Newsflash: Traveling with kids is not easy. I just returned from a 10 day trip to visit family in NY, CT, MA, and NJ with my husband and 17-month old twins, and I feel like I need a vacation from our vacation! We made a few mistakes and learned along the way. Here are a few things tips from our crazy journey.
Tip #1: Do Not Overpack
For me, the craziness started with packing. The girls went up a size right before the trip, and I think I literally packed every outfit we have in that size. I definitely packed all of the pajamas in that size AND some of the pajamas in the smaller size they just came out of. Why? I don’t really know. Maybe I thought they would shrink overnight and need size 18-month jammies when 24-month have been working well for a few weeks. We were gone for 10 days and I had outfits for each kid for at least 15. This might be appropriate for some travel situations if you aren’t close to laundry, but we stayed at my mom’s house with a nice new washer and dryer. I could have gotten away with five outfits each. But then the girls would have had the same outfit in photos, so even I have trouble taking my own advice on this one. But for myself and my husband? Two or three outfits each would have been plenty.
Tip #2: Check the Forecast
We live in Duluth. It’s cold and snowy a lot. Snowsuits, hats, mittens, boots — we can’t get through most days without all of these. So I packed an entire suitcase of snow gear, including boots and gear for myself to play outside. And as soon as the plane landed in NY, I knew this was a mistake. There was NO snow on the ground. And it was almost 50 degrees! A quick check of the NY forecast would have showed me that it would barely get below freezing — fleece jackets and sneakers would have been fine.
Tip #3: Curbside Check-In
Rather than fly from Duluth, we decided to drive to Minneapolis so that we could take a direct flight. We parked right at the airport in the Value Lot at Terminal 2 in order to save almost $100. So responsible! And such a schlep. After parking we needed to take the light rail and then a tram to Terminal 1. It really isn’t that bad, but everything is hard with the amount of gear we were hauling. I had the double stroller and diaper bag and the girls. My husband looked like a sherpa carrying three suitcases and two carseats. We looked like the circus coming to town.
Then when we arrived at our destination, we had to take all of this gear on two buses! Traumatizing. So on the way home before returning the rental car, we did curbside check-in. We got to the airport nice and early and drove right up in front of the curbside check-in desk. By the time I had the girls strapped into the stroller, my husband had all of the bags checked-in. It was amazing!He then went to return the rental car by himself so we didn’t have to deal with buses and a double stroller.
Tip #4: Burn Off Some Energy
We got to the airport extra early both times because airport security can be long, and airport security with twin toddlers can be crazy. The last thing I wanted was to be rushing on top of managing all of our gear. The Minneapolis airport has a great play area for kids. I think we are spoiled! I just assumed there would be something similar at LaGuardia airport in NY — definitely not. The airport is under construction so maybe it’s in the works, but we ended up finding a less-busy hallway at the airport that the girls could run arund in. I wish I could tell you that this worked like magic and the girls sat still like little angels on the airplane, but they were still little wiggle worms. I only imagine it would have been worse if they didn’t have some time to run.
Tip #5: First Class is Amazing
I had never flown first class before. The cost is usually so astronomically high that it’s not even something I consider. But when I booked this trip they must have been having a sale because I was able to upgrade for about $125 total! No brainer if you ask me. Having the extra space with a toddler on my lap was so helpful. Especially since my husband and I can’t sit on the same side of the aisle with lap children — there is only one extra oxygen mask per row. Good to know! On the way there we were on either side of the aisle which worked pretty well for passing stuff back and forth and switching kids. On the way back we ended up three rows apart. I got an aisle seat in the first row. Amazing! At first I wasn’t sure I would like the first row since I couldn’t have my diaper bag right by my feet for all of my distraction tools and snacks. But let me tell you not having someone in front of me was the best. I didn’t have to worry about my daughter kicking the seat or that the person would recline into us. My husband was not so lucky. Window seat. And he got puked on. Yup, we were that family. So what did I learn? All of the things I thought I needed in the diaper bag were just weighing me down (overpacking again!) and having extra clothes for the kids is great, but Mom and Dad need an extra t-shirt in the carry-on bag too.
Tip #6: Not All SUVs Are Created Equal
We rented a car in NY since we had a lot of running around to do and people to visit. Also because no one in my family has a car large enough to fit my family of four with carseats plus the person driving. We ended up renting a Jeep which seemed like it would be great for all of the extra space! The guy at the rental car counter also assured me this would be great for all of the snow that we might get (which was a joke since it was in the 40s most of the time). I bet this SUV was smaller than some cars! I installed the carseats rear facing and we had to push the front seats up to do so, so leg room was non-existent. The three suitcases fit in the trunk and the backpack, and that’s it! It was a miracle that we were able to wedge the stroller in the backseat!
Tip #7: Borrow Gear
Once I told my friends we were traveling, they were so generous with their offers to let us borrow gear for the trip! We borrowed a double umbrella stroller and it was so nice to have the more compact option as we were traveling around. It was also nice to not be worrying about he big fancy double stroller that we use everyday at home being damaged by the airline. I ended up buying cheap, lightweight carseats to bring with us: half as much as renting from the rental car company and now we have backup carseats at home. Borrow at your destination too! My sister-in-law borrowed an extra pack and play from a friend when we visited her house. My mom did well at children’s consignment stores; she got highchair booster seats (and they even match!) and toys for really cheap.
Tip #8: Don’t Stress
This is the hardest part for me. I want to plan everything and I want it to go perfectly. That’s just not going to happen when traveling with toddlers. And that’s ok! We hit some bumps in the road, but in the grand scheme of things, they were nothing more than hiccups that we will soon forget. My kids got to spend time with my mom, meet some of my aunts and uncles for the first time, play with their cousins and my friends’ children; and that makes all of the travel headaches well worth it.