Traveling with kids during the holiday season can frankly be straight out of a dramedy movie. And I know, I fly with my kids often and solo. I once flew from New York to Hawaii with my oldest son when he was a high-energy 2-year-old. I let him eat packs of sugar because that is what he wanted to do. And I get it, allowing your wild toddler to eat sugar in a contained space isn’t the smartest parental move. At the time, I placed my threshold to cope on an hourly basis. And as the stewardess commented, “you have to do what works for you.” Bless that stewardess and the red wine she offered me.
Now I travel with two kids, and I have gotten very good with hacks and products that make the process more manageable. And even with these genius short-cuts, things still don’t always go to plan. A few months back I flew with my two boys, and as soon as we were out of the car and heading to the airport kiosk, my toddler did the collapse. We all know the toddler collapse. Isn’t it a wondrous thing? They just let their body go, drop to the floor, and they seem to gain twenty pounds in weight when you try to pick them up. I tried to open up my sleek new lightweight stroller, so we could glide through the airport in an organized manner. Still, my boy looked at me from the floor of the airport with a look that said “No way, lady, not on my watch.”
Fortunately, I had a hack for his meltdown. It’s called an iPad. With videos, I downloaded the night before (just in case the airport Wi-Fi was iffy) we averted our first crisis. And this my friends is a hack.
Hacks, whether big or small, usually work, which is the beauty of using them. Especially when traveling, and you have little control over long lines and delayed flights. Here are a few tried and true hacks that will hopefully help you as you navigate travel this holiday season.
For more travel tips from the pros, check out Ask Sally: Traveling With Your Young Kids & How Not to Hit the Skids!
Traveling Car Seat
If you are planning to rent a car, then a car seat is a must. Carrying a car seat, especially for a toddler, can be rough since most are heavy and burdensome. We recently tested the Way B Pico Travel Car Seat which weighs about eight pounds and is surprisingly durable. The Pico works as a forward-facing portable car seat and can be installed with the latch in all modern cars or an airplane belt. It can be stored in the Pico Travel Backpack Bag, which can be purchased separately and makes for easy carrying.
I will admit it took about 45 minutes to install it the first time, about 30 minutes longer than most tutorials. Still, once we got going on our trip, this car seat was a game-changer, it fits snugly and securely.
The seat is recommended for ages 2 and up, for kids 22-50 lbs and 30-45 inches tall.
Travel Booster Seat for Big Kids
The Graco Turbo GO Folding Backless Booster is about four pounds and folds into a compact square, making it quite portable. It can easily be carried in a large shopper bag or your child’s backpack. The large red hooks help to keep the seat belt in place. Recommended for ages 4 to 10, or 40 to 100 pounds.
We initially bought this for summer travel and have continued using it for taxis and train journeys since.
Lightweight Travel Stroller
The reason most of us like to forgo traveling with a stroller is our everyday city strollers are bulky, and lugging heavy gear through an airport or on a train sucks. This is why investing in a travel stroller is one of the best hacks you can do for yourself when it comes to traveling with young kids. You can stroll all the way to the gate and check it in for free. Help a restless baby or toddler to nap by walking around a terminal and actually have a nice meal while exploring the town while your little one naps.
One favorite is The Maclaren Volo. This stroller weighs just over 10 pounds and works for ages 6 months and up (to 55 lbs), making it easy to carry around. It only has a single-seat position, but we love the sun canopy extends, and the four-wheel suspension makes it feel sturdier than most travel strollers. If you’re looking for a stroller that seats a newborn, we recommend the Maclaren Quest stroller. It’s around $100 more than the Volo and weighs four pounds more, but it is sturdy.
For the always on the go traveling family, we recommend the Gb Pockit Compact Stroller. Weighing in at just under 10 pounds, it has a one-hand pushing and steering, overhead canopy, and padded handlebars. Most importantly, it has a two-step fold and can fit into the overhead baggage storage or be carried in a large tote bag.
If you are planning to stay at a hotel, Airbnb, or with the in-laws, then pack painter’s tape! A cheap child-proof tool that doesn’t leave any sticky residue, it is perfect when you have young children. Tape over outlets, oven knobs and shut dresser drawers. You can even outline a space to show which area your kids are allowed to play in. This magical tape will help in keeping order in a space you do not own.
This hack throws all parent’s rules and values out the door, but it tends to work. It is for the kid who causes total chaos on a plane or train when traveling. Go to the dollar store or get some inexpensive toys at Target and negotiate. For every hour they are quiet, they get an award. These gifts do not have to be grand: think sticker books, a new coloring book, or go big and get than that L.O.L. Surprise! Fluffy or Fuzzy Pets they have been begging for. It was in a desperate attempt to stop getting the side-eye from fellow passengers that a seasoned parent kindly suggested this tactic. Duh, who doesn’t want gifts when traveling?!
Easy On-the-Spot Hacks
- Use diapers for instant baby proofing.
- If you’re traveling with a crawling baby or mobile toddler cover sharp edges of chairs and furniture with clean diapers. Wrap around the edges or use them as a cushion.
- Keep Ziploc bags in your bag.
- Keep a large Ziploc bag or two for any sort of stinky diapers or drenched clothes emergencies. We have even kept the electronics in a bag while changing planes as you just never know when a sippy cup or bottle is going to leak over everything.
- If you’re flying or taking the train, bring quiet toys. Noise-canceling headphones for kids (or parents), soft toys to play with, even a deck of cards — your fellow travel neighbors will appreciate your efforts to keep noise to a minimum.