I boarded my first flight as a mom when my baby was twelve weeks old. I had a stroller, a diaper bag, an Ergo, a sling, and no idea what traveling with a baby would be like. Last summer I boarded my first international flight with two children, who carried their own backpacks, and once again I had no idea if traveling with kids to Europe would be okay. Take it from someone who has traveled with kids a lot – it’s a pain. Travel with kids is expensive, everything takes twice as long, and it’s just stressful. My advice is do it anyway!
There is no substitute for sharing new places and experiences with your children. There are lessons to be learned from both the places you go and the process of getting there. You’ll make memories you just can’t make staying at home. You’ll also teach your children that traveling and stepping outside of your comfort zone can be fun.
I’ve taken about 25 flights and hundreds of road trips with kids. Yes, there have been some hard times (we won’t talk about the car trips with screaming babies), but there have been amazing times too. If we hadn’t overcome the struggles of travel with kids we wouldn’t have had the magical experiences, like snorkeling with sea turtles. It’s all worth it!
Here are FIVE tips to enjoy the journey when you travel with kids this summer or any time of the year:
1. Whatever happens, keep calm.
The old adage “if Mama isn’t happy then no one is happy” is extra true when traveling. Flight delays, long security lines, traffic, lost reservations…all of these things happen when you travel. When the adults are able to just roll with it, the kids will stay calm and relaxed too.
2. Take what you need, but don’t over-pack.
When I was traveling with babies, I always packed an extra set of clothes for the baby and an extra shirt for me just in case of spit ups or blowouts. Now that my kids are older I don’t bring an extra set of clothes, but I do pack extra earbuds and a portable charger for electronics. I make sure I have the essentials for the trip we’re taking, but don’t over-pack more luggage than we can comfortably carry.
3. Start small, then go big.
Our first family trips were to visit family and see the Oregon Coast. Each year we went a little farther away and stretched a little more. Our first time through airport security was a hot mess, but now my kids are experts at it and we zip through without delays. Practice makes perfect when you travel with kids.
4. Enjoy downtime.
One of my favorite memories of our family’s trip to Provence was our daily trip to the local patisserie for eclairs. We would eat our eclairs on a park bench and watch locals walk through town. That trip included touring ancient castles and seeing amazing sights, but we all look back fondly on our daily eclairs.
5. Don’t let one bad experience spoil the whole trip.
My son took a major fall on his scooter during our week-long camping trip in the Olympic National Park. The road rash made the trip a little harder, but if we had gone home then we would have missed beautiful Lake Crescent and hiking in the Hoh Rain Forest. We didn’t let one bad experience become the focal point of our whole trip. We dealt with the bad and kept going until we found the good.
So travel on, mamas, and travel with kids! There’s a world out there to explore – even with the kids!