My husband just came back from traveling with our 2 year old daughter...BY THEMSELVES! I'll be honest, I was having a small panic attack because my daughter has traveled countless times with me since she was 4 weeks old, but this was the first time she was traveling alone with daddy...Ay Dios Mio!
Overall, they did pretty well considering it was an east coast to west coast trip, though my husband did mention he'd do a couple of things differently, claro, como no me hizo caso (did not listen to me). I thought since I have traveled extensively for business and pleasure by myself and with my daughter that I would share with you some tips on how to travel inteligentemente.
1)Travel early in the morning and if possible select a direct flight, train, or bus route.
You want to make the overall travel time as short as possible for you and your child. The longer the travel time the more tired your child will be and the crankier. There is no guarantee that they will sleep on the flight so don't use that as a reason to make two extra pit stops to save $40. If you travel on an early flight odds are that your child will be in a better mood and thus your fellow passengers more forgiving. If you find yourself on a flight in the middle of the night after an already long day, be prepared FOR TODO from your child to other passengers giving you dirty looks, eye rolls, and in some cases telling you to "control your child!" Set yourself up for a win situation.
2) Sign them up to earn miles or rewards, they're not too young.
Most airlines will allow your child to start earning miles after 2 years old. Depending on the airline, you can either sign them up online or you may have to call and speak to a representative. Who knows, maybe by the time they're 18 they can become million milers and take YOU on a luxury vacation!
3) Tell your child a couple of days before you travel.
Children are creatures of habit. Any change is disruptive in their lives. Letting them know ahead of time prepares them mentally. Telling them too far in advance can create unnecessary stress as is waiting for the day of.
4) Make or use a checklist.
I am sharing with you my personal travel checklist. Every time I travel I print one out and go down the list. Every trip is different and sometimes I'll need additional items or less items to pack. I use this as a general guide for my child and me, sorry esposo, I have enough to deal with already so you worry about your own underwear!
If you want the actual excel file to modify go ahead and down load it here: https://www.milegasi.com/products/free-mom-and-toddler-travel-checklist
5) How to pack.
First, I pack only knits for my daughter and me. I can't deal with having to iron on a trip, unless it's a wedding that I'm attending. I roll everything, as I can fit alot more items and the wrinkles are significantly less. I use alot of ziplock bags for small items (jewelry, hair accessories, toiletries, child socks, etc). If space is limited (usually on way back from a trip), I stuff all these small ziplock backs into my shoes to make better use of space.
6) Less is more, if you know how to coordinate.
You don't want to over pack or over stuff your bag on your way to your destination unless you want a guarantee that you'll either pay extra in hefty fees, buy another suitcase, or be one of those people at the airport pulling stuff out of their bags or simply leaving them behind. Pack smart.
Pick solid bottoms that can coordinate with multiple style tops. Pick items that you can dress up or dress down by adding a simple accessory. If you pack your luggage full of denim jeans, it will be heavy, too casual and will limit your outfit looks. Lay out your wardrobe so it tells a color story and that all the pieces can work together and can be interchanged easily. Select no more than 3 pairs of shoes. I usually pack a pair of sneakers, a pair of business casual shoes, and a dressier sandal. Obviously, depending on your destination you'll make modifications, but don't pack a single pair of shoes for 1 outfit.
Do the same for your child.
7) At the airport or train station.
These are the pieces that I always travel with:
- 1 suitcase or luggage with wheels that has everything for my daughter and me. (4 way wheels are best)
- 1 backpack with laptop compartment
- 1 small canvas bag (goes INSIDE backpack)
- 1 umbrella stroller (must have a strap to attach to suitcase or for your shoulder)
Some notes on what to avoid IF POSSIBLE:
- Traveling with a car seat. If it's a family trip then your partner can give you a hand. I've traveling alone with my daughter and have had to carry a car seat, pain in the ya tu sabes! (you know). Some cities offer rentals with car seats or car services with car seats. Do your homework ahead of time and see what your options are. If you must travel with a car seat, there are some cool gadgets out there that make your life easier.
- Child luggage or backpacks. THEY love it...for the first 10 minutes. Then you're stuck lugging their crap along with your crap. Instead, you can pack a small canvas bag like the one below (coming soon). I usually include 2 pullups or change of underwear, 1 coloring book, 2 WASHABLE markers, 2 crayons, some stickers, mini Ipad, travel size wipes, headphones (for both of us), 1 magazine for me, hand sanitizer, sippy cup, snacks. I put this bag INSIDE my backpack and when we get to our seats, I put the heavy backpack with laptop, extra diapers, clothes, toys, etc. in the overhead compartment and PULL THE CANVAS BAG OUT and put in under my feet in front of me. If we have to go to the bathroom, get a quick snack, etc, I can just reach down and grab what I need.
- Bulky strollers. I travel with an umbrella stroller that I break down and strap to my suitcase as soon as I get to the airport. I don't use it at the airport until AFTER I check my luggage as I cannot push a stroller and a suitcase at the same time. If you're not traveling alone and you have the extra help then a bigger stroller may be ok, otherwise less is more.
- Leave the electronics for LAST RESORT. Not all airplanes are equipped with built in TV screens. So if you happen to be on one of those flights resort to electronics LAST. Try to entertain them with coloring, games, books, etc for as long as you possibly can. If you pull out the electronics from the get go, once they get bored, they're REALLY going to get bored if you pull out a book or something non techy and then it's time bomb waiting to explode.
Airports and train stations are big and kids can easily get lost. You want to make sure that whether you are traveling with your family or alone with your child, that you have one free hand at all times for your child. It is better to lose a piece of luggage than a child!
8) Window or aisle seat?
So my philosophy is younger child middle seat and parent aisle, older child window seat and parent middle seat.
My daughter is almost 2.5 and we do middle and aisle. If she has a meltdown I can get up. If she has to go to the bathroom I can get up. If she gets too fidgety I can get up. Sitting still for long periods of time is VERY HARD for young kids. As they get older, they are able to focus longer, control their bladders more, and thus a window seat is ok.
YOU MADE IT TO YOUR DESTINATION! NOW WHAT?
Felicitaciones, you're a smarter traveler. Enjoy! Try to relax Mamá, you deserve it.