Quick Packing Tips

So you have a last minute trip or just procrastinated packing until the last minute before your trip, I can help!! Here are my top tips for packing in a hurry.

1. Make a list and keep it around from trip to trip to help you remember what to pack, not necessarily quantity since that will vary based on length of trip.
2. Store your travel sized bathroom items in the required zippy bag somewhere in your bathroom.
3. Don’t overpack.
4. Store your luggage in an easily accessible area and know what your favorite travel bag is to pack quickly.
5. Know the limits of your luggage.
6. Don’t forget something to read, phone charger, glasses or sunglasses, ID and travel documents.
7. Remember that you can always purchase most anything you may need should you leave it behind.

I’ll provide my lists in another post!!

Last Minute Family Travel Tips

Whew. Last minute travel can really test your planning skills. For example:

- A difference of few hours matters. One of the fares we were looking at jumped $60 while we ate dinner. When you are traveling at the last minute, and the trip is a must, you simply might not find a good deal. Find an OK price, hold your nose, and buy. This goes against our best frugal family travel related tendencies, but you might not have the luxury of options. Unless…

- See if you DO have options. This particular trip could have been turned into a long drive if necessary. Be sure to creatively consider all options. Would a drive be cheaper or more realistic? How about the bus? Even if these things aren’t better, having checked and considered them will ease your mind about the logistical ramifications of the trip.

- Frequent travel can lead to a “travel snowball.” Frequent travelers probably already pay attention to the frequent flyer miles game. But is your kid a frequent flyer? We didn’t have enough miles to offset the cost of this trip, but our oldest son did. He literally saved us over $1000. If you ever pay a fare for your child, make sure they get the miles, they come in handy. (No miles for lap children, which is another con I guess)

- Be flexible. You’ll hear this a lot around here, it’s so important for family travel. It’s true in this case as well. Be flexible with your hotel and rental car standards, be flexible with flight times and travel methods, be flexible with price. In this case more than others, some preferences need to take a back seat.

- Rest in advance if you can. This is probably worth a post of its own. We arrived after midnight. Then we spent a ton of time together with family. We flew back a couple days later at 6:30 AM (there’s a 6:30 in the morning now?!?) A good night’s sleep before the trip can make a huge difference in successfully navigating a couple of short nights (which will be short nights for your children, and you already know how they can act when tired.) A nap after the trip is also great if possible.

It’s hard to step back and think through this at the last minute, so put it in the back of your mind now for future use. Last minute travel isn’t ideal, but hopefully with these tips you can get through it a little easier. I’d be interested to hear other last minute family travel tips others can come up with.

What Do They Speak In???

This was the first question our oldest son asked us as we deplaned in South Dakota last weekend. It isn’t an unusual question for him, in fact, based on his experience of travel – it is a very valid question. See, we’re raising our kids to be world travelers and what comes with that is the understanding that not everyone speaks English. So when we got off the plane in South Dakota, he wanted to be sure he would be able to talk to the people we would encounter there.

Every time we travel to a new place we try to get our kids to experience the culture of the area. This definitely includes language. We try to teach them a few words to use so that they can at the very least say please and thank you. When we came back from our trip to Italy when our oldest was about 18 months he was telling everyone “Ciao” as we got off the plane! It can be a very fun learning experience for the whole family. But in this instance, no learning necessary – he can already talk everyone’s ear off in English!

Sometimes Life Intervenes

On my last post, I mentioned that our next flight would be to visit some family in California. While that trip is still on, an unexpected death in the family requires a flight later this week. With this trip there is great sadness but also the opportunity to see some seldom visited family and spend important time together.

As these things often do, the events of the last couple of days have me thinking.

This is known by most of you, I’m sure – not all family travel is exotic. It can range everywhere from a short drive to go camping, to a journey to visit family, to a round-the-world adventure. Even each of those types of trips can vary widely. But the skills and confidence you pick up from any of these really can be transferred to a variety of difficult or fun travel (life!) situations.

The most fun stories will be those that focus on the adventures. And even seemingly minor travel details take on a new light when you are on a BIG TRIP. But the skills can be widely applied. So even if you are only going a few miles away, we do hope you’ll read on. Who knows where the story will take us?

For now, appreciate the time spent together as a family.

Next time, a lighter topic…

Less is… Well, Less!!

When it comes to luggage and anything that has to be carried from the house to the car, from the car to the airport, to the check-in counter, through security, to the gate, onto the airplane, off of the airplane, to the shuttle/train/taxi and finally to your destination, less is better! Less feels like less but not in a bad way. Less comes with all of the benefits of mobility, having less to control during all of those stops and checkpoints we all know and love as we travel through the airport and less gives you the ability to enjoy yourself.

When we first started traveling we didn’t have this mentality. We made sure we had enough of all of our clothes, several extra pairs of shoes (well, not me on our trip to Vienna which ended up requiring a shoe purchase but more on that later!), coats, magazines, bathroom accessories, books, cameras and anything else we could fit within the number of bags we could check for free. We never once went over the weight limit but we definitely came close. Our first international trip together to Vienna (pre-kids), we discovered 1. we brought too much and didn’t use most of it 2. our suitcase was terrible to pull across cobblestone sidewalks 3. our suitcase was too heavy and 4. our carry on bags weren’t very convenient or comfortable to carry! We tried to remember all of this on our first trip with our oldest son when he was 10 months old but with not a lot of success…

