Spring break and summer vacations are right around the corner, and we know there’s a lot of planning: where to go, driving versus flying, where to stay, should you rent a car, how long should the trip be, etc. The last thing you should have to worry about is packing.
Packing can already be overwhelming when you’re doing it just for yourself. It’s so easy to think you’ll need that extra sweater or those shoes you haven’t worn in two years. Now add little ones to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a humdinger. So we asked Katy Miller, Frisco mom of two and wife to commercial pilot of 15 years, for her thoughts on making it through your vacations unscathed.
The main thing Miller wants you to remember is never apologize for your child being on a plane or train. “They are kids, and often aren’t the worst behaved,” she explains. “Kids are allowed to be on flights too.”
When it comes to what to pack, Miller says her must-haves for any trip with the kiddos are her car seat bag and a backpack. “The car seat [bag] is basically a free suitcase,” she says. “When my kids were little, I put the diapers, wipes and snacks in there so I didn’t have to worry about those essential items when we arrived. Now it’s filled with jackets for winter travel, shoes, books for bedtime or even bike helmets.”
One car seat bag she recommends is by Brica. It has a separate compartment to store essentials, apart from the car seat, so you don’t have to take everything out to get to the actual seat.
- An easy snap and go stroller
- Diaper bag with diapers (one per hour of travel time)
- Wipes with travel lid
- Two to three toys
- Snacks (“Squeeze pouches work well, or individually packed snacks.”)
- A large Ziploc baggy with a change of clothes for baby and mama
- A refillable water bottle (“Good for hydration and formula.”)
If you’re traveling with toddlers or slightly older kids, Miller recommends:
- The car seat bag (“For anything bulky.”)
- Backpacks for everyone
- Two to three favorite toys
- A book (“Let them pick one to two of their favorites for the plane and bedtime at your destination.”)
- A spare change of clothes
- Easy travel activities, such as no-mess coloring, water pens or travel magnet games
A few games she suggests include the LiKee Wooden Pattern Blocks, the eight-piece Tegu Pocket Pouch Magnetic Wooden Block Set, Melissa & Doug Water Wow Series, Melissa & Doug On the Go Scratch Art pads and Mix and Match Magnetic Tin Robots.
If you don’t want to bring items that involve a lot of pieces, Miller says you may want to take a tablet. “Traveling with kids is a survival; keep them happy [in this] situation.”
Does your child like music? Miller recommends the KidzGear Wired Headphones or iJoy Rechargeable Wireless Headphones if using a tablet. “We end up taking the KidzGear mostly because they are comfortable, inexpensive and work for tablets and airplane entertainment,” she explains.
And what about you, mom? What should you have in your bag? Other than all of your necessities, Miller recommends carrying all the extra snacks. “When they are younger, I put a couple snacks in their backpacks and carry a Ziploc full of the extras. It’s great for your destination too.”
Also, consider throwing in a few surprise activities, such as items that you can find at a dollar store or in the dollar section of Target.
Lastly, pack the headphone splitter. Miller suggests the Belkin Speaker and Headphone splitter. “[It] helps when two kids want to watch the same thing on the tablet.” (And saves mom’s sanity in the process.)
But what about checking your items versus carry-on? How do you know what you’ll really need on the plane?
For Miller, she says it’s all about personal preference. “I’ve never used a car seat on a plane … [it] depends on your child. I was usually alone and didn’t want to try to manage a car seat and a baby. I check mine in my trusty car seat bag at the ticket counter. The less you have to carry and manage through the airport, the better!”
And for strollers? “When I travelled with a stroller, I gate checked it.” (As opposed to checking it with the ticket agents before going through security.) “I could put baby in there for a baby carrier break, or use it to hold the diaper bag while I carried the baby. I like options, because—kids.”
We hear you loud and clear, mama.
Do you have any travel tips that you think are useful when traveling with kids? Tell us. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy of iStock.