WAYB’s Brand Adventure Chief loves hitting the road with her wee ones. They’ve gone to Europe, Asia, and Latin America, and she’s got some insider pro tips to share.
When they tell you traveling with kids is too expensive:
- Flexible Flights // Try a flexible flight search, you might be surprised where you can afford to go! If you know where you want to go, keep dates flexible for the best price. For my family, I knew we had to travel during spring break so I looked for destinations with the cheapest flights that week. I use Google flights “Explore” feature. Click “Explore destinations,” enter flexible or fixed dates and your home airport and see where you can go! We decided on Costa Rica when we saw affordable tickets and a direct flight. Double win.
When you are trip-planning:
- Balance Adventure + Chill Time // It’s easy to want to maximize a trip, after all travel is not cheap. I’ve found that one big outing a day (preferably in the morning) works best for our family. After lunch we nap or journal or read, and the kids get to lead the afternoon. Pool time? Sure. Playing foosball? Why not. Getting ice cream? YES. When my daughter was 5 we took a trip, just the two of us to Mexico City. Every morning I got to pick the outing (museums, temples, markets) and in the afternoon she picked. Her pick was ALWAYS to get ice cream and sit on a bench in the park. The solo traveler in me would have been frustrated that we were wasting time when we could be experiencing another country. The truth is between people-watching and long conversations, those afternoons in the park were the best part. And by just doing something that local families do, we truly were experiencing another culture.
- When planning the itinerary for a longer trip, I like to start with a few days to acclimate before doing any whirlwind portions of the journey. And a wise person once told me that all good vacations end on the beach, and I’ve found this nugget to be true. If region and season allow, end the trip with some chill beach vibes. Everyone will go home with a little sand in their hair, but a very relaxed attitude.
If region and season allow, end the trip on the beach. And don’t let down time seem like a waste of time. Here I am playing cards with my kids. We did this every afternoon, and to this day whenever we play cards they talk about Thailand.
When you are headed abroad:
- Passports = Priority // One person should be in charge of passports, and in my family, that’s me. If you are applying for a passport, start early: it can take 4-6 weeks and you need to apply in person for kiddos. Be sure to check your destination country’s passport requirements; many countries require a passport to be valid for another 6 months or more after entering the country, even if you are only staying a week. And if you are going solo with kiddos (or traveling without their other parent for any reason), some countries will want a notarized or otherwise certified note from a parent that isn’t traveling with you. I always keep our passports in the same pocket in my bag so I can find them quickly (and that bag never leaves my sight). I also use book flags so I can quickly see whose passport is whose; I attach these to the photo page for easy access.
Make one person in charge of passports. You can get through TSA quicker if you can quickly grab the right one and turn to the photo page using these book flags.
When your kids don’t have your last name:
Name Game // I didn’t change my name when I got married, and my kids have my husband’s last name. So we gave them two middle names: one for fun, and the other one is my last name. This may seem extra, but I wanted them to have my last name in there somewhere since I knew we’d be traveling across country borders a lot and didn’t want to get questions about not being related to my kids (this is significant for me because our family is mixed race and I knew my kids might not “look like” me to immigration officers). My husband and I both keep copies of all four passports with us (at least on our phones, usually printed on paper) so if we get asked to separate we can show that we are a unit. Oddly, we’ve only had to deal with this once, and it was in Burbank, California when a TSA agent told me that I should “fix” my name to match my kids. Go figure.
When you are tired of carrying everyone’s crap:
Let them pack… some of it. // It’s great to involve your kids in every step of trip planning. But a week with 6 stuffed animals and no underwear is less fun. Let your kids pack certain items (books and toys) and they can help pick clothes, but make sure you have the essentials covered: clothes, extra undies and pajamas, sun and rain and bug gear. Our kids got new “adventure” backpacks before our trip as a way to get them excited to schlep some of their own stuff! Worked.
When you aren’t sure if you should let them have screen-time on the plane:
- What happens on the plane, stays on the plane // Our kiddos have definitely gotten easier to fly with as they’ve gotten older. It’s them, and it’s also us, because it all comes down to screen time. We keep it pretty low at home, so initially we kept it limited on the plane too, and spent the whole ride saying “not yet.” No more. Airplanes are our kids Las Vegas. They can plug in and zone out as long as they have their seat belt on and as long as they nap on longer flights. Once we get to our destination, no screens at all (this is easier to enforce since they know they can watch shows all the way home). We don’t count on airplane TVs - not all planes have them and the announcements are always triple the volume, causing my entire family to rip our headphones off our bleeding ears every time the flight attendant announces that they’re running low on turkey club sandwiches for purchase. Instead we have the Netflix app on our phones and our one iPad, and we download shows (and a few games) ahead of time. And here’s the thing, my kids used to beg for screentime on the plane and weren’t interested in anything else. Now that it’s unlimited, my little one hands back my phone after an hour or two and asks me to read him a book.
When we stopped fighting screen time on the plane, we all relaxed a lot more. Now that it’s not forbidden, our little one watches for about an hour or two before asking to read a book with us.
When you have a long flight:
- Happy Fliers // My top tips for a happy flight are to snack often, take your kids to the bathroom before they have to go (every 90 minutes, or opportunistically when the seat belt sign is off), and for redeyes, try the center seat trick. For our family of four we book two rows: two aisle seats, two window seats. Each row gets one adult and one kid. We do this toward the back of the plane, where no one wants to sit, especially in a center seat. If someone does come take the center seat, we just switch with them. That person is happy - they win the jackpot by getting a window or aisle. If no one takes the center seat, we get a whole row to stretch out, especially important on red-eyes. For daytime flights we don’t care as much and just book seats together.
When you don’t have time to scrapbook when you get home:
- Photo As You Go // This spring break we tried two new things to capture the trip and both were a huge hit: a mini bluetooth printer and iMovie for iPhone. I brought a Polaroid Zip printer and ZINK photo sticker paper. Every day I let the kids print two photos from my phone through the app. They stuck these in their journals and wrote about the day. Since we gave up on bringing a real camera on trips, and gave up on giving our kids Polaroid cameras (every. picture. out. of. focus.) our photos are all on iPhone and having a tiny bluetooth printer was perfect. I also made a point of taking not just photos but really short videos (like 5 to 10 seconds - no one wants to watch livestream of your trip, not even you). Every time we hopped in the car, I’d take a few minutes to add and edit the latest clips in iMovie, and by the time we landed back home, our movie (video clips and stills) was done. I kept it short (7 minutes) and as we reunited with family and friends we could quickly show them our trip, and the kids loved narrating.
A Polaroid bluetooth printer creates pictures on the go, which we used as journal prompts. They also have fun borders and emojis you can add!