Traveling with children is one of the great challenges that arise within parenthood. This post is intended to give little tricks for traveling with babies up to 2-year-olds, to help novice parents when it comes to taking the desired vacation with the little ones in the house.
One thing is clear: you have to change your mindset. Traveling with children is not the same as traveling alone as adults, but you can, and it is a rewarding experience for the whole family. It will take more time to organize the trip, perhaps plan a different trip more focused on children’s activities, to pack a suitcase and even to go to the airport, but, although this may seem overwhelming, you have to know that everything happens and that you survive. The key? patience and calm.
There are many questions that arise when preparing a trip with children: What do I take with me? Should I choose a hotel or better a house? Traveling by plane or car? In Spain or abroad? Step by Step!
There are several things to consider before traveling with children and preparing well for the trip is key. Be careful, you don’t have to be a control fanatic and keep everything like an Excel sheet, mostly because this is the first thing that doesn’t work with kids. Still, there are several things to think about ahead of time and have in mind.
If you are going to travel with children in Spain it is easier, in this case it is enough to decide the destination to visit and the activities to be carried out. The topic changes a lot when you decide to travel abroad:
The first point to travel with children is to make sure that the country is safe and that they will be able to carry out activities. In many travel guides there are already special chapters for this.
Check if you need a passport or, failing that, DNI. Above all, in case of traveling by plane, since they will ask for the documentation of the whole family. Both the DNI and the passport can be made at the Police stations, by appointment. For the card you only need the presence of one of the parents, while to make the passport both have to go, with the baby.
Do you need a visa to visit the country? Ideally, consult the website of the Embassy. These pages have all the necessary information for tourists, and you can check if you need a visa or if, on the contrary, there is an agreement with some countries and entry is free. You always have to take into account the days of stay that are allowed, to adapt the trip to them.
Is it necessary to get vaccinated? If so, what vaccines are needed and where can they be given? What medications should I put in the medicine cabinet? The best source of information to consult is the International Vaccination Centers of the Ministry of Health. By asking for an appointment online, they inform about everything necessary at the health level, and even some vaccines are put in the center itself. You can also consult with your own Health Center, since, in the same way, they can also give some vaccines.
If you are traveling with a baby and you are exclusively breastfeeding, it is important to know if it is okay to breastfeed in public. Although this is something natural and precious, there are some cultures in which it is not frowned upon, so it is best to know in advance to avoid possible problems. There are countries in which private spaces are enabled for this, others in which wearing a breastfeeding apron is enough or those in which it is not a problem. When in doubt, better ask.
Do you need travel insurance? Yes, preferably. If you have contracted private health insurance, it is advisable to speak with them beforehand to be clear about the coverage abroad. In case of taking a plane, it is advisable to take out cancellation insurance, and check if the credit card with which the trip is paid also has insurance. Currently, there are many insurers that offer short-term insurance to cover short trips at competitive prices, so it does not hurt to take a look at the offers they have. It is also advisable to have located the numbers to call in case of having to use said insurance.
Currency: If you travel to a country that is not in the euro zone, you have to analyze whether it is worth exchanging money here or withdrawing from an ATM in the destination country, as well as whether it is possible to pay everything with a credit card. You have to take into account the bank fees charged by the bank in all cases.
Currently, there are banks that offer cards with a lower cost when withdrawing money abroad. Another option is to carry a small amount in cash, which can cover expenses upon arrival (taxis, snacks, etc.), and withdraw at an ATM upon arrival at the destination.
The first thing to do when traveling with children is to calculate the distance to the destination. The little ones do not last as long as an adult, so travel time is something to take into account. The journey is part of the journey and making it enjoyable can mark the rest of the vacation. Whether you are traveling by car or by plane, it is preferable to schedule it for bedtime, either at night or at nap time. In this way, the little one’s sleep during the journey and that, in both cases, is to be appreciated.
If you choose to travel with children by plane, the first option must always be a direct flight, if this option exists . If you have to make a stopover, make sure you have enough time to catch the next flight. There is nothing more stressful than having to run through the airport, and on top of it with a stroller and a baby. Another option to consider, in the event of a stopover, is to spend one night at the stopover destination and catch the next flight the next day. In this way, the trip can be made less heavy, the little one will surely appreciate it.
Another point to take into account if you travel by plane are the low cost companies. These companies usually fly to airports somewhat further away, so it would be necessary to add more hours of travel. It is necessary to analyze if it pays to pay a little more, but to gain in comfort. In addition, many of these companies do not include suitcases in the ticket, in addition to the issue of hand luggage, which is totally necessary to travel with children, so the cost of the ticket can skyrocket if, finally, additional bags have to be included.
If you opt for a trip by car, the starting point is whether you travel in your own car or in a rented one. And this why? Easy, the car seat. It is one of the largest accessories for children, and one of the bulkiest. A solution, if it is a rental one, is to speak with the company to verify that the chair can also be rented. In this way, luggage is saved. Of course, you have to calculate the amount they are going to charge for the chair rental, because it can even compensate to buy a second-hand one, invoice it and then leave it there.