First International Family Trip

You’re thinking, it doesn’t look too bad – just a suitcase and two carry on bags… but you have no idea how heavy that suitcase was! Jeremy could wear it like a backpack but that was almost impossible due to how heavy it was. Why was it so heavy? Well, we packed enough clothes for the baby to stay two weeks (we were only there for one), we thought they might not have food there (or something!) so we packed all of the baby food, cereal, and snacks he would need, we packed enough clothes for both of us for the week plus an extra shirt and underwear and an extra pair of shoes for each of us. We also had our light jackets in the suitcase so it’d be one less thing to carry in the airport. It was a successful trip. The suitcase was much lighter on the way home because our son ate all his food and we aren’t big on buying a bunch of stuff to fill the suitcase on the way home. Once we were home we thought we could certainly do better next time…

Second International Family Trip

And we did? This trip we didn’t bring any food, had only a few extra sets of clothes for our son and a few extras for each of us. We actually ended up looking like we were bringing more! But the suitcase wasn’t as heavy, one of the carry on backpacks actually turned into a baby carrier and we could wear all of our bags to stay hands-free. So in some ways it was better but still – too much to bring along. We could do better. Less is less after all.

Less Luggage!!

We finally had better success! We used the suitcase without the zip-on backpack attachment and only had two carry on bags! It was so much nicer for us to travel with so much less, especially on this trip because we had quite the walk trying to find our rented apartment in a residential area. I couldn’t imagine how grumpy we would have been hauling a bunch of stuff by the time we got where we were going.

Yikes!! A family of four traveling abroad

Then we added a second child to the mix… when we did that, we also added a bag but it wasn’t all bad. We removed the backpack that converted into a child carrier, added a regular backpack in its place (which also happens to zip on to the front of the suitcase) and allowed our oldest son to have a small backpack of his own to carry his toys. I know plenty of people, I won’t name names, that travel with this much luggage on their own! So I didn’t feel too bad that this is where we ended up on our first international trip with the four of us.

Extras include a stroller for our friends and our travel stroller

Our latest try, however, looks like we forgot our advice. But we have friends living in Europe and they were in desperate need of a new stroller. So, being the awesome friends that we are, we said we would check it with our bag and bring it along with us if they would meet up with us in Barcelona. How could they resist?!? They couldn’t, so needless to say, on our second trip traveling with the four of us, we had more going out but on the return trip – we had LESS!!!

Every time we get ready to pack, I remind myself that Less is Less. The goal is to pack the four of us in the least amount of luggage and with hands-free options as much as possible. Just remember – Less is Less.  You really won’t miss what you leave behind as long as you choose wisely AND you won’t have the hassle of lugging a bunch of extra weight around with you. Who doesn’t want to travel with less??

 

To Seat or Not To Seat???

We’re a month away from our next trip – visiting family in California – and it will be our young one’s first trip since he turned two! The logistics are all sorted out, and now we’re on to the anticipation stage.

The two-year-old milestone gets me thinking about one of the first questions we had planning our first plane ride (also to California) – to buy a seat or not? Airlines don’t require it until your little one is two. Notice on our first post – isn’t it interesting how we think of all the milestones in relation to when they turned two?

A friend with three kids strongly recommended splurging on the seat, said it was worth its weight in gold. With some very low fares, we took her advice. And I think we have done the opposite ever since. Let’s look at some pros and cons, shall we?

Buying a seat:

PRO

  • Planes get hot, kids are heaters, have a place to put them down
  • Bring the car seat on the plane, strap the child down (More on traveling with car seats another day, more daunting than traveling with kids in my opinion)
  • Safety that comes with strapping them down. But. They actually have to be in their seats for that to work, and its very common to see a little one on the roam. Don’t buy the seat for safety if you’re going to be holding them, obviously.
  • Another note on safety – the regular plane seat belts don’t hold the wee ones all that tightly, and they are easy to disconnect. You may find that you need a car seat because of the size of your kid or their propensity to escape. Otherwise, hold on to them. On longer flights, especially internationally, some airlines give you a lap child seat belt that connects to your own.
  • On a three by three plane, you get the row to yourself

CON

  • Costs more
  • The littler they are, the less likely you can properly sit them in a seat, unless…
  • Car seats. Not always fun to lug on a plane
  • As we are experiencing in our upcoming trip, where we have two child seats, you don’t fit in a row and are split up. Terror!

Lap child:

PRO

  • Cheaper (Not always free. Internationally you generally have to pay some taxes and fees that amount to about 10% of a full fare. Within the US, generally the only cost is effort)
  • Kids are little, they cuddle well…
  • Lap naps are the best
  • Cheaper = more trips
  • Cheaper!

CON

  • You’re going to have to keep them occupied, but you were probably going to have to anyway. Bonding time isn’t a con.

I’m a HUGE fan of the built-in discounts that come with traveling with kids. And none looms larger than the huge discount on airfare. You’ll miss it when they turn two. Of course, if money is no object, or you are using miles… just don’t be surprised if they end up on your lap anyway.

The Wonder of a Child

It never ceases to amaze me. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes can be one of the best experiences. Traveling with our kids has allowed us to experience their awe and wonderment while it is fresh on their faces. Our first family trip was to Madrid, Spain when our first child was only 10 months old. Not only did he do great on the first long flight of his life, he surprised us over and over again as he took in the sites and experiences. My favorite experience was his first train ride. He stood up on my lap and pushed his face to the window to capture the entire experience.

He didn’t need much from us, in the way of toys or other things to keep him busy and interested. The newness of the area and experiences were enough. We keep that in mind every time we travel. Less is more. The conversation, culture, food and people can be enough to satisfy a child’s need for stimulation. That same trip, our son was more interested in playing with napkins and our friends accompanying us to bother with any toys we packed for him. He was so full of wonder. The best part for me is that every trip, no matter the location, he is the same. So excited for the newness, so excited for the experience and constantly asking for more. For him there are no boundaries, in his mind there isn’t anywhere he can’t go. And that’s exactly how we want him to be!