Growing up most of our family vacations were either trips to see family in Illinois (from Florida) or camping trips. I am not even close to even thinking about taking my family camping yet. Maybe some day. Our kids are still so little that the only time we get away is when we’re heading to see family. With family in New Hampshire and Florida, we do get some nice opportunities to travel. Luckily for us, we pretty much always have somewhere to sleep so we can avoid hotels.

Last month we took a few days away from staying at my parents’ house in Florida to go with my husband’s family to stay at a beach resort. The night before we left, I unpacked and repacked my three and a half year old’s suitcase. This is what she had packed:

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What my three and a half year old would pack if she had her way.

She wasn’t expected to pack clothes in her bag, but I did cut the amount of toys and knick-knacks in half. We also made sure she knew she was responsible for carrying whatever she decided to bring.

Heading into the vacation, I had two conflicting ideas about what this mini-vacation might look like. Either it will be absolute hell where we’re all four in one hotel room awake all night long singing row-row-row-your-boat trying to get everyone to settle down, or I’ll get to enjoy some great beach and pool time because there will be so many family members around to help out. Reality fell right in the middle.

Everyone slept really well during the night, but the baby got up at 5am the first morning. This isn’t unusual for her, but usually there is another room we can go to so we don’t wake everyone else up. Luckily we were in Florida so it was warm and we could go outside. I walked around the dark hotel grounds with her killing time for an hour and a half until the sun starting coming up. Finally, we got to watch a great sunrise together. My husband was glad to have gotten to “sleep in” and my older daughter got some much needed extra rest after all that swimming.

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Getting to watch the sun rise is one of the perks of having an early riser.

Since we only have two kids, we each took responsibility for one. I spent a lot of time napping and relaxing in the super comfortable hotel bed with the baby while my husband went to the beach and the pool with our older daughter. I didn’t mind at all and I don’t think he did either. The baby loved the pool, but she was really more interested in crawling around, which makes being in public areas of a hotel difficult. All in all it was a great little getaway. It might not be as easy as it once was to travel now that we have children, but it’s certainly worth it to be able to see family members that live far away.

Having flown with a kid at least six times or so, I’d like to share a few little tips I keep in mind when traveling/or flying with kids:

  • Have a change of clothes for each kid and have them accessible (not in your checked baggage or in the overhead compartment). You never know when there’ll be a diaper blowout. I was also terrified the captain would never turn that darn fasten seat belt sign off so I could take my preschooler to the bathroom!
  • Bring a change of clothes for you! When our daughter was three months old, we met another nice couple with a baby on our plane. We complimented the dad on his Florida Gators shirt, assuming he had attended college at UF as we had. Turns out that his baby had had a diaper blowout while he was holding him going through security and he’d had to buy that shirt in the airport gift shop because the baby had gotten poop on his shirt.
  • Bring a baby carrier – I think it’s easier to get a baby to fall asleep when you’re “wearing” them.
  • If at all possible, have a car seat or car seat base at the other end of your flight so you don’t have to bring one, but if you do, it’s really no big deal – you just check it at the gate.
  • Bring lots of food. If your kid is like mine (and me), their boredom will be easily combated with snacks. Plus if their mouths are full they’ll be less able to cry or scream.
  • Make sure they are hungry, and then feed a bottle or nurse at take off and when you start to descend to help their ears pop. I think it’s worth having a hungry cranky kid while boarding to be able to hold off on feeding until takeoff. For an older kid, bring lollypops, other hard candy, or gum to help them pop their ears..
  • If at all possible, fly an airline with unassigned seats (Southwest!). You’ll feel less guilty about a loud child if most people around you had the chance to sit somewhere else. You’ll find you’ll usually end up in the “family” section giving each other reassuring smiles.
  • Pat yourself on the back when you arrive – you are superwoman for pulling all that off. I once flew alone with my 18-month old and had her in the front pack and all of our stuff in a hiking backpack on my back balancing me. I felt like a champ!
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