How to Survive Traveling with a child.
That is a tall order to fill. Unfortunately for most parents, and fellow travelers, kids can be unpredictable. As a new parent I wasn’t sure how our traveling would change. That being said, I can tell you how I have managed to survive a few trips with my daughter. There were always a hiccup or two, but I figured out how to fix a little of that now.
The first trip that we took as a family was when she was two months old. We drove from Key Largo to Columbia, South Carolina. That trip takes around eleven hours normally, and with a two month old, it takes a little longer. Don’t forget that they need to be changed and fed often at that age, so it was definitely a different experience. Thankfully, she slept for a good amount of the trip.
We decided to stop just past the Florida/Georgia border for the night so that we could all get a good night’s rest and finish the trip in the afternoon instead of showing up in the middle of the night. Easier for everyone, and we weren’t sure how long she would tolerate her car seat, so we decided that it was better safe than sorry.
For the wee one, I made sure that I had milk and bottles readily available on the floorboard by my feet, so I could give her a bottle while we were still on the go. In the back of the SUV we had our bags and her pack and play for the hotel, as well as a case of diapers and wipes. In our Mitsubishi Outlander it took up most of the space but I was able to keep a space open in the back so that I would have a place to change her when we pulled over if we didn’t have a safe option inside of a rest area. (I had her small bag in the space, so all I would have to do was move it for a moment and change her and then replace it.)
Once we were at the hotel in Columbia we had an easy time as long as we tried to stay to her routine, and it was awesome. On the way home we left rather late and we knew the baby would sleep thru the night, so we decided just to drive all the way home. My husband slept the last leg so when the baby would wake up when we got home, he was able to take care of her while I tried to get a few hours of sleep. Then it was life as usual.
The second trip that we went on as a family was to Chicago. She was eleven months old, and we were travelling there on Valentine’s Day (it was actually a great flight! They gave us chocolates!). She was a lap baby on the plane, so I was nervous beyond belief about who would be sitting next to us. We had an aisle and a middle seat, so someone would be trapped by the window with a very anxious baby, who I just knew wouldn’t nap. A quick note, booking a flight for when your child will nap is a great idea. Most kids (and adults) will fall asleep to the hum of the plane, especially if it is during their routine nap time.
When we first got to our assigned seating, we were thrilled to see a dad sitting there with another lap infant. How amazing was our luck?! Apparently it wasn’t so good. The father and the lap infant ended up being told they had to move because there were only four oxygen masks in each row, so they couldn’t have two lap infants in the same row. Who knew? So the poor dad got up and moved. It ended up being good for him because he was sitting directly behind his wife and two other kids in a row about three back from ours.
A very nice lady switched with him, and she tolerated lily crawling around in the bulkhead area and using her leg as a helping hand to stand. She even read her a book. The one thing that was great about our bulkhead seat was that I was able to keep her contained while she played with toys, and we were close to the bathroom. Not normally a good thing for most, but with a kid that needed a diaper change, it made it convenient for everyone on the plane when we changed her quickly. The bulkhead gave us enough extra room that it was worth the price.
When we got off of the plane we realized that the airline had broken the wheel on her stroller. Just an FYI, airlines won’t take responsibility for damages that occur to a stroller when checked at the gate. That’s what I was told, so unfortunately for us, we were stroller less for the remainder of the trip, so sightseeing was a bit difficult for me to do by myself while my husband was in his meeting from 8am-5pm each day.
Our trip was broken up into two trips. The first was for my husband’s work, so we were staying in Chicago for him to go to meetings for three days and then we were heading to see family in Wisconsin. About a three or four hour drive depending on traffic. While we were in Chicago, we realized that having a car wasn’t necessary. Instead of fighting for a cab at the airport, we had ordered a car to come pick us up. Best idea EVER! We called them when we landed, and then they showed up, loaded our stuff (I put in her car seat) and then headed into the city. A cab ride would have cost us about $50-$60, and the SUV that came and picked us up was $55. Roughly the same amount, but we didn’t have to wait for a cab, and we had a HUGE car that fit all of our luggage and was comfortable instead of a cab seat that would barely fit me and the car seat and my husband, who is 6’2”. Would have been a tight squeeze.
Once we got to the hotel, I picked up all the stuff I had sent there. Amazing advice ahead, just wait! I knew that with my daughter I would need diapers, wipes, snacks (yogi’s, squeeze pouches, puffs etc.) diaper rash ointment, baby bath/shampoo, a take along booster seat (for the hotel), Efferdent (awesome for sanitizing pacifiers on the go), two sippy cups, her snow gear (snow jacket, pants, and boots), our snow gear, and few other items that we thought were appropriate. We also asked the hotel to set up a pack and play, and it was set up with fresh sheets when we got to our room (make sure you ask in advance that they have this option, so you can reserve one).
Doing this saved us having to pack another bag and drag it up there, as well as lugging around a pack and play. It also saved us the cost of an additional bag. Amazon was an amazing help. I made sure that the hotel would accept the packages, and made sure our name and arrival date was on the address so there wouldn’t be any mistakes.
