize re-entry time after a long trip).
I love traveling with my kids – if you are prepared (I am reminded of this as I sit on a six-hour Air Canada flight with my 4-year-old and their entertainment system is not working). So, this post is primarily about contingency planning.
Minimizing time at the airport. The physical act of traveling can be difficult for kids. So, if you travel a lot, and it’s an option for you, I absolutely suggest a few things.
· Move mountains to check in online and get your boarding pass. If it’s a partner airline, you might need to get a different booking code than the one you have. For COVID requirements, websites say they accept pdf, jpeg, etc. BUT THEY DON’T. If your upload doesn’t work, try a different format (jpg is the most reliable for me). Do whatever you need to to have those boarding passes in hand.
· Second, unless I am staying for over a week, it’s a carry on only. I have had airlines lose my kids stuff too often (thanks Air France) and there are more variables if you need to check luggage. I say this even as someone with status that doesn’t have to wait in the longer lines. You never know. And you are more flexible if you need to hop on a flight.
· Get all the security perks. Global entry is a must. But even TSA pre is crazy these days. I went to sign up my kids for Clear the other day and learned that minors are free – and they don’t even need any biometrics. They can juts walk through with you. Do it.
Invest in good travel gear. We have a stroller that folds up easily to the size of a laptop (pockit) and car seats that do the same (wayb pico car seat). When I’m solo traveling with the kids, I find some sort of transport for them is a must. Airports are big, I’m screwed if my two-year-old sits down and decides he isn’t walking since I have my hands full. So if I have both, the travel stroller won’t do – I go with the wagon (Creative Outdoor Push Pull Wagon is the best!) and gate check.
Be prepared for the flight.
· Have many back ups for entertainment. Trust NOTHING. I download content for my kids on multiple devices – iPads, phones. I bring wireless and wired headphones (and all the adapters – really apple? Can’t you just let me plug headphones into stuff?!) and all the chargers. And multiple types of shows and movies. Of course, after asking all about power rangers, so I’ve downloaded all the seasons, my son decides once we are the flight that he wants Disney princesses. I try to cover all possible genres. For the youngest who doesn’t watch tv, we go with the giving of small toys throughout the flight. My favorites are jelly stickers, water painting and toys in a tin.
· If your kids are small, also be prepared for disasters. I bring one change of clothes for every 7 hours of flight. I have them wear clothes that are on their last leg so I can toss them if anything happens. And plenty of wet wipes since there will be food (and other substances) everywhere. Also, their own eating utensils, water bottles and some snacks. I also buy tons of food at the airport for them. I bring a few of those dog plastic bags for any dirty clothes, but also for trash since we create a lot and the cabin crew doesn’t come by often enough!
· If its an overnight flight, the needs will need to sleep. I’ve tried many different solutions, but the flyaway bed is absolutely the best (https://www.flyawaydesigns.com/). They even like to sit on it when they are away (to stretch their legs out) – bonus that you still have space to store stuff underneath. I traveled with my 2- and 4-year-old by myself to Italy with these and Ill never leave them home again.
How are you even getting to the airport?
· We often rent cars with car seats, so we don’t have to bring them (but if we do, we bring the previously mentioned wayb picos https://wayb.com/products/pico-car-seat. Also, if you do this, make sure to book them when you do the rental booking AND to ask them to be pre-installed for you.) But ubers don’t have car seats (apparently there is an option, but this has never existed where I live), car services are crazy expensive, and driving and parking often adds time and hassle to the trip (not to mention cost). So, what we do in these scenarios is find someone to drive our car to/from the airport. This often involves asking babysitters, friends, teenagers, the dog sitter, etc. anyone that lives nearby, can drive, and would be interested in making some money for an hour of their time to ride with us to the airport and then drive our car back.
With all this in place, I feel confident leaving my house 90 minutes before the departure of a domestic flight, two hours before an international one (I live 25 minutes from SFO). Even with the slow-moving kids, I have time after security to fill up waters, go to the bathroom, buy more food and still be the first to board. But in case something goes wrong – one last tip – learn where the lounges are at the airports you are flying through and whether you are eligible to use them (paid or not). I have status on some airlines, but I find overseas they need to see my card for me to prove it, so I always travel with that along with all our global entry cards, lounge passes, and COVID proof of vaccination just in case.
OK, another three hours left on this flight. I guess I have to do real work now. Happy travels!