My family lived between Montreal, New York, and a few cities in Florida before we settled back in New York so, we travelled by plane quite a bit. My kids are 6 and 3 and they have almost visited as many countries as my husband and I. In a process, I realized a few things that made a huge difference in our travels overseas and I wanted to share it with parents who plan to travel.
- Always pack light: Travelling light saves us money as most airlines now charge for checked bag or heavy carry on. Besides that, when we travel light, it’s easy to opt for public transportation that often gives us an experience of someone who lives in a city and saves us money (Ubers though often beat the price of regular car service or taxi so if you have an application, my advice is to check and compare). We should absolutely bring all the necessities but eliminate the extras because it’s also nice to be able to buy something you really love and bring it home and people who pack tight usually end up having to buy and check extra bags. If you travel on a budget, this will be both stressful and costly.
- Invest in direct flights: When I travelled alone, having a connecting flight or a lay over was never a problem. Most adults can have a glass of wine, read or kill a few hours before getting on a next flight and have flexibility to reset if there is a flight change. When you are with small kids, this is a huge inconvenience and I think it’s worth the expense when buying a ticket and avoiding having any chance of possibly missing the next flight. What we love to do instead is to stay in the city we would normally have a lay-over in and give ourselves a day or so to do a proper visit. Our time is far more valuable than extra cost of flying directly.
- Travel late at night: We made the mistake once to fly early in the evening thinking kids would sleep. If the flight is under 10 hours, consider that it would take kids a little bit of time to get settled and fall asleep. What was far more effective for us was to arrive at the airport early for a late-night flight. We would have dinner at the airport, take time getting through security, let kids run around and get tired and then settle them to sleep even before we board the flight. It worked.
- Perks of traveling with kids every parent should know about: When you travel with kids, you are allowed to bring in more liquid than 100ml due to children’s special needs, milk, formula etc. What you must do, however, is present it to the security and allow more time for them to check it. For those of you who travel with a baby under 2 years old, not only that you can avoid paying ticket by choosing to buy “infant in a lap” option but you can call the airline for overseas flights and request a free bassinet so baby can sleep.
- Pick a hotel/airbnb that offers free breakfast: The best stays we ever had were those that offered free coffee and breakfast in a morning. It’s not just about saving money, which is a nice, it’s that knowing you can have a breakfast first thing in the morning and offer choices to your kids allows you to wake up at peace and have some peaceful morning time before the day begins, you go on to explore or travel further. We are a family of 4 so sometimes we even go to breakfast separately so we can each have more peace starting our day.
- Find the nearest grocery: We always look for places with kitchenette or at least small fridge as that allows us to avoid restaurants with small kids. But even in places that didn’t have a way to store food, we would always find the nearest grocery store and stock up on snacks, water, juice, wine if you wish, and fruits to avoid having to purchase things on the go. Being prepared saves us money but also reduces potential stress of having to find things in areas where that is not likely.
- Check out all the FREE things in that city and be sure to see if they are kids friendly. We get to see the best of the city when we walk around, use public transportation, or even better walk from place to place. You will really get to see how people live and get to play with the natives in a way you cannot when you go from hotel to event to restaurant and back to hotel
- Be willing to change things last minute: Parenting is not always easy but some things are best to be flexible with. That said, we always have things in our calendar that are “sacred” and we don’t consider missing out on those. What helps for motivation often is buying tickets in advance and allowing plenty of time before and after so you don’t feel like you have a packed schedule while on vacation.
- Always purchase travel insurance – may you never need it. Contrary to what I expected, insurance is relatively inexpensive and it gives you freedom to let your kids be and not freak out around the smallest things or mishaps that could happen while away.
- Take lots of pictures: Time goes fast and it’s always powerful to reflect back on things that you may have not been truly present to because you were accountable for making sure kids were ok. So go out of the way to snap pictures because they will remind you of the good times and be a memory you can cherish for years to come.
Hope that this is helpful. Traveling with kids is not always easy but I find it’s worth it and while I sometimes even complain or wish I can change the duration of my travels or the way we did it, I never ever regret actually doing it. Bon voyage to all!