Make Family Travel a Breeze
Make Your Suitcases Stand Out from the Crowd
You can pick up neon or vibrant colored suitcase belts that click lock around your suitcases at many big box shops, travel stores, and even discount shops. It's one of the easiest ways to ensure your suitcase stands out at baggage claim. It also makes it harder for someone to accidentally take your dark colored suitcase (70% off all suitcases are black). Don't have time to pick up a suitcase belt? Tie a big colorful ribbon from your gift-wrap stash around your suitcase handle. For kids, consider an adorable animal-themed suitcase that can be spotted anywhere like this one from Skip Hop.
Check the Weather for Your Destination
Take it from someone who encountered thunderstorms on what was supposed to be my family's beach day during our last trip, you should check the weather for your destination the day before you leave. This way you will be prepared in case the forecast has changed since you first booked. You will want to pack a coat if there will be a cool and rainy day during your trip, even if you are going to Florida in August. Of course, most destinations have shopping available if you forget something or need different clothing but a quick check of the forecast before you leave can save you time and money.
Pack Clothes that Mix and Match
If you're not sure if you'll need it, you probably won't. So skip packing it. Go with clothes that are good mix and match pieces like leggings, jeans, and comfy shirts. Dark colors are easier to wear more than once. For kids, stick with neutral bottoms so that they can easily change shirts if they get a little dirty.
Packing for Kids
Grab a pack of large food storage bags for kids' outfits and pack a full outfit in each bag for each day (shirt, pants, socks, underpants, etc.). It makes packing easier, keeps kids' small clothing pieces together, and makes dressing them each day a breeze. For more than one child, just label each bag with the child's name with a Sharpie. You can also give the kids some control by allowing them to pick a bag each day.
If the kids are old enough, give each of them their own small backpack containing snacks, toys, chapstick, a book/coloring book, sunglasses, and other things they might need. It will give them a sense of responsibility and ensure that they are not asking mom and dad for something every five minutes. It will also help lighten your load! Try a cute backpack like the Environmental Kids Custom Backpack from Urbana Sacs that even has an adorable matching, smaller lunchbag. One of the things that makes this ideal for travel is that it can expand, it's washable, and has pockets to keep your little one organized.
Pack a Carry-on with Necessities
One of the most important travel tips I can share is to pack a carry-on bag, not just with necessities like medications and an extra set of clothes in case your luggage gets lost, but a few extra toys, coloring books/crayons, books for your kids in case a long layover occurs unexpectedly. Also, pack a few snacks for you and your kids. An airplane-sized pack of pretzels doesn't go very far and is not very healthy. Snacks will keep kids busy on a flight. Toss an empty sippy cup in your bag if you have a young child. You can fill it once you're through security or you can have a flight attendant fill it with milk or water on the flight. Make it fun for your child by using a suitcase designed just for kids, like the adorable monkey carry-on on wheels by Skip Hop.
Important Odds and Ends
There are a few other odds and ends that will help make the trip a little easier and ensure you are more prepared. Tuck a power strip in your suitcase so you have access to multiple outlets at your destination for charging camera batteries, tablets, and phones. Also throw in different sized plastic storage bags. They are perfect for holding small toys like Legos but are also great for wet, soiled clothes and on-the-go food. Packets of Pedialyte are also great to take along for any family member in the event someone gets sick or dehydrated. Last but not least, toss in a roll of duct tape. Duct tape comes in handy for more uses than you'd ever imagine. You can use it for everything from taping up a ripped suitcase to babyproofing outlets in a hotel room.
Car Accessories for Kids
Babies need their infant seats no matter what, but older kids have a couple of options to help make car travel easier. MyBuckleMate helps keeps back seat buckles propped up and easy to reach so buckling up is always a snap! No more buckles flopping around, falling into seat pockets, or getting wedged under booster seats so kids can buckle themselves in with no wait to hit the road. Another hack for travel with older kids is the Bubble Bum inflatable booster. We use these when we are traveling somewhere that will require car travel at our destination since they are easy to pack and super-easy to use.
Cozy in the Car
Long trips can mean naps on-the-go for kids. Try a travel pillow like the Sneck that attaches to the headrest rather than going around the child's neck. I also like to pack a light muslin blanket that my kids can use to get cozy, even if it's warm.
Be Prepared for Your Destination … and the Sun
If your kids are like mine, they will lose sunglasses. For this reason, I love Babiators because they will replace your pair if your child loses theirs. Although I try to keep my kids covered in sunscreen it's hard to be sure they are staying covered, especially when they are going in and out of the water. I look for swimsuits and hats that provide UV protection, like those from Snapperock. I also learned the hard way to pack sturdy water shoes like Keens that are comfortable for walking and can withstand water, sand, mud, and anything else your kids (or you) can throw at them.
