My daughter flew twenty-six times, including internationally, before she turned three years old – true story. We don’t plan on slowing down any time soon, so needless to say, I have mastered the art of traveling with children. As usual, you can find a printable at the end of this post: a traveling to-do list.
There are certain items that you use only when you travel such as airplane pillows and travel hygiene items (for information on what to pack when traveling with little ones, see this post). I also keep copies of the following in my suitcase at all times: emergency contact information, government-issued IDs, health insurance cards, credit cards. You can also keep an extra copy of your packing list in your suitcase to make sure you don’t forget anything when you’re packing up to return home. If you have an extra phone charger that you don’t use often, you can keep that in the suitcase as well. Keeping these items in your suitcase, even when not traveling, makes packing easier.
Make sure you know your exact travel plan at least two weeks ahead of time. You should know how you’re getting to the airport, how you’re getting from the airport to the place you’re staying in your destination city, how you’re getting back to the airport in your destination city, and how you’re getting from the airport back home. Look into cabs, rides from friends, airport shuttles, renting a car, and parking at your home airport. If you park at the airport, write down exactly where you parked your car, so you don’t have to try to find it a week later.
Airlines will allow you to check in online 24 hours before your flight. This will save time at the airport, especially if you aren’t checking bags or traveling with a lap child. You can also download the airline’s phone app, and use that to check in and at security – if you do this, you do not have to print the boarding pass.
Pack as much as possible the day before you travel. There will be some items that you’ll need to use the day of your flight and then pack (such as deodorant and toothpaste), but you should try to minimize this. Therefore, take a shower and dry your hair the night before your flight so that you can pack your hair dryer and any shower items you plan to take on your trip. You can also charge your phone the day before, pack your phone charger, and then keep your phone turned off the night before you leave. Keep a list of everything that you cannot pack until the last minute, and check that list before leaving the house. When you usually have plenty of an item and will only need a small amount for your trip (such as medication, vitamins, hair ties, bibs, or wipes), you can just pack what you need ahead of time, rather than at the last minute.
If you have any beauty routines that you do less often than every day, do them the day before you travel so that you don’t have to pack the supplies for them. Examples include tweezing your eyebrows, shaving, and using a face mask.
Make a copy of your identification documentation such as your driver’s license, social security card, and passport. Scan these items and save them in your e-mail or on a flash drive. I had a friend who had her passport stolen in Mexico, but she had electronic copies of her identification, and was able to go to the US Embassy and get government-issued documents that allowed her to board the plane back home.
Take out at least $100 cash, preferably in small bills. You’ll need them for tips, taxis, and services that don’t accept credit cards.
It’s a good idea to give your travel itinerary to a few people such as family, close friends, or a neighbor. However, I have to give my PSA here, it’s NOT a good idea to post your trip on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media. That’s how people find out which houses are safest to rob.
While preparing to travel, you might also find this post helpful: Preparing for House Sitters
Buying Your Tickets
You do not have to buy tickets for children under 2 years old, but most airlines will ask for a copy of a birth certificate. If you choose not to buy your child a ticket, he or she must sit on an adult’s lap for the flight. If you’d like your young child to have an individual seat, you should buy a ticket.
If you travel frequently, consider enrolling in a frequent flyer program. Better yet, apply for an airline’s credit card so that you can rack up travel miles and get deals on hotels and car rentals.
Some airlines have you choose your seat when you book your tickets. If this is the case, book tickets as close to the front of the plane as possible. This will make it much easier to get on and off the plane.
Traveling with Kids
You can either check your car seats, or rent some from your rental car facility, if you are using one. Your child cannot sit in the car seat on the plane. If you’d like your child to sit in a safety device, you can ask your airline ahead of time about using a Child Restraint System (CRS). See this website for more information: http://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_children/crs/.
I think it’s easiest to bring a stroller through the airport since I will usually need one at my travel destination anyway. It also makes it easier for the kids to keep up when we’re rushing through the airport, and keeps them from getting lost. If you choose to do this, you can bring it all the way through the airport. When you get to your departure gate, bring it up to the desk for a tag. They will then check it when you board the plane.
For babies who are too young to go in a stroller without a car seat, I like to use a Moby Wrap. You are allowed to keep a child in the wrap throughout the entire flying process (including security and boarding the plane). Also take a puffy blanket to keep work as well!
Most airlines allow families with kids to board the plane early. Take advantage of this! Sit as close to the front as possible so that you can be one of the first ones off.
Here I have created a checklist of to-dos before traveling. Keep in mind that it is a comprehensive list, you may not need to do everything on the list. For that reason, I am attaching the list in Word format, so that you can make changes, and a pdf format if you’d just like to print it. You’ll also want to check out the printable on packing from this post before traveling. Don’t forget to put it in your Family Notebook!
Here’s the checklist in Word (for modifying): Traveling Checklist
And the checklist in pdf: Traveling Checklist