Without a stroller I was kind of bored and a little overwhelmed, which is sad since it was my first time in Chicago. I meandered around the Shedd Aquarium with a stroller that security lent me (someone had left it there for over six months, so they let me use it). It was amazing, I was so happy that I didn't have to carry her or chase her. My daughter fell asleep as we wandered around looking at all the exhibits, and it was amazing, and only a five minute ride in a cab from my hotel. But, unfortunately it was just too difficult to try and carry a diaper bag and a kid by myself to go and sight-see in the snow. Yea, a bundled up baby was even worse than normal.
We did utilized the public transportation and walked where we needed to go (dad carried the baby) when we were both out and about. And caught rides with friends for any dinners we went to. Revolution Brewery was a fun place that we did manage to visit. Once we were done with the business portion of things for the trip, we picked up our rental car and filled it with our stuff that we had left after being in the city for four nights (I consolidated it so there weren’t so many boxes). Then we headed out for Richland Center, in Wisconsin.
Since we had everything we needed, we didn’t have to worry about extra items when we got there. We visited with family, and the after four nights we went to the Wisconsin Dells for an evening. We packed up anything that we didn’t want to drag back with us (snow gear etc.) and shipped it back to Florida. We hung out at the Wilderness Lodge at the Dells, and had a little fun in the sun, in Wisconsin in February. The baby wasn’t a huge fan of the water park at her age, but she splashed for a little while and then got tired. My husband took advantage of the slides and played while I packed up our stuff and got her ready to go to the room. No matter how old they are, they still can act like children themselves sometimes. Especially when they are at water parks apparently.
The next day we drove back to Chicago, and returned our car. Then we had a quiet evening and hung out at our hotel. The next morning we got up, checked out and got in our hired car and took the trip to the airport, got on the plane (we had a row to ourselves) and made our way back home.
The third trip was right after she turned two, and I had my daughter and a friend’s daughter (a ten year old) by myself on a trip to Gatlinburg, TN for a wedding. The baby was a bit fussy because she had an ear infection, and the ten year old had a sinus cold, so I was trying to appease them because their ears were bothering them. The ten year old chewed gum, and my daughter had her pacifier to try and keep their ears cleared, but it was a trying time for sure.
Once we were in Gatlinburg we had a blast. I rented a car and we drove around to visit all the sights. We bought fudge, enjoyed the scenery, and met up with some friends. We stayed at Wilderness at the Smokies and the kids enjoyed the water parks once they started feeling better. We enjoyed a BEAUTIFUL wedding and then made our way back home two days later. The quick trip was a little trying for the little one, especially with the time change, but she stayed on her normal schedule which just meant that we were in the hotel early and up early, so I was the only one who really suffered.
Right now I am planning a trip to Prague for Christmas. I will not only have my daughter, who will be two and a half when we travel, but also my step sons who are nine and ten. This is going to be an interesting trip since it is such a long flight (TEN hours for the first the first leg of the trip the 2.5 hour layover in Frankfurt and then an hour or so flight from Frankfurt to Prague). The longest flight that any of the kids have ever been on was about a 3 hour flight or so.
It is also amusing to me, that when I just pulled up my flight info so that I would have the details to write this that I had in LARGE print that my flights have been canceled/changed due to a timetable change. No idea what this means, but I can tell you what it just did to my flights. I was originally scheduled to take off at 5PM and land in Prague at 10:25 in the morning on Lufthansa airlines with a Premium economy seat. Yea, I paid more, remember, my husband isn’t a small guy.
My new flights are on Swiss International Air Lines, and they depart at 8PM and I would go to Zurich, instead of Munich for my layover, and then finally land in Prague at 2:45 PM, and they have us in Economy seating. To make matters worse, they never even told me this. I only found out because I went on the website to get the flight times to share with you all. Kind of disappointed now, and I haven’t even got on the planes. I am going to have to spend some time calling to fix.
Moving on…….. Instead of a traditional hotel for this trip, since there are so many of us, we rented an apartment in the city. It looks Amazing! It is a 5 Bedroom, 3 Bathroom loft apartment that can sleep up to 14. The best part about it is that it is right off of the Old Square. Approximate fifty steps. With all of the Christmas festivities going on that time of year, we can walk out and be right in the middle of the action. How cool is that?
My only concerns are that staying there for seven days might be a long time to keep the kids entertained with cold weather. Thankfully the apartment has Wi-Fi and a home entertainment center, so I can always pop in a movie if they need some inside time. It also has a wash machine, and dishwasher, as well as two kitchens (it use to be two apartments that are now connected). So, no matter what we can entertain and make food when places are closed for Christmas, and or when our three bottomless pits (the kids) want a snack.
Every trip will have a hiccup, and I really hope this airline thing will be the last one for our upcoming trip, but then again, who knows. When life gives you lemons……
Hope this helps shed some light on how I have survived (just barely) traveling with my daughter(and our boys). I hope it can help you! Feel free to reach out if you have any suggestions for posts from one of our writers.
Until then… Travel for you.