Back in September of last year, we had our first family vacation since having our daughter! The kids were 4 and 11 months old, and we took a trip to Vancouver, BC for the UP Babywearing Conference in Coquitlam. Although the planning and prep for the trip was pretty intense, we really enjoyed the time away. I wanted to share what we learned while on our trip, for those who are also thinking about traveling with their kids. It is possible, and it can be quite fun if you set your expectations accordingly.
Throughout our 9 day vacation, we traveled by plane, shuttle bus, rental car, sky train, city bus, and ferry . We also had over 100 lbs of luggage with us (only because of the conference! I would not recommend packing that heavily if you can help it.). Maybe you will be visiting family who live far away, or taking a much needed getaway; I hope that you will find some helpful info about packing and enjoying the time spent with your kids!
*Note- this article was written specific to domestic travel. It does not include things you might want to consider if travelling to an exotic destination (ie- relevant vaccines, travel documents, etc).
Figuring out transportation for 2 kids in car seats was the most time consuming prep we did for our trip. When we booked the trip, we planned to fly in to Vancouver, and out of Victoria. What we did not realize was how many steps it would take to get us from point A to B! Here are some things to think about when planning out the transportation part of your trip:
- Car seats – car seats are not necessary for air travel with kids. Our 4 year old was quite happy to sit on the plane with no car seat, and he did great. The 11 month old stayed on our laps for the trip and also did surprisingly well! Our 5 point harness Diono seat came on the trip with us, but we ended up checking it on the plane. It was too hard to install on the small plane we started on. We only took one seat, and planned the rest of our transport with that in mind. From the airport to the hotel, we rented a shuttle bus with a child seat. We chose this form of transport because the taxis don’t have car seats available. In Vancouver we traveled by foot, sky train and bus, and didn’t need a car seat while there. In Victoria, we booked a car seat rental through WeeTravel; an excellent service that rents out baby equipment in several major cities in Canada. We had a great experience with them, and they are very knowledgeable about and careful with their seats. I read some unpleasant stories about car rental company car seats, so this was a great alternative for us!
Getting Around on Foot
- Stroller – we opted not to bring our stroller on the trip. The main reason for this was because we already had 2 large rolling suitcases, 2 backpacks, and the car seat. I didn’t think we would also be able to manage the stroller – though it would have been handy at times. Air travel with a stroller is handy; many airlines will keep it at the front of the plane for you and have it ready after landing. With our oldest son being 4, he doesn’t use the stroller anymore, and did great with walking. For the baby, she was still light enough to carry in the baby carrier. If you did take one with you, I would recommend something that is light and folds up reasonably easily. Our favourite is the City Select Mini – one handed fold up capability!
- Baby carrier – the baby carrier was, by far, the most used piece of equipment we brought on the trip. Babywearing was so handy to keep her close and safe with me. It also allowed me free hands to wheel around the other luggage. I wore her on the front so I could also carry my backpack style diaper bag on my back. I decided to take my ring sling, just because it takes up the least amount of space in the bag. Ring slings are also great for easy in and out of the carrier, needed on a trip like this. If I’d had any extra room in my suitcase, I would have also packed a soft structured carrier with the padded shoulders. Then my husband and I could have taken turns back carrying her when we were out exploring. My shoulder got quite sore by the end of the trip, and my husband doesn’t feel quite as confident carrying her in the ring sling as I do. If you are looking for a great baby carrier, I have a Pinterest board dedicated to just that!
Sleeping arrangements for the four of us was the next most stressful part of planning the trip. If you have ever traveled with kids before, you have probably found that it can be quite tricky to find accommodations that fit families well. In Vancouver, we stayed at the conference hotel in a one bedroom suite. In Victoria, we rented a cute little cabin through Air BnB. We made both options work, but enjoyed the Air BnB much more. Renting a cabin meant extra space, kitchen/laundry facilities, and included baby equipment that came stocked in the cabin at request.
- Beds – Our 4 year old son is at a nice easy age for travelling, because he is old enough to sleep in a sofa bed without worrying about side rails. If he was younger, I would have probably opted to travel with an inflatable toddler size mattress, or have him sleep in the bed with one of us. For the baby, we traveled with an infant sized PeaPod and kept it on the floor beside our bed. She was still nursing frequently at night so I needed to have her close by. In the Air BnB, they provided a playpen at no extra cost, which worked great for us too. WeeTravel also has options for baby beds if you end up in one of the cities they are located in.
- Baby monitor – we slept near the kids in both locations, so we didn’t travel with our monitors. A nice portable set might give you some peace of mind; especially if you plan to sleep in different rooms than your kids.
