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I stopped counting how many flights our oldest had been on when she was 2 1/2 years old and had already reached 40+ flights. Holy guacamole. Now that our oldest is nearly 9, I wish I would have kept a record for each one of my kids for all the flights they’ve been on! They’ve been to *I think* seven countries, but also not sure on that number. #mombrainisreal
Traveling with kids is challenging, exhausting, and stressful, but in my opinion is oh-so-worth-it. If you have a passion for travel but are hesitant because of your kids, let me encourage you by saying TAKE THE TRIP! On most domestic flights, depending on the airline, kiddos under two years old fly free. On international flights, also depending on the airlines, kids under two years old are a small percentage of an adult fare. In our case, it has normally been 10% of an adult fare for each infant (a child under 2 years old).
You CAN get through hard things. You WILL survive. You will make some amazing memories (and I’m sure collect some not-so-funny in the moment, but really-funny-later stories). You will need a passport for your munchkin. Here are some tips from our international travels from the past nearly nine years.
There’s nothing like having a squirmy baby in your lap for hours on end on a plane. On most of the international flights we’ve been on, there are at least two bassinets on the plane. Bassinets are a HUGE blessing. If you get one on any flight, you better thank the good Lord above. These bassinet rows have a lot of extra leg room, and the bassinets allow your baby somewhere else to be besides your lap. According to the staff at the ticketing counter, bassinets are given by age with the youngest babies having priority. The bassinets are apparently assigned on the day of the flight. In all our flights over the years, we found this to be true with one exception. (On our last international flight, a family of four with much older kids than ours were given a bassinet row that had two bassinets. They were not traveling with an infant or lap child. We were not given a bassinet. After begging and pleading with three different members of the Qantas staff, they were unhelpful, unsympathetic, and very unkind – which in our experience is VERY out of the ordinary for Qantas. We had to take matters into our own hands and go straight to the family. They were so kind and traded seats with us so our baby could have a bassinet. We are forever grateful to this sweet family!).
The long-haul flights can get to you. Our longest flight so far is 17 hours straight. 17 HOURS. With THREE kids. And one was just under 2 years old at the time. Yikes. Yay for included adult beverages on previously mentioned flight. When we travel on long flights with our kids, I do my best to book flights during their nap or sleep times. This can backfire at times (see below), but for the most part my routine babies can crash anywhere.
TRAVEL WITH OTHERS (bonus if they don’t have kids)
When we lived in Australia for seven years, Hawaii was a great stopover spot to break up the trip and help with jet lag. Hawaii also made for a great place to meet up with our family from the States, which we took advantage of! We met my mom, stepdad, and sisters in Hawaii. Having four extra sets of hands was amazing, and having built-in babysitters on holiday was pretty sweet!
Another time we traveled with people who didn’t have kids was to our friend’s wedding in Thailand. We met up with the soon to be married couple in Singapore, and got to explore the area together. We loved hanging out with our friends in another country, and it was so nice to have an extra two set of hands!
If you aren’t able to travel with anyone, some resorts offer babysitting services and/or kid programs. You can call ahead to make sure the staff is background checked. We have used resort babysitters and kid programs in the past so we could have a nice dinner out and a much needed break! Also, a tip when booking your room – we tend to go for suite style rooms that have a separate living area or bedroom(s) with doors. When your kids go to bed at 7pm, it’s nice to have them in another room!
With each trip, I would have to plan beforehand what baby gear I wanted to take. Some trips required us bringing a two seater stroller, while other trips we were able to get away with an umbrella stroller. If you bring a stroller, some airlines allow you to take your stroller all the way to the gate and check it there! This has been a blessing for us when we have hours to kill and one/two of our munchkins need to sleep in their stroller while waiting for a flight. Some trips I rented a stroller or car seat or crib from a baby rental company. For every trip from when they were infants to about 3 years old, I would bring a baby carrier or wrap. I am a big fan of wearing your baby! If we are traveling domestically and driving, I will bring along the travel booster seat/high chair. It helps if we are at a restaurant or friend’s house and they don’t own a high chair.
