Sunscreen ✅, bathing suits ✅, passports ✅, toddler and infant ✅. Some people think my husband and I are crazy for bringing our babies on vacation with us, but the truth is, it wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable and fulfilling without them in tow. Traveling with our children also exposes them with to new people, cultures and lifestyles that will help them become well-rounded adults with a perspective that extends beyond our neighborhood. We really love embarking on these adventures with them and cultivating memories that will last a lifetime.
Our family just returned from a week-long trip to Riviera Maya, Mexico. While there, we stayed in a 2200 sq foot suite at Grand Residences Riviera Cancun Resort. Like most Manhattan parents, we sacrifice living space for the unique opportunities that raising kids in New York City provides for our family. When we travel, however, we never skimp on space and instead opt for spacious family suites at hotels that specialize in providing a luxurious experience. YOLO! The Grand Residences did not disappoint and in many ways even exceeded our high expectations. You can find my honest review here.
Regardless of the quality of accommodations awaiting you at your destination, you must first conquer one of the most dreaded aspects of traveling with multiple kids – the plane ride. Below I will share some useful strategies for navigating airports, eliminating stress, and keeping even the most challenging children content and quiet on airplanes.
- Wear sensible shoes.
Before having my babies, I had no problem navigating airports and train stations while teetering in 5-inch platform heels. After all, how else are we supposed to reach those overhead compartments? These days, traveling most often involves wearing my infant in a carrier and sometimes even carrying my toddler simultaneously on my hip. In these instances, heels would be extremely impractical and arguably hazardous. In addition, most airlines require that you remove your shoes when you go through security so it’s essential to wear a shoe that easily slips on and off. There is no need, however, to sacrifice fashion for function. I almost always travel in a ballet flat or smoking slipper, both of which are incredibly on-trend.
2. Infinity scarves – wear one.
They’re chic, small enough to stash in your carry-on, and sometimes all you need to transform an outfit from DRAB to FAB! Most important, an infinity scarf can even double as nursing cover. The Itzy Ritzy “Nursing Happens” infinity breastfeeding scarf comes in a variety of patterns and colors. An absolute must have for any nursing mom on-the-go, this is the one accessory that I cannot live without, especially while traveling with my kids. You can get yours here.
3. Do your research.
As a nursing mother, it can be daunting to locate an on-the-go nursing space that is both clean and private. Mamava is an app that acts as an online GPS tool to help nursing moms locate their pod-shaped booths away from home. The Mamava booths provide comfortable and private nursing/pumping space with deadbolt closures and indicator lights that show whether the space is vacant or occupied. Each of the pods features a bench, fold-down table and an electrical outlet to charge your phone or plug-in your pump. Mamava pods can be found at all major NYC Airports (JFK, LaGuardia, Newark) in addition to many other airports, stadiums and convention centers around the country. After checking in at JFK Airport for our most recent flight to Mexico, I used the app to locate the closest nursing pod to feed my infant prior to boarding. It just so happened that the closest Mamava pod was only a few gates away in the JetBlue terminal – jackpot! I was able to seamlessly feed my daughter while still allowing for plenty of extra time before boarding, which leads me to my next tip.
4. Board early.
Many airlines announce pre-boarding for families flying with children under the age of 2. While other airlines may not announce pre-boarding for families with children, they might grant it if you request it at the gate. When you arrive at the gate, tell him/her that you’re flying with infants or toddlers who are likely to require additional time. In my experiences, flight attendants are usually accommodating to parents with small children as many of them are also parents and understand the lengthy process of getting small children settled on the airplane. Boarding the plane early also allows for extra time to sanitize the seats, windows, arm rests and tray tables before the other passengers board. Fact – the dirtiest part of the airplane is actually the seat headrest, as these never get cleaned!!
5. Stick with the Schedule.
Try to keep your travel day schedule consistent with that of a normal day at home. Altering your child’s nap schedule can backfire and create a nightmarish flying experience for parents and passengers alike. If your child sleeps easily in a car, your best bet is to schedule a flight during nap time. My toddler naps at 1pm and my infant naps around 1:30 or 2pm. I typically try to fly around 1pm when I am almost certain to get a nap from both. Once my toddler starts nodding off I can then focus on getting my infant to sleep, which sometimes requires pacing in the aisles while wearing her in my Ergo carrier. I almost always wear her facing inward otherwise she gets too distracted by the other passengers and won’t fall asleep. Once facing inward, her tired eyes are no match for the combination of gentle turbulence, white noise from the engine and the closeness that the baby carrier provides, which brings me to my next point.
6. Use a carrier.
If you don’t have one, get one. I love my Ergo 360 for its multiple positioning options, but any carrier would suffice. I typically wear my infant in the airport and use my free hands to push my toddler in an umbrella stroller, which makes it extremely easy to weave in and out of crowds. As previously mentioned above, the carrier is also invaluable on the plane.
7. Technology is your friend.
The Amazon Fire (Kids Edition) tablet is hands-down the best purchase I’ve ever made. My toddler is obsessed with it and can easily spend hours perusing the preloaded kid-friendly apps and videos. On the tablet he can easily flip through e-books, watch his favorite television shows, trace numbers and letters, and engage in so many other educational activities. As if that’s not enough, the tablet comes in a removable foam case that protects it from the wrath of even the angriest toddler. If somehow your child defies the odds and manages to break the tablet, Amazon will replace it at no charge for up to two years.