Erin is a mom of two and has been with Today’s Mama for ten years. She is charged with finding and sharing all of the wonderful things the web has to offer. She is particularly fond of food, photography, printables, and funny things. She writes about losing weight in her Healthy Living for Mom series, and is chronicling her attempt to master her DSLR camera with her series, Big Girl Camera.

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Tips for Traveling with Kids

The first time we traveled with our daughter, she was 18 months old. The first leg of the trip was a flight from Salt Lake City to Cleveland. We were rookies at traveling with kids.

It did not go well.

Plus, I overpacked.

A lot.

We’ve since added a baby to our traveling brood and have learned a few things along the way, and since we’re all friends here, I thought I’d share.

We’ve still not mastered the art of the 5 hour layover.

Separate kid stuff from personal electronics. 

If you’ve got two adults traveling, carry two backpacks/bags.  Use one bag for diapers/wipes, snacks, spare clothes, toys, etc. Use another for the iPad, camera, laptop, etc. There is nothing worse than trying to finesse a diaper and wipes out of bag with one hand while also worrying about dumping your iPad onto the airport bathroom floor.

Take the stroller!

I’ve heard people say to leave the stroller home. That’s crazy talk. We took ours on a Disney Cruise and it was a lifesaver. Babies can sleep, eat, and hang out in a stroller, plus they help carry around extra supplies for the big kid that may be accompanying you. If you’re hotel room is cramped, the bathtub is a great place to store a folded stroller when you’re not using it. Or, you know, showering.

See how relaxed he looks?

If you’re formula-feeding, take a thermos.

Finding hot water is usually pretty easy—any coffee shop will gladly hand it over—make your life easy and stash that hot water in a small thermos. It’s easy to mix hot and cold water to get the perfect temperature and it gives you more flexibility, so you’re not running around trying to find hot water with a screaming, hungry baby.  Plus, there’s less danger of someone (like me) getting burned while carting around a paper cup of hot water.

Plan on doing laundry. 

Packing for kids requires a Magic 8 Ball and a certificate in emergency preparedness. For longer trips (5+ days) I have found it much easier to pack less clothing and plan on doing laundry, midway through a trip. You can purchase single-load detergent packets in the travel toiletries section of the store and I just toss a few dryer sheets in a baggie. Don’t forget quarters. A pillowcase from your room is great for hauling laundry to and from the laundromat.

Take a scrub brush and small bottle of dishwashing soap. 

If you’ve got kids with bottles, sippy cups, snack containers, spoons…you’re going to want to wash them. I was completely packed for a trip when Shannon visited Utah with her baby and pulled out a bottle brush and travel container of soap to clean her bottles. It sounds obvious, but it hadn’t occurred to me until that moment and it was wonderful to be able to give cups a good scrub in my hotel room.

Take Two Plastic/Waterproof Fabric Bibs

I like Bumpkins SuperBib they have a pocket to catch crumbs, they are machine washable, but also clean up really well by running water over them in a sink. With two, you’ll always have a dry one waiting for the next meal.

Plum Dispensing Spoon by boon

This little spoon attachment was a lifesaver. I did travel with a bowl and spoon, but I relied on this spoon/baby food pouch combo when we were feeding the baby while on the go. This has turned out to be pretty handy for everyday use too, not just while traveling.

CleanWell Hand Sanitizer

I like clean hands, but I don’t like chemicals on my kids and alcohol-based santizers. I have been using CleanWell for years and I swear by the stuff. The orange-vanilla scent is wonderful. I have one in every bag…and two in my car.

Disposable Changing Pads

You are going to encounter some less than charming changing tables in your travels. Get a pack of disposable changing pads for your trip and save the nice pad that matches your diaper bag for less far-flung trips. Like to Target.

Eagle Creek Packing Cubes

I have a few of these double-sided packing cubes and I love them. They are perfect for packing small clothing like socks and undies for grownups, or toddler and baby clothing. No more wayward onsies floating around the bag.

Also check out Rachael’s post on Traveling with a Toddler and Carina’s post on Traveling with Baby. What are your secret tricks for traveling with kids?

*I wasn’t compensated by any of the brands that I mentioned. All of my recommendations came from my own experience using products that I’ve purchased myself. 

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Comments (10)

  1. Pingback: How to Take Kids Abroad - TodaysMama

  2. Lynn Smith 02/20/2012 at 11:55 pm

    Great article, Erin. I love that picture of him. I can’t believe he’s a week away from turning one. Where does the time go? GL

  3. Jenn 02/20/2012 at 1:59 pm

    My kids are older now (5 & 7) so we’re past all the baby stuff but there is still *stuff* to haul.

    As far as laundry, we pack a small pop up laundry basket. Toss it in the corner of the hotel room, and if you don’t have to do laundry partway through the trip, you can pack a suitcase full of dirties when it fills up (making the final pack easier), and if you have to head to the laundry room, its much easier to haul back the clean stuff. They fold up super flat and weigh next to nothing.

    As for doing laundry, the Purex 3-in-1 sheets go farther and travel better. You can pop just a couple in a zip lock baggie to take with you and save the rest for the next trip. Because they are flat, I nearly always travel with one at the bottom of the suitcase (my daughter gets terribly car sick and I never know when even that weekend trip is going to mean an unexpected load.)

    When my daughter outgrew (ie decided she was “too big”) for her stroller, we got a Trunki. We travel a lot, and it is a lifesaver in airports.

    The other thing I always carry in my handbag is a clear pencil case just big enough to hold a pack of mini crayola markers (washable) and a small pad of blank paper. What a lifesaver at restaurants! Mine tend to draw what they see during the day, so we come home with an extra special souvenir or two (or a dozen).

    • Erin Oltmanns 02/21/2012 at 7:03 pm

      These are great tips, Jenn, thanks! I’m going to have to track down that Purex 3-in-1 stuff…sounds like a life-saver!

  4. Monica Jamer 02/20/2012 at 12:10 pm

    I pinned this for future reference, because I know that I’ll forget!

  5. Oceanside Pediatric Dentist 02/19/2012 at 6:49 pm

    It does seem like it is necessary to make a list of things, so that it will be less likely to forget an essential travel item for your kids. I do wonder though, if travelling a lot can affect a kid’s sleeping pattern? Is it a factor?

    • Erin Oltmanns 02/21/2012 at 7:04 pm

      We always experience that adjustment period when we return home. It usually takes about 3 days for our kiddos to get back into their sleeping groove.

  6. Erica Fehrman 02/15/2012 at 1:35 pm

    Great list! Amen to disposable changing pads. If you’ve ever had to use the fold-down changing “table” inside the airplane bathroom…the one that rests on the disgusting airplane toilet…you’ll want to dispose of anything possible from that bathroom trip. Just, ew.

  7. Shannon Nelson 02/15/2012 at 10:11 am

    Yes!! I’m so happy I made the travel list…bottle brush in hand! These are great ideas…besides mine of course… 🙂

  8. Amy Allen Johnson 02/15/2012 at 9:42 am

    Dr. J looks like a pro on the go! I wish I had a trip planned, just to use these new ideas! We packed the Purex 3-in-1 for our big trip last year (detergent and fabric softener in a single sheet).