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I am a huge fan of stress-free travel, which was a steep learning curve when I started traveling solo with my infant (now four year old) son. Over the years I’ve learned that preparation is key. Seemingly small tasks done in advance have saved me from having airport meltdowns, missing my flight, and countless headaches. Here’s a breakdown to help you prepare for your next flight with kids.
One Week Before Departure…
1. Start organizing your travel clothes.
- I stage what I want to pack using laundry baskets. One basket per person. As I toss items in the baskets, I’m taking into consideration weather at the destination, weather en route, duration of trip, and what activities we’ll be doing. When it comes time to actually pack the bags, I’m more easily able to edit down what I need versus items I want to bring.
- Use packing cubes to help keep clothing organized for each family member. Check out my companion blog post about finding the perfect packing cube.
2. Update contact information on your luggage. The only necessary information to put on your luggage is a current phone number and your first and last name. If your luggage is lost or delayed, this helps the airline reunite you faster with your luggage. Avoid putting your home address on luggage to keep your home safe while you’re away.
3. Make sure your Cloud backup software (Google, iCloud, etc) has ample storage space available for all those vacation photos. If you need some wiggle room, take the time to delete duplicates or, if you’re extra sentimental like me, you can upgrade your storage for a surcharge to save the time and hassle of sorting through those photos.
4. Clear and backup your camera’s memory card. If you use an actual camera to take photos, make sure to download and backup the existing photos from the memory card to your computer or Cloud before your trip so you have a full memory card to use for your vacation. As a photographer, I am very “click happy”, especially on vacations. I also like to pack a backup memory card just in case I take too many photos (as if there is such a thing as too many photos).
The Day Before Departure…
1. Prep your meals and snacks.
- Set your coffee maker so it’s one less thing to worry about on the travel morning. Waking up to hot, fresh coffee is a game changer!
- I like to make breakfast ahead of time too. Scrambled eggs with a dash of milk and a sprinkle of cheese reheat well the next morning and is packed with protein to keep you satisfied throughout the morning.
- Always prepare for delays and cancellations by packing extra food.
- Partially-melted ice packs aren’t allowed through the TSA checkpoint unless they are preserving breastmilk. If you plan to pack food items that require a cooler, I recommend packing foods that you can freeze and eat throughout the day as they thaw. Think foods like blueberries, Uncrustable sandwiches (make your own with these fun sandwich sealing kits), pepperonis, etc. Once you’re through security, you can ask a food vendor for ice.
- If you need easy snack ideas, I love @YummyToddlerFood on Instagram for inspiration.
2. Charge alllllllllll of your devices. Many airlines have in-seat power to charge your devices in-flight, but they don’t always work and not every airplane has them available, so be prepared ahead of time. Phone, camera, laptop, tablet, game consoles, battery banks, charge everything ahead of time. You do not want to be running low on power during vacation, especially while en route to your destination. I keep our charging blocks and charging cords in a pencil pouch so they don’t get disorganized in my carry-on bag.
3. Download streaming content for offline use. Free in-flight entertainment is a wonderful development on major US airline carriers, however I can’t guarantee that service will always work. Technology is technology after all, and sometimes the servers don’t connect. To avoid being stuck with zero entertainment, be sure to download a few episodes of your child’s favorite TV show or a few movies you both enjoy.
4. Grab a stack of $1 bills. If you use curbside “sky cap” to check your luggage or use a shuttle to your hotel or rental car facility, it’s common courtesy to tip a few dollars for the convenience.
5. Set out your travel day outfits. Airports and airplanes tend to be extremely hot or extremely cold, so dressing in layers helps you to be prepared. When we take an early-morning flight, I dress my son in his travel outfit the night before to make for a smoother transition from the bed, to the car, to the airport. I make sure to pack a light jacket or pullover in his carry-on.
As for me, I like a short-sleeve shirt with a flannel button up or pullover sweatshirt. For bottoms, I like lots of deep pockets and/or zipper pockets. Picking and layout out my outfit ahead of time helps my mornings go exponentially smoother.
My favorite travel pants are Duluth Trading Company’s “Dry on the Fly” slim leg pants. I recommend sizing down, as they tend to run slightly large and they do stretch after wearing. These pants are outfitted with a cellphone pocket that’s large enough for my iPhone 11 in an OtterBox case, a zipper pocket where I keep my ID and credit/debit card, and the hip pockets deep enough to fit my entire hand. They can be rolled up comfortably into capris and they really do “dry on the fly.” I once spilled a small airline-cup of water on myself when landing. By the time we had taxied to our gate, my pants were already dry and spared me the embarrassment of looking like I’d peed myself.
6. Let your toddler/preschooler pick out a few toys and books for their bag. Toddlers are natural helpers and want to be included in the packing process. The easiest way to make this happen is to guide them in picking out a few toys for their backpack or activity bag. Here’s a few helpful tips:
- Try to avoid sentimental/meaningful toys (if you can help it) so they don’t get lost in transit. If you must bring toys of value, try packing them in a Ziplock bag that is labeled with each toy packed inside. Then you can “role call” to make sure you didn’t leave any behind.
- Packing toys with wheels? You can bring a non-adhesive small sheet of rubber shelf liner, so the cars don’t roll off the tray table in-flight. Or bring toys with wheels that are stationary.
- As for books, think about books that offer more than just words on a page. Books with fun textures, pop-ups, and built-in activities help to keep those little hands busy. We love Melissa & Doug Poke-a-Dot books.
7. Load up the car. The travel carseat and any checked luggage is loaded in the car the night before. More often than not, I’m traveling solo with my son and don’t have the extra hands (or patience!) to load the car in the morning. Make sure to load your carry-on bags on the day of departure, just in case you remember something last-minute that you wanted to pack so you don’t waste time going back and forth to your car.
Voila! You’re ready!
I know, this list may seem overwhelming at first, but I promise it will help you stay on track for your upcoming vacation. Shoot me a message on Instagram if you found this helpful, and let me know how your trip went. I’d love to connect with you!