I was 18 years old the first time I flew on an air plane. Shelby on the other hand was just a few months old the first time I took her on the road. We flew from Los Angeles to Reno to visit family. No one told me not to travel with a newborn and I'm not sure I would have listened if they had. I just strapped her to my chest and off we went. This was the mindset I adopted as a new parent: I wasn't going to stop going and doing, I'd just need to plan better and pack more stuff. Before Shelby celebrated her first birthday, we'd been to Utah, Nevada, Arizona, the Carolinas, Idaho and Georgia. She's always been such a great traveler, but I thinks that's mostly because she didn't know any other way. She learned from an early age how to ride in cards, fly in planes, sleep in hotels and wait in airports. Together, we learned to make it work.
Now that I have two kids, not much has changed. Coop took his first flight at 6-weeks-old, coincidentally also to Reno, and had been traveling regularly ever since.
Saying yes to traveling with my kids was one of the best decisions I ever made. We've had so many fabulous adventures and made countless memories. Here are a few tips that I've found have made traveling with kiddos a little easier.
Don't wait to go. If you think it will be easier once they're older, you;re missing out on a great opportunity to mold your little ones into the travelers you want them to be. Start traveling long before they can protest and get them used to the routine. I believe this is the number one reason my kids are comfortable on the road: they have always done it, so they're used to it and comfortable with it.
Create routines. Before we leave on a trip, my kids help me pack their "fun" bag. They get to pick the things they want to take with them. We typically wear the same types of clothing (comfortable).We go to the same kiosks to get snacks in our local airport and each kid can get a treat and a drink for the flight (we pack snacks, but they like to pick out something special at the airport shop). We go potty just before boarding. And we sit in the same pairs — Cooper + Mommy and Shelby + Daddy. We follow a routine, so the kids can normally anticipate what's coming next and just roll with the whole process.
Only take what you can carry. Both of my kids have their own rolling duffle bag. It's big enough for a week-long trip, but lightweight enough they can pull it themselves. The also have a backpack, where they put all their "fun" stuff. That's all we take: a bag to pull and a bag to wear. If I had to schlep their bags and my bags at the same time, I'd be miserable. If they can't carry it in one of those two bags, then it doesn't come along.
If you can afford it, check your luggage. One of the perks of all my business travel is I don't have to pay for checked bags — thank you "elite" status — but even if that wasn't the case, I'd check all our luggage. Dragging luggage to make connections can be a beast and fighting for overhead bin space is beyond stressful. Avoid it all if you can.
Shrug off the crappy moments. It's not always going to be perfect traveling with kids. So what. Shrug if off. Everyone gets tired. Everyone gets hungry. Everyone gets stressed. And then they have a snack, take a nap and start fresh. Hang in there, the crappy moments will pass. And the more seasoned travelers your kids become, the less often they (and you) have issues or meltdowns. Practice really does make perfect.
I can't tell you how much joy has sprung from traveling with my kiddos. Seriously, it's been such a grand adventure so far and I can't wait for all the exciting journeys yet to come.
One of my goals is to say no more and be extra thoughtful about when I say yes. "Say Yes" is a series featuring the things or experiences I'm saying yes to and why.