Pack Old and New Toys
When hitting the road (or the air) toys are a must. For long trips, I pack a couple of small favorites and some new toys as well. For older kids, a small, completely different toy like the Ozobot is a great choice for a surprise toy to pull out when boredom sets in and can be used on a cookie sheet in the car or at your destination. Or go with the theme of summer and get something like an Ariel doll – or even better a swimming Ariel doll that can go in the pool (or bath). Crayons, both regular and the kind you can use to draw on windows, are always a great choice. Again, a rimmed cookie sheet can be used to provide a play surface that will help prevent toys and crayons from rolling off. HABA's Color Pie game is a fantastic choice, not just because it is small but because it offers many different ways of playing ensuring kids won't get bored playing with the same toy during your trip.
Sleeping on the Go
Worried about your little one sleeping on the go? My family found a great solution with DockATot. Use it for your child to sleep in at home, either on the floor or on top of a bed, then simply fold it up and bring it with you so that your child is always sleeping in a familiar environment. It can be used up to 36 months, ensuring years of comfy sleeping at home and on the go.
More Sleeping Tips
A couple of other things that can help with sleeping are a noise machine and projection alarm clock. For the best success, use them for at least a few days before you travel so that they will remind your little one of home while on the road. The Big Red Rooster Sound Machine has six baby-friendly sounds, from heartbeat and lullaby to white noise and ocean sounds. You may end up in some noisy places and a sound machine to drown out the racket may be just what everyone needs to get a good night's sleep. Another trick I've discovered to help little ones sleep better on the road is a small alarm clock that projects pictures on the ceiling like this Rocket Ship Projection Alarm Clock with a top that swivels to project a picture anywhere in the room. Kids' cribs and beds can be placed in some unusual configurations while traveling and having the ability to project some familiar pictures when it's time to sleep can be a lifesaver.
These are small, pack well, and pack a big punch.
Don't Skimp on the Stroller
I learned the hard way not to skimp on a stroller when while on the road. A small stroller may seem like a good idea to save space, but when you have a little one who will be spending a lot of time in their stroller, or even taking naps in it, comfort is key. I am in love with the Cybex Priam that got my stroller-hating baby to enjoy his ride and even ask to stay in his stroller when it was time to take him out. Although he can't tell me yet, I think he loves that the Priam has him sitting higher than average strollers so that he can see more of the world, not just when we are traveling but also when out-and-about at home.
He also likes that the stroller has big wheels that can handle all terrain, even sand, that gives him a smooth ride. It also reclines fully flat for naps and has a reversible seat so that I can turn him around when he gets overwhelmed. I like that it has a big basket, has a stylish three-color design that really helps the stroller stand out, folds flat and quickly which is essential for being on the road and is super-easy to push. As a bonus, the high height of the seat means that it can double as a high-chair if you inadvertently choose a restaurant that doesn't have any.
Pair it (or any stroller) with a Buggy Tech Tote with room for a phone, small toys, and cups for mom and child for easy strolling.
Car Seat Tips
As a mom of four, I know the problems that traveling with little ones who need car seats or boosters can be. Making a smart choice about your car seats will save you lots of trouble down the road.
For infants, an ultra-light car-seat like the Nuna PIPA, which can be paired with the light but extremely versatile PEPP stroller, can be a lifesaver by cutting down on weight and bulk. Toddlers and kids in car seats will do will with the Diono Radian rXT that makes travel easier with a design that allows the bottom to fold up for travel and storage and even has straps that can be used to turn it into a backpack for getting through the airport or around a new town easily. Bigger kids are well-off using a booster seat that can be high-back or seat only, like the Cybex Solution Q2-Fix booster that has a removable back that can be used when possible or removed when space or weight constraints mean a seat-only makes more sense.
Books, books, books!
When all else fails, books are the answer to easier travel for all ages, from babies on up. There is no shortage of great, new books to choose from this summer. Try the adorable Maggi and Milo books for great adventures about a young girl and her awesome best friend/dog Milo, read the original BFG (before or after seeing the movie), find a great picture book with a strong message about being small in Poor Little Guy, or go exploring with the fun read-aloud A Dark, Dark Cave. Vehicle lovers will love With Any Luck I'll Drive a Truck and Blue Boat. Budding scientists should check out Ada Twist, Scientist.
Whatever you do and wherever you go this summer, be sure to relax, have fun, and make memories!
How do you make family travel a breeze?