Want to know our favorite baby/kid travel items?! Here’s a link to our faves.
Look into the destination you are visiting to see if they have a reputable baby equipment rental company. Some resorts and hotels will have baby items to use complimentary or for a fee. Remember if you are renting a crib at your destination to bring your own crib sheets and your little one’s special sleeping comfort toy/blanket. It’s worth checking into so you can travel lighter! We were always so grateful when we would visit our families in the States and they (with the help from friends too!) had everything we needed so we didn’t have to fly with extra.
A must-have travel item for our kids are their Trunki suitcases (pictured below). We now own three – one for each kid. They’ve held up well for the 6+ years we’ve had them. The straps I’m pulling convert to over the shoulder straps so you can carry the bags when your kids want/need to walk. They are great to store the kid’s carryon items and fit well under their seats on the plane.
I understand the importance of arriving to the airport early, and I do not like being stressed about the possibility of missing a flight. However, if you have arrived to the airport at least three hours before your flight (recommended and some airlines require this for international travel) this can make for stressful times with an infant or toddler. There is only so much you can do in an airport with littles. We usually do a combination of attempting to sleep, shop, eat, walk around, and play games. If you are traveling with another adult, take advantage of this and swap out time with the munchkin(s)!
Our favorite airport so far is Changi in Singapore.
WHAT TO PACK
We use chemical-free bath & body products, so when we travel, I bring our own soap, shampoo, lotions, etc. For longer trips, I also bring a small amount of chemical-free laundry detergent. I forgot that once on a trip. Our son had a blowout and I had to wash his sheets. He ended up getting a horrible rash from the laundry detergent the hotel provided. Oops! Sorry, little man!
We are a drug-free oil-loving family, so I bring a wide range of essential oils when we travel. This helps with any issues that may come up for all of us!
Depending on the country we are visiting, I will pack just enough diapers and wipes for the flight and first couple days. Then, I purchase these items at our destination. I research the brands before our trip to see what is available. Since I am particular about the diapers and ingredients of the baby wipes, sometimes it’s better to bite the bullet and pack these for the whole trip. They can be quite bulky though! (Praise the Lord – our youngest is currently potty training and we are about to be DIAPER FREE, y’all. Diaper free after nine years. Woop woop!)
We normally don’t bring too many toys. Some of our trips I let the kids pack whatever they want to play with on the plane in their Trunki’s. Other trips I’ve limited it to just a handful of their favorite toys.
Don’t be like us in the photo below and pack your life. Haha – the photo below actually was our life packed into 21 suitcases. This was when we moved from Australia back to Texas.
GO WITH THE FLOW
As much as my kids are routine sleepers and have been sleeping 7pm – 7am since they were just a few months old, this may go out the window while traveling. The time change alone can totally mess you up. I let them rest when they need it. I encourage more naps. I still attempt to get them on a routine when we get to our destination. They are such happier kids when they are well-rested! All that said, sometimes you just have to go with the flow and throw the routine out the window. This normally results in many many many meltdowns from my kids. But, we all survive.
Sometimes I find myself getting caught up in the one million thoughts I have swirling around in my head. Did I pack everything we need? Did I get all of our travel documents? Why is my little man crying? Is this plane ever going to take off? I wish they’d just fall asleep! I hope we can check-in early. What is on the agenda for tomorrow? I hope the weather is nice. Where should we eat tonight? Why does my husband look so tired? He totally slept for 3/4 of the flight and I never fell asleep. Why does my daughter think this is a great time to have a meltdown? And on and on and on. I can forget to actually enjoy our holiday. I have to make it a point to really be present, laugh with my family, take in my surroundings, and make those memories!
I hope you feel a little more prepared for your upcoming trip with your little one. You got this!!
If you have a friend or family member traveling overseas with a infant or toddler, please share this post with them!
Tired thinking about traveling with your little one? Check out my post on why my hubby and I love taking kid-free trips.