don't forget your coffee mama

Friday, September 29, 2017

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Cameron’s Coffee. All opinions are my own.

Ahhh, the subtle art that is traveling with little ones. It definitely has it’s challenges, but with several family vacations under our belt, I’m here to tell you that with the right attitude, the right packing list and the right movies downloaded onto your iPad (I’m serious about this one), family vacations are worth the look of terror you will receive when boarding a flight with a stroller and a squirmy toddler (or two).

So, the packing. It can be really overwhelming, so I always make a list. Actually I usually make three different lists: what to carry-on, what to check, what to buy there. Because it will always seem silly to me to pay to check a bag full of diapers when you can buy diapers where you are going. Now, I realize there is always exceptions to this. Like for instance, our trip to Mexico last year.. I couldn’t risk buying diapers or formula on that trip. For many reasons like US regulations on these products and of course transportation to a store (we didn’t have any). So there are exceptions to these lists, of course. But today I’m going to focus on our trip to Florida this fall, in which we had access to a rental car and all standard resources in the United States (ie, Target).

And, so…

Carry-On List: I like to keep this list simple, without missing anything of major importance. I have learned that there is such a thing as carrying on too much, which turns into more of a hassle to deal with and lug around. First I make sure to have all important documents with me at all times. I like to keep these in my personal bag. Things like boarding passes, IDs, passports (if needed), itineraries, birth certificates (I bring copies of each one just in case), accommodation confirmations, rental car paperwork, hotel receipts, insurance cards, credit cards, cash, etc. Sounds like a lot, but this would all fit into a small envelope. And a lot of these items can be stored digitally on your phone as well. A tablet for the kids to watch movies on in flight + headphones go in my personal bag too. And a book for me because of course I’m going to have time to read a book on this three hour flight with two small children, right?! And a binkie. Next up would be a small backpack for the kids. The perk here is that Lorelai is old enough to carry her own backpack, so I fill it with things for the kids in flight (except the tablet, that stays in my bag for obvious reasons like kids like to throw their bags around). Her backpack is filled with things like books, a few small toys, their favorite stuffed animals (you know the ones, mine each cling to their own respectable bunnies), a few snacks, a small blanket, a binkiea few diapers, a pack of wipes and in Everett’s case a sippy cup (that we bring through security empty and fill once in the terminal). Now again, I have to remind you that this list looked a lot different last year when we were still in the formula-feeding stages. I’m just focusing on where we are at in this season of parenting, with both kiddos eating people food and 50% potty trained. 

We have a nifty carry-on suitcase that we pack, bring with us, and store overhead during the flight as well just in case our checked luggage is lost and/or we need more room. We have this one from amazon and it’s super handy; we love it. In this suitcase we pack a couple of outfits for each of us, phone + tablet chargers, a few extra diapers and wipes, a binkie and anything else that didn’t fit into our checked luggage since most commercial airlines allow carry-on luggage free of charge. This saves us from having to pay to check two large suitcases (usually). Or at least that is the goal.

Checked Luggage List: This mostly consists of our clothes. Admittedly, I do have a problem over-packing clothes for my kids since they tend to spill food, throw up, and poop or pee on things a lot. I’m kidding, but not really. Also because I have a weakness for kids clothes and want all of their cute stuff to come with us. The problem is that it’s all pretty cute, right? Honestly, for this trip we kept the clothes packing light since we have a washer/dryer in the house we are staying at (MAJOR BONUS for traveling with kids). Also in our checked luggage you will find pool floaties (if they can fit), sunscreen, bug spray, video baby monitor, sound machine, small blue tooth speaker (we like this one for the beach), toiletries and makeup, crib sheets, laundry strips (just because I have these on hand and they are really small, otherwise I would buy there), glasses, contact solution + case, swim diapers, a binkie (are you noticing a theme here?) and coffee beans (I wouldn’t want to risk not having my favorite blend on hand for a long week of indulgent coffee drinking at my leisure; for this trip I packed a bag of perfect-for-beach-sipping Highlander Grog).  Again, we try to keep this minimal because it isn’t free to check luggage anywhere anymore (is it?). We try to stick to one large suitcase to check, depending on the trip of course. We also gate check a stroller, which is free of charge on most commercial airlines. Be sure to look into this with your specific airline. For example, American Airlines charges a fee due to the (large) size of our stroller, we avoid them if possible. We’ve never had an issue gate checking our stroller free of charge on United or Frontier on previous trips. We use this gate check bag from amazon, but have been known to use a giant black garbage bag on occasion. Hey, you do what you gotta do, right?

And finally, a Buy There List: Since we will have a rental car and access to grocery stores and/or Target, our list of things to buy once we’ve arrived is more significant. We will buy groceries for the week (we have a full kitchen in the house we are staying in), diapers, wipes, pool floaties (if we can’t fit them in our checked luggage), cheap sand toys and a pack and play. We decided not to bring our pack and play because it is big and inconvenient and costly to do so. We researched in advance found this one for $35 available at a local Wal-Mart. Thankfully where we are staying, we are able to leave the pack and play in the storage closet for future renters, but even if you are staying somewhere that you are unable to do so, you are only out $35. Well worth the cost of having your small child contained during nap times and during the night. Plus I would much rather pay $35 than lug the pack and play on top of everything else we’ve mentioned. And of course, a lot of accommodations offer crib and pack and play rentals, so be sure to look into that before arriving as well. I’m sure that $35 could be put to much better use, like tequila, after flying all day with young children.

I’ll leave you with these takeaways.
  • Bring your favorite blend of coffee to ensure a morning on the beach with a big cuppa like this one.
  • Traveling with a spouse is recommended, if possible.
  • Sometimes not sitting together is a plus. I know this sounds crazy, but for our outbound flight we were unable to sit together, since we had to rebook last minute. By splitting the kids apart, one parent with each child, we found that they were actually very well behaved and not feeding off of each other's attitude. Interesting!
  • Carry on enough so that you don't have to pay $300 in checked luggage fees, but not so much that you can't physically carry everything you brought plus your kids. There's a fine line here.
  • We always bring a tablet. Movies you are able to download and watch offline on Netflix are are game-changer. We download those at home before we leave.
  • Don't have many expectations and try to keep your cool. Your kids won’t always be perfect during a long travel day, but really how can we expect them to be? Traveling is grueling for everyone, just realize that they will make mistakes and so will you. Arriving safely at your destination is the most important thing. Allow yourself grace.
  • Bring a lot of binkies.

As I mentioned, this list looks a lot different depending on where you are traveling to and your accommodations. I hope that our recent experiences can help someone out there searching for helpful tips and tricks and fearing an upcoming travel adventure (that was me just a few years ago). You will do fine!!