- Bedding – we did not need to travel with any bedding, other than the kids favourite ‘security blankets’.
The thought of eating out at every meal with my kids is very stressful to me. They wake up super hungry in the morning and are often already getting tired and cranky by supper. When planning our trip, we found that there were several grocery stores right by our hotel. We took advantage of this, and stocked up on breakfast foods on arrival. Eating breakfast in the room meant we didn’t have to leave early or sit in a restaurant waiting for a meal. We enjoyed lunches out, and often did take out for supper in the room again. Mealtimes on our trip were a great time to expose the kids to some new cuisine, which they both enjoyed.
Since our trip was planned around the conference, one of our large rolling suitcases was filled only with stuff for my business. We managed to keep all of our clothing in one large rolling suitcase and one large backpack. For air travel, we had to be careful about the number of bags and weight of each bag we brought. Though when traveling with kids, they do make extra allowances for diaper bags, strollers and sometimes other equipment too. Make sure you check the individual air travel company’s requirements, as they are all a bit different.
- Clothing – Packing clothing for the four of us wasn’t too difficult. We packed lots of items good for layering and enough clothes to last 5 days; plus some spare clothes for the kids in case of “accidents”. I was so glad I packed my Breastfeeding hoodie, as I ended up feeding her in some awkward spots, like while standing in a crowd in the airport. It allowed me to confidently comfort her wherever she needed it; And it kept me cozy and stylish through the whole trip! We purposefully rented an Air BnB with laundry area included, so we only had to bring enough for the first 4 days of the trip. I highly recommend washing clothes if able, as it really reduces the amount of luggage you have to bring!
- Outdoor wear – traveling in September meant bringing coats and toques, and I also used my Babywearing cover UP sweater daily. It was so handy when we were out walking, at the park, on the sky train, and in the airport/plane. Since I couldn’t babywear her on the plane, I just took her out of the carrier and continued wearing the sweater. It kept the chill off, and made breastfeeding on the plane much easier!
- Diapers/wipes – we cloth diaper at home, but opted to use disposable diapers for the trip – due to space and laundry concerns. Again, I packed enough for the first few days of the trip and purchased the rest while there.
- Toiletries – we are a pretty minimalist family when it comes to toiletries! Just small bottles of all the daily stuff we needed, packed into ziplock bags in our backpacks.
- Camera/journal – Both of our phones have good cameras, so we left the DSLR at home. I also packed a travel journal to record special memories of the kids. I never regret writing those moments down, its far too easy to forget by the time you get home!
Other Kid Stuff
Travelling with little kids usually means bringing a few extra items that make daily tasks simpler. Purposeful packing also includes items that help them wait out the boring times in airports or bus stations. We put together a toddler size backpack of travel goodies for our 4 year old; That included things for him to do, snacks, and a change of clothes in case of any accidents.
- Toys – some of the travel toys we included in our sons backpack were small books, a travel lego box (thank you Pinterest!), notebook and crayons, and his favourite small teddy bear.
- Snacks – we were well stocked on snacks for both of the kids for this trip! We made sure to have chewy stuff for our son, to keep him distracted and help him with any ear pain during landing on the plane. He enjoyed some gummy candies and jellybeans – which are things he doesn’t usually get at home. We also had packaged granola bars, trail mix and crackers. For drinks, we kept it simple with a water bottle and some Boon Sippy Cup lids for the baby.
- In the diaper bag – to make travel easier with a baby, I packed a few special items to keep her clean and comfy. We had some teething toys to chew on, as well as her comfort blanket. For mealtimes, we loved using our Wipeable bib with sleeves and EZPZ mat at the table. We also kept lots of wipes and diapers in the bag, as well as the tylenol for both kids. Of course, I didn’t travel with the thermometer; Which we ended up needing to purchase in Vancouver when she spiked a fever one night. I think that its nearly impossible to remember everything- so don’t stress if you forget something and have to buy it there.
Ready for your trip?
While planning out our trip, my husband and I talked honestly about how we thought it would go. Our kids like routine, and are not the best at sleeping on the go; So we really have to check our expectations about travel before we plan anything. Having discussed the potential stressful times or situations really helped me to be more relaxed and enjoy the travel. If this is the first time you are vacationing with your kids, I encourage you to think about the potential challenges you foresee; Then you can talk about how you will deal with them as they arise. Vacations with your kids are a great time to make memories, and we have so many fond experiences from our trip!
Do you have any great travel tips to share? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!