Despite making it through over 20 countries so far with children, we’re still saying “wow, I can’t believe we didn’t do such-and-such sooner.” Here are some of the things we’ve fined tuned to make our travelling easier. I hope it helps you, too!
Be self sufficient where possible. We bottle feed our baby and there is nothing worse than knowing he’s about to lose it than not having access to a way to warm that bottle. We find that only about 50% of the places we stay have a kettle, and waaaaay less have a microwave. So…we bring our own kettle that is compact, and has a wide opening — boil the water, set the bottle in, off we go.
We take it one step further though. We happen to have two water bottles that are insulated and work like a champ. Before going out for the day we boil water and put it in one thermos, and put cold baby milk in the other thermos. I also have a compact jug I bring. When Tom gets hungry I put the cold milk into a bottle, put the bottle in the jug, fill the jug with boiling water from the thermos and we’re set. No screaming in the car/stroller until we find somewhere to heat it, and it means we can be out longer in the day as we can bring the milk with us. I also bring one ready-to-feed formula that doesn’t require refrigeration in case we are having a good time and want to keep going. We try not to break into it as they’re more expensive, but it’s nice to have on hand. (Side note: powdered formula cannot be proven sterile says the World Heath Organization so we use concentrated but if you are open to using powdered that’s a lot easier I’m sure as it’s more “shake and go!” and it’s also less expensive)
Pack masking tape. We use this on hotel floors for games for Henry (a balance beam, hop scotch, let him unroll it), to seal packages of nuts or whatever else (chips ha) that we haven’t finished, and we also use it as baby proofing on the go. As soon as he enters a room Henry looks for ways to kill himself so we tape over outlets (below) , tape utensil drawers shut in Airbnbs, and tape our list to the wall….
Make a list. There is nothing more annoying to me than wrangling two small kids out the door for a day of sightseeing and forgetting something a block away (the debate of “is it worth going back for…”). We’ve written a list of everything we need each time we leave the house.
If you’re staying at a hotel, try to have breakfast included when possible. As a couple travelling, wandering a new city trying out cafes is probably my favourite part of the day. With a hangry toddler that just wants to eat and get to the playground, this is not his favourite part of the day. If there is a little buffet of cheese, fruit, yoghurt, nuts…we can scarf it down and go.
If you’d rather stay at an apartment or house style, my biggest tip is to find an option with a washing machine (it’s dreamy to do laundry at a laundromat in another country when you travel without kids so you can people watch and wander around while it cleans, but when you do have kids, it’s much easier to pop a load in at your leisure than track down a laundromat).
First aid kit. Have you ever booked a road trip to find out your child gets motion sick? No? Just me? I never considered a first aid kit until my doctor friend told me what’s in hers. Mine is much less advanced, but having children’s Tylenol, Gravol, Bandaids, sanitization wipes, Benadryl etc doesn’t hurt.
I bring powdered laundry soap and a roll of string (clothes line!) when we travel. I did this pre-kids as well for times we couldn’t find a laundry mat or just needed to do a few items in the sink. I often have people say “what if you get pulled over at the airport thinking it’s drugs.” But. It’s not drugs. That seems like an odd reason not to bring it. Maybe there are laundry scented drugs? Truthfully, I’m not up on my drug knowledge, but I’ll just say, if you prefer to buy it when you land, go for it. (59 countries in, I’ve never been stopped at the airport wondering if I have a bag of laundry scented drugs on me.)
Car seats. Ugh. They are a huge pickle. My thought is that if you’re doing some driving when you get there and will have one consistent car, bring your own. It’s a pain at the airport, but then you strap them in and forget about it. If you’re hopping around (staying in Tuscany, and then flying to Nice, and then taking the train to Spain only renting a car for a week or something) just rent them. They’re so clunky. Do be warned, we’ve had some trouble renting them as they’re often the same price as the car per day to rent which adds up, they often don’t have awnings on them so if you have a rental car without a tinted window the sun is constantly in their eyes, and we’ve rented two cars before (compact) where the car seats didn’t fit if someone were in the seat in front of it meaning I had to sit in the backseat. In both cases I asked for a different car seat or car just to make it work, but at a cost.
Pack light weight things to do in the hotel room in case of rainy days (North America is ready for bad weather with indoor children’s activities but most places we’ve travelled are not). For Tom, we brought our Jolly Jumper as it’s compact, light and he LOVES it to get his infant exercise in, and for Henry his go-tos are small cars, and a pack of balloons. I also packed a package of Easter eggs that we hide almost daily. Not sure he knows there is chocolate inside? When he finds out that will be the end of the egg hunt haha.
Hope this helps with your next trip planning!