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Family Travel: 8 Ways Travel Changes with a Child

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In this post we explore eight areas that changed when we included a baby in our travel plans.

We checked in with other parents and they shared similar themes in their experiences. While travel is inherently personal based upon choices in length of trip, speed of travel, reason, financial ability, (dis)comfort tolerance etc., our points below are a reflection of our individual observations and validated by a broader parent community.

Planning is essential.

When traveling with children, answering the “what if’s” becomes critical to planning. You can choose not to think through these things and still have a great trip as adult-only travelers. But this is not the case when with children. As our children’s safety and comfort is top of mind, it naturally presents questions like:

  • Safety: Is this a well established route? How am I planning on getting from point A to B? Is this region of travel experiencing violence? Is this taxi licensed?
  • Inoculations: Does my child have the inoculations they need in order to travel safety to this region? If not, what kind of lead time do I need in order to make sure they receive all the correct vaccinations ahead of travel?
  • Health: Where are the closest doctors in case of emergency? What happens if my child gets sick? Who do I call if it is a non-emergency but my child is in pain? Does my insurance cover travel or do I need to purchase travel insurance?
  • Travel: What kind of ticket does my child need? Do I need to pack a car seat? How do I plan on transporting it (in-flight or checked)? What kind of seat do I need to purchase for my child? What activities can I bring for time pass?
  • Identification: Do I have a birth certificate for my child? A passport? If I share a different name than my partner, a signed letter stating they can travel with me?
  • Luggage: Do I have enough outfits in case I don’t have access to a laundry machine? How much should I pack my child? How many diapers should I bring?
  • Food & Dining: Is this restaurant child friendly? Do I have enough snacks for the flight?

As you become more familiar with your own travel style and how your children function outside of the home, you can game plan for these what-ifs. Though travel has a unique way of finding the crevice in the plans, having a sense of how you might answer these questions and beyond will create a more peaceful travel experience.

Slower travel is preferred.

In the days before children, we would spontaneously hop in the car for a long day trip or book an overnight visit days before we planned to go. These days we find ourselves planning fewer shorter trips where a meandering car ride or long travel day might be uncomfortable for a child. We take a more planned approach, choosing instead to prioritize longer trips where we remain in a single location.

Comfort is prioritized.

Our tolerance for rugged or rustic travel was much higher before children. Now we actively search for comfort as a home base and then can seek out the adventure.

Nonstop, direct flights are key to smoother travel days.

When traveling with children, reducing the amount of time spent traveling to one’s destination helps create better travel experiences (unless, of course, you are on a road trip where the journey is the destination).

  • Because flights can go through nap times, meal times and active-time, reducing the amount of in-out of flights, security checkpoints and baggage pickup will be vital in helping children get through their travel day.
  • It can be difficult for children to settle themselves with the start-stop, in-out commotion of multiple flights.
  • Leverage Google flights to determine which air carriers provide direct, non-stop flights to your destinations of choice.

Build time in for rest & meals.

  • Meals & snacks
  • Rest
    • Schedule in rest periods to avoid overtired children
    • Be reasonable about how much you can fit into a day – an 8-hour go-go-go day as an adult traveler may not be appropriate with a child

Create a travel entertainment kit that can be repurposed during the trip.

  • The dollar store is a great resource to assemble an inexpensive entertainment kit for your child.
  • This kit can be repurposed during meal-times, or parents need to rest but your child is still active.
  • Include items with different textures, colors, and functions.
  • Reduce items that require batteries, a charge or are noisy – be kind to your fellow travelers.

You can still travel lightish.

  • Having a kid in tow doesn’t necessarily automatically mean you have to pack the kitchen sink – but you do need to think about the activities you will be participating in, realistically how many outfits your child churns through in a cay, your ability to wash or launder clothes, and pack based upon that.
  • While a child might go through more outfits on a daily basis than an adult, spills on clothing can be rinsed in the sink and hung out to dry. If an item takes a full day to dry, you still don’t need to pack multiple weeks of clothing.
  • Depending on your child’s age, they may require a car seat that will mostly likely need to be checked (unless you plan to bring it on flight). Check in with you air carrier around rules and restrictions for in-flight car seats.
  • Do always bring an extra change of clothes when out and about for the day, or in-flight.

Always pack enough diapering materials for (at least) the first three days of your trip.

  • Do not assume that once you’ve arrived to your destination that you will be able to immediately access a store for diapers and wipes. Travel days can get long and having to search for these critical items starts the trip off in a stressful way.
  • Pack enough diapers and wipes to get you through the first three days of your travels, so you have time to find additional supplies that meet your needs.

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