Over the years as we’ve flown our kids around the world to Japan, Italy, Croatia, Turkey, Mexico and everywhere in between, we’ve learned a thing or two. Here are our 6 top tips for a successful trip when traveling with kids:
BE ON TIME
Leave a little bit early for that flight, schedule that wake up call for 15 minutes earlier. You never know what last-minute obstacle (diaper change!) might hinder your progress towards getting out the door. A missed connection can have a snowball effect and unravel an entire day of your trip. Besides — in order to obtain those coveted bulkhead seats, you’ll need to arrive ahead of all those other babies!
BRING AN IPAD
Or portable DVD player. Anything that displays moving images will do. As the flight attendant on our JFK —> Tokyo leg observed our silent, smiling son she mused, “That thing is worth every penny.” Lightweight and slim, these don’t take up much room in your carry on and somehow keep your child occupied for a much longer stretch of time than any other bulkier toy could.
This one is easy. Snacks — cheerios, squeezie fruit packs, popcorn – these are all easy to pack and can keep your toddler’s in-flight tummy full. Snacks can be useful as a distraction at the outset of a mini meltdown. I usually save lollipops for bribery purposes.
You only have 2 hands – and you may be employing one of them to hold onto the little person you are in charge of – so be realistic about how much you can haul around with you. Regarding baby gear, for an infant your carseat and snap n go wheels serve a dual purpose; for a toddler, umbrella stroller is the way to go. Don’t try to bring your giant Bugaboo Cameleon on the plane, you won’t miss it.
Bring the essential items. On a beach vacation, don’t forget the sun hat and sunscreen. On a ski trip, snowsuit, boots, mittens and hat. As a precaution bring your own baby Advil from home – sure you can always buy things like this in other countries but it may be difficult to read labels in different languages. If you’re renting a car and you didn’t bring your own car seat, rent one in advance — don’t assume you’ll be able to do this on the spot. Same with cribs; request one when you make your reservation. Check your flight to make sure it’s not delayed. This can save you unnecessary hours waiting in an airport. For a small child, have a bottle or paci ready during take off and landing to help alleviate pressure in the ears. Keep your child fed and hydrated throughout your travels. Oftentimes when there is so much to do and see, mealtimes become irregular. Maybe you can survive on just a coffee for breakfast, but your child needs food. In short — since so many things are out of your control when you travel, use common sense and be prepared for a less-than-perfect situation should one arise.
RESEARCH YOUR DESTINATION
Read about where you’re going. What is there to do, what neighborhood do you want to be in, where do you want to eat. You don’t want to waste precious time AT your destination, having your first look at the guidebooks in your hotel room after you check in. That’s not to say you need to stick to a strict schedule, but having an idea of what there is to do that appeals to your family before you arrive is a timesaver and allows you to get the most out of your destination. “Prepare” at home – before our trip to Japan, my husband and I did an izakaya crawl in NY on a date night and downloaded “Big Bird in Japan” for Jake to watch.