Traveling with kids is just that—relocating with your children. In other words, it’s a trip, not a vacation. Once you realize that and accept that your time away will look a little different than it did pre-kids, what are some ways to ensure more fun and less meltdowns (from them and you…)? To help, The Local Moms Network turned to Carri Willbanks who is a travel blogger with CatchCarri.com, as well as host on Comcast and segment expert for AOL and MSN. She’s also a mom of one son, Everett (19 months). We asked Carri for her tried-and-true advice, from how to survive the plane flight to her favorite kid-friendly destination.
First of all—the dreaded plane trip. How do you prepare, particularly when traveling with a baby or toddler?
Leave the stroller. Hear me out: Using a hiking backpack or something like a Toddler Tula Carrier to move my child through the airport allows me to use both my hands at all times or wheel a carry on for quicker trips. My son also enjoys the view much more, especially seeing the airplanes out the window!
Pack the preemie nipple. By using a slower flow nipple our son was able to soothe himself to sleep much easier during the flight as he had more time to finish his milk. With a faster flow nipple there are times he would guzzle the bottle without falling asleep have a hard time falling asleep on an airplane without anything to soothe him, especially through turbulence.
Pack the snacks. This goes for you and your little one. I have been on a boarded and delayed flight where I wish I had more food for both of us.
Travel with a teammate. Of course it’s doable to roll solo with kid(s) but is so much more manageable with help. If my husband isn’t able to make a trip, I am quick to book my Mom on a flight with us.
Okay, once you’ve survived the flight—what should you be looking for in a hotel? When booking a hotel, one of my first questions is if there is a pack n play available, so we don’t have to check a travel crib. We also look for a spot with a kitchen to avoid eating out three times a day. A hotel room with a bedroom closed off from the living area is a huge plus. This way, my husband and I can stay up and talk or watch a movie when our son goes to sleep around 8 p.m.
What are the biggest mistakes new parents make when traveling with a baby? Trying to do it all. The first time I traveled with my son, I booked a full itinerary. I wanted to be out the door by 8 a.m. and start checking off my must-sees in the area. It was a tough adjustment from being able to run and gun to knowing my day would be smoother with things like a nap in the middle of the day and sticking to a morning and evening activity instead of cramming in everything.
As kids grow, what is the biggest change in your travel strategy? The biggest change for us was from baby to toddler, which made travel more fun but also changed the dynamic. We started packing more substantial food and engaging toys for longer flights or layovers. As our son became older, his personality became stronger too, which also means he demands more of our attention. While I used to be able to read a chapter in a book when he was younger on a flight, he wants all of our attention most of the time.
What is a family trip you always recommend to people? My favorite family vacation so far was to Boise, Idaho. Everything about the trip was smooth, starting with getting to our downtown hotel (about 10 minutes from the airport) via a shuttle. Once settled in we were able to walk everywhere, which saved the expense of renting a car. The city is also incredibly safe, and laid out in a way that is easy to navigate even for those of us who are directionally challenged. It’s also one of, if not the cleanest city, I have been to as of late. The people are all warm and friendly, which especially comes into play with a toddler who can be a master of making a mess at a restaurant. And Boise is filled with kid friendly activities. My favorite experience in Boise was visiting the Zoo where Everett was able to feed lettuce to a giraffe. Here, he also went on his first carousel ride and laughed like I haven’t heard before while feeding goats. Other highlights were playing with things like an electricity ball at the Discovery Center of Idaho, making pizza at Flatbread Neapolitan Pizza before it crisped in the wood-fire oven, and riding along the Boise Greenbelt Trail with a Burley in town.