Our son was 4 months old when we took him on his first trip which included a two hour flight from NY to Charleston, SC and a long road trip back up the East Coast. We've been going on family trips ever since. In fact, we moved our entire family from Brooklyn, NY to Southern California before our son could walk, so I guess you could say we got traveling down to somewhat of a science.
I'm happy to share with you our experiences to help make your next journey a pleasant and memorable one. I hope these 7 Travel Tips along with some of our favorite featured travel products will help you and your family enjoy your next vacation!
1. Prepare for your Trip in Advance -
I will admit that I'm the "fly by the seat of my pants" one in our family, so thankfully my wife is always the one who plans far in advance, making sure everything is in order, ie. checklist for the home, ID's and passports renewed, begin packing days or even weeks prior to departure, accommodations and itineraries planned, etc. Because, the last thing you want to happen is find out that your passports expired the night before your flight. =/
2. Stay Organized and Pack Essentials -
We know when traveling with a baby or toddler, the concept of traveling light goes out the window. That's why it's important to travel organized and pack only your essentials. If you're traveling with your child for the first time, you'll soon realize that it will require a few more necessities than you're accustomed to. Here's a list of just some of the bigger items we would have to lug around with us even on an overnight stay:
- Car Seat
- Baby food and lots of baby snacks
- Pack and Play (if our accommodations couldn't provide one)
3. Determine your Travel Budget -
So I know some of you saved up for months eating ramen noodles and bologna sandwiches at work just to take your family to Disney World. And you finally scraped up enough to buy the airfare and four $200+ passes to the Disney theme parks. Traveling can be expensive, we get it. But there's also several travel hacks you can take advantage of. Here are a few that got us through some trips that we couldn't otherwise afford:
- If you have a newborn, take advantage of the fact that airlines allow babies under 2 yrs old to fly for free. Yes, I said free! That's why as soon as our baby was strong enough, we got him on a plane right away.
- We funded several of our trips from credit card and airline points we accumulated. If you have the luxury of using your credit card for work or business expense, the travel perks offered by some of the credit card companies worked wonders for us. We know the last thing you want to do is run up more credit card debt, but if you're good at managing your payments, it's a great way to start accumulating travel points months in advance before your trip. We personally like using Chase Ultimate Rewards, with Chase Ink and Chase Sapphire. We were able to take care of a big chunk of your travel expense without having to stash cash.
- Instead of Birthday or Christmas gifts for your child, create a vacation fund. Nowadays, it's easy to start a savings fund dedicated toward certain goals such as travel. There are many banks and financial institutions who offer online savings accounts now that can receive financial gifts. Our favorite is Little Fund; they offer a great interest rate. See their website here to set up an account: https://www.littlefund.co/
4. Plan your Days Around Your Child's Schedule -
It's important to remember that even though you're on vacation, you're putting your child in an unfamiliar environment. Staying constant with your child's schedule may relieve some of your child's anxiety, so we would always try to keep his regular schedule including mid-day nap and bath time. We understand that if you're traveling especially for a short jaunt, you want to pack in as much activity as possible. We would let our child skip his mid-day nap once in a while if we booked a city tour or reserved a special excursion, but we'd have to prepare for the onslaught of temper tantrums from a cranky, hangry toddler.
Family trips nowadays are much different than our pre-baby vacations; say goodbye to the late night eats and hangouts at the bars. Not to say that it's a bad thing, but we find ourselves doing early dinner takeout or ordering in more even while we're away, just so we can get our little one down by bedtime. And we can enjoy a glass of wine on the balcony; and that's just fine with us.
5. Find Family-Friendly Accommodations and Activities -
During our first years of traveling with a baby, we only booked family-friendly Hotels or Air BnB's. They had to be kid-friendly and have a kitchen with a small fridge to store baby food and snacks. We would always stock the fridge with light groceries if we were staying more than 2 nights. Hotels that served breakfast (especially if it was free) was always a plus because it helped us get our day started earlier and much faster.
If we were staying in a big city, or just outside of the city, we would always map out the nearest playground or park. If your child is as active as ours, it's a good way to take them out to expend some excess energy. Plus, it's a great opportunity to explore the local community and meet / interact with local residents. We also frequent more local child-friendly activities such as museums, aquariums, zoo's, farms, libraries, etc. We do the occasional walking tour now and then, but more often than not, we're busy wrangling our toddler around than learning about the local history, unless we can manage to strap him into the stroller for more than 30 mins. One funny family travel memory that comes to mind was when we did a walking tour of New Orleans, and I remember having to chase our son around a historical cemetery in the middle of New Orleans. Funny moments like that you'll never forget.
6. Enjoy Local Culture and Cuisine with your Family -
The beauty about travel is in immersing yourself and family into different cultures, and sharing experiences that you are unaccustomed to. That's what makes the diversity of our world so unique. Embrace culture and teach your children to grow an affinity for what other parts of the world have to offer. Learn about the history of different cities, civilizations and what makes them so unique. Food and local cuisine is a great way to indulge and experience another culture. Even though our child is a picky eater, we expose him to different foods from all over the world and just give him a taste, that hopefully he will learn to acquire as he develops.
7. Establish a Family Tradition, Document and Build Memories -
Memories of your family trips are something that your children will take with them for the rest of their lives. Every adult remembers their favorite and also not so favorite family trips.
Document your travels, this can be done in several ways that are both conventional and creative:
Take Photos and Videos - Bring along your DSLR camera, tripod, drone or other equipment and be creative. I'm not saying that you have to be a world-class photographer, movie-producer or anything like that, but take photos, save them to a digital album labeled by city and month/year, better yet, print them out and scrapbook or enlarge and frame some of them for your hallway walls.
Social Media - Of course, we have social media for a reason. Nowadays, it's easy to check-in at an airport or local museum, take a photo next to a historical landmark and voila, post it immediately onto Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. for your friends or even the world to see. We've personally created a few hashtags so that we can refer back to some of our posts in the past. For instance, #Griswoldfamilyvacation or something to that effect is a great way to look back at posts of all the past trips you've done as a family. You can even make it into a monthly or annual tradition and post a photo of your family doing the same pose in front of a different landmark or city setting. You'll be amazed how that project will progress throughout the years.
If you read this entire blog entry, thanks for your time and we appreciate you sharing this information with other moms and dads.
To show our appreciation, please check our FAMILY TRAVEL section of our online store to view a few of our favorite travel products that may help you on your next trip! A 10% discount will apply using this promo code: VALITRAVEL10