It is clear that hotels have their advantages for traveling with children, since they have room service, meals and many of them, with babysitting service. However, you have to think about their food. In a hotel, the options are what they are and the little one may not like the dishes on the menu or that they have not been introduced yet. For this reason, renting a house has its advantages, since it can be cooked according to the child’s tastes or diet, whether it is with purees or with the BLW method .
If the little one already sleeps in a bed, this point is not important, but if not, remember to ask, in both cases, if they have cribs. In the event that the family do co-sleeping on a regular basis, this is not necessary, since they are used to sleeping together, but those families who do not co-sleep, better make sure from the first moment that the accommodation has a cot. If this is not the case and you can travel with your own cot, you must already have that space in the trunk, or resort to baby product rental companies, which are proliferating today.
The next point for traveling with children is accessibility and comfort. It should be noted that, in most cases, you travel with a chair, which you have to go up and down from the room, so knowing in advance the location of the hotel / house is something to take into account, as well as, if it has stairs, elevator, etc.
Comfortable clothes. This has to be the key when packing to travel with children, and, above all, for the journey. Most adults opt for casual wear for their trips, because of the comfort it implies, in addition to being wider and tightening less, right? Well, this same maxim must also be taken into account when traveling with children. Clothing that allows them to move, does not rub or hurt them is essential for travel. And, above all, it is important to avoid the famous “just in case”, since the child’s suitcase ends up being larger than that of the parents.
In this section you have to put, again, the issue of food. If the baby is taking formula milk, and is traveling outside of Spain, it is important to calculate what he is going to take based on his intakes, always adding a little more. It is advisable not to change their milk, since it is not known if they may have an allergic reaction. The experiments, better at home. If it still runs out, don’t panic either. If you are giving a trademark, it is quite likely that it is also in the destination country, so you can buy it. In case it is something more specific, it is best to go to a pharmacy.
Regarding diapers, it is a standard product and easy to find in most countries, unless very specific ones are used. They are very bulky in the suitcase, so a good option is to take the necessary ones for the trip and buy more at the destination. They may not be the same brand that is commonly used, but they sure do.
You have to try to carry everything you need in the same hand bag, in which you cannot miss : formula milk (if you drink it), a bottle and a bottle of water to prepare them (be careful, you can always ask water on the plane or buy it at the airport), baby food, wet wipes, diapers, cream for the butt, finger food (something you really like, this is not the time to innovate), two changes, plastic bags (for the dirty diapers, in case your clothes get dirty or if you vomit), toys, papers and pencils to paint, a tablet or mobile with movies and music that you like, headphones, and important, for take-off and landing, the pacifier or something they can chew on and suck on, as that helps with pressure in the ear. If you are still breastfeeding, it is best to match the feeding with those moments.
You cannot miss a first aid kit when traveling with children. You have to prevent and take Dalsy or Apiretal, since there are places where, being for babies, they ask for a prescription to buy it. If you feel dizzy, antiemetics, or what is the same, drugs for motion sickness; From the age of two they can take Biodramina infantile, before this age it is better to consult with the pediatrician. Hydroalcolic gel, thermometer, gauze and physiological saline in monodose, sachets of oral serum and probiotics, sun cream, anti-mosquito and anti-scald cream, scissors to cut nails, plasters, a small bottle of Betadine, antihistamines, for allergy sufferers and inhalers for asthmatics. And if there’s still room to spare, more wet wipes.
Another issue to consider is the cart. The best solution is a light all-terrain stroller, such as Baby Jogger or MacLaren. They are easy to transport, you can go directly to the boarding gate with them, be careful, not to board them, unless you have a Yoyo, which, yes, you can get on the plane, the rest of the cars have to be checked in. They can serve as a temporary bed for naps, they are light, breathable, but you can also protect them from the cold with a blanket or a rain cover. In addition, they work well on almost all types of terrain.
Carrying backpacks are also great allies. Having to check in the car, either at the beginning of the trip or when arriving at the plane, then it cannot be collected until the baggage claim, so being able to carry them in the backpack is a great help. It is convenient to study well the carrying model for which you want to choose, and always make sure that it is ergonomically suitable. Brands like Ergobaby take maximum care of this fact.
If of all the options you have chosen to travel with children by plane, you have to take into account the waiting time at the airport, as well as the flight itself to make the trip as bearable as possible.
It must be remembered that, although when traveling with children, priority is usually given to both controls and boarding, you must go early, and with some points already closed or at least identified:
Leaving the house with enough time is key, and if you arrive too early, you can take advantage of it to go play with the children in the airport playground. The objective: to tire them, since the more they play, the sooner they will fall asleep on the plane.
The check-in is better done online, so that later you only have to leave your luggage. Try to minimize waiting times by queuing.
Each airline has its own luggage policy for children and babies, but if they are still going to travel on the lap, beware that there are many that do not give you extra luggage for the baby. Sometimes it’s a few extra pounds in a parent’s suitcase. The same happens with hand luggage. Each airline is different, so it is better to find out beforehand so as not to run into scares on the day of travel.
Check if the airline or airport has an assistance service for families. Not all of them have this service, but if it is there, do not hesitate to make use of it, since they will help in everything they can, from the moment you board to the destination.
In some airports there are security checks for families when traveling with children. If there is, you have to go there without hesitation. It is fast, and also the rest of the travelers are in the same situation, so there is usually more empathy. In addition, they allow all the food that the child needs during the trip to pass: formula, cereals, baby food, fruit … You just have to put everything on a tray when passing through security. The baby’s creams or gels, however, have to be within 100 ml. If not, they must be invoiced.
The cart has to be folded on the belt. If you have chosen to check it in at the beginning of the trip, you have to pack it very very well, since it can suffer blows.
At the time of passing the control , the baby has to be held with one of the parents, and pass the detection arc in this way. If the child walks, and wants to, he can pass alone. Many are a little scared, so the best option is to spend it together with the parents.
Many parents worry about losing their children at the airport . Currently there are GPS location devices, which can be put on the child’s wrist and have it located through the application. The most traditional method is to write the name and phone number of the parents on their arm, so that, in case of loss, they can be contacted.
The entry and exit of the plane, the choice of seat and the duration of the trip are very important points when traveling with children. You have to know that in order for them to fly safely there is a special regulation adapted to their age .
Families when traveling with children have priority to board , so you have to be early at the boarding gate so as not to miss that opportunity to pass at the beginning, since then it is a hassle to get on the site, with the child, and all the world stopped waiting. Better to enter at the beginning and organize the seats calmly.
Just as you can enter the first ones, it is quite likely that you will have to exit the last ones . Although this may seem tedious, it is appreciated, since usually more space is needed to collect everything and check that there is nothing left on the floor.
If the child is under two years old, he does not occupy a seat , so he has to go on the lap of one of the parents, with a special seat belt for him, hooked to the adult. In this case, you pay 10% of the rate.
For children between 2 and 11 years old , a% of the rate is paid, never 100% (depending on the route) and they occupy a seat.
In the event that the child is less than two years old, but you do not want to go with him in your arms , then you have to pay as if he were older than two and also, you must bring an approved car seat, with the stamp of EU quality, ECE R44 / 03 or ECE R44 / 04, in which the baby will travel.
Depending on the design of the plane, certain sites are assigned, which are those with the oxygen masks adapted for them .
If you can choose a site, you have to know the advantages and disadvantages that each area offers when traveling with children:
Rear area : the further back, the less the other passengers are disturbed. In addition, it allows you to get up more easily and walk through the corridor, in addition to being close to the services, where there are changing tables. On the contrary, there is usually more noise and in many cases the seats are not fully reclining.
Middle of the plane : if the airline allows it, the emergency exit seats can be occupied, where there is more space, but where no luggage can be carried under the seat.
Front area : as in the rear, the rest of the passengers are usually less disturbed, although the corridor is usually narrower.
The choice of window or aisle already depends on the flexibility that parents want to give to the child’s movements.
On intercontinental trips, airlines have comfort cots for babies up to 11 kg. It is more than advisable to request these sites, if possible, since they have more space, in addition to the added advantage of the crib.
To keep children entertained during the trip, it is best to give them the toys that have been put in the hand luggage, but not all of them at once, as this causes them to lose interest. If they vary, it will be more entertaining. As far as possible, and in order not to disturb the rest of the passengers, it is better to avoid noisy and / or singing toys.
If, on the other hand, you have chosen to travel with children by car, above all, you must take into account the total travel times, from arrival, stops during the trip, among other things.
Always carry an approved seat in the car , either your own or rented. There are countries in which it is not required and children can travel in their arms or even sitting in the seat, but this is not recommended, since in the event of an accident the child does not wear the appropriate protections and can suffer severe damage! to make use of travel insurance!
In general, the sun bothers them a lot, so it is good to wear shades on the windows to protect from it.
If the child tends to get dizzy, it is more common for him to do so on a car trip , so carrying antiemetics (medication for motion sickness) is essential. In addition, this type of medication tends to make you drowsy, allowing you to drive quietly for a while.
It is essential to have plastic bags, towels or wet wipes on hand , as well as a couple of changes, in case you vomit.
As with air travel, it is important that you be entertained. Their movement in the car is more limited, so many families opt for the entertainment of movies or tablets, which can be carried on special holders, hooked to the front seats. Other ways to keep it entertained without having to resort to technology is to sit in the back seat, playing with it, always complying with the regulations (belt for the adult and seat for the child).
After reading all this information it may seem that traveling with children is not easy, but it is not. Be careful, the first trip can be a bit stressful, but little by little all this information is internalized and comes out naturally.
And yes, there are many things that must be taken into account, but at the end of the day it is about enjoying the trip, the stay and the family time. The key, as stated above, is to be very patient and stay calm.