Welcome to the first installment of Trips + Giggles Top 5, where we ask parents for their best tips for the Top 5 family travel situations--Packing, Flying, Road-Tripping, Hotel Living and Finding Fun. After all, the best advice always comes from parents who have been there, done that, and cleaned up that.
Hi! I’m Adrienne Evatt. I've been a full-time corporate executive with GE for the past 21 years and I have 3 young daughters (ages 4, 2 ½, and 8 months). I work as a business consultant for health systems and hospitals in the US. I travel for work most weeks of the year. My husband is a rockin’ stay at home dad and part-time photographer.
I enjoy rowing in the marina (in Los Angeles), cooking, gardening, teaching Pilates, and writing a blog about our small urban farm (at our house) called urbandreamer.org. I travel for a living, basically, and so I cherish every single moment I have with my family. We travel quite a bit as a family as well--even the kids have their own frequent flyer numbers.
Here are my Top 5 tips:
PACKING: The the best tip I can give is to organize. It’s easy for all the kids' clothes, bath stuff, shoes, etc. to get mixed in and confused with their siblings and parents’ stuff. When it is time to get them dressed, you are stuck digging in the suitcase for five minutes wondering how you can’t seem to find a single outfit or pair of pajamas or whatever you are looking for.
We either put a divider in the big suitcase to separate each of the kids’ stuff, or as they have gotten older, they have their own cute little roller bags (ours have animal faces and a shoulder strap that allows mom or dad to take over carrying the luggage easily if needed) that have their items in them, including a lovey or stuffed animal to keep them company while we are away from home.
FLYING: We've had many a frustrating flight where a straw-type sippy cup would spew milk or water on innocent bystanders when you open them in-flight. We always bring a snack bag for the kids, but now we pack the sippy cups empty and bring a bottle of water (or wait for them to hand it out on the plane) and a container of milk that you can screw closed. Another option is those cool boxes of milk that look like juice boxes but have milk in them, and they are disposable (score!) but not save-able (oops we can’t hold onto it for later!). Each choice has its trade offs.
ROAD-TRIPPING: When we fly somewhere with the whole family, we always have a lot to carry including a travel stroller (a light umbrella one that easily slides through the x-ray in security), luggage, baby carrier, electronics and snacks. So when we go to pick up a rental car, we generally rent the car seats from the car rental company too. Carrying car seats and everything else while keeping track of our kids is just too much. We are always glad we did it that way and feel it is worth the expense.
HOTEL LIVING: We usually stay at a Hilton (that is where I have my frequent traveler points) and almost every single one has a mini-fridge with a freezer shelf or a full-size one. Homewood Suites, a part of the Hilton Hotels brand, has this, and also free buffet breakfast and dinner that is very kid-friendly. Having a fridge for milk and cheese sticks and a freezer for frozen Gogurts has proved to be a life saver on some trips. Eating out for kids all of time is tough, and my children benefit from having a few familiar tastes when we travel. We also let them set up their sleep area with their blanket and stuffed animal friend when we arrive to set up nap and bedtime as a fun travel experience, kind of like camping! I also recommend asking the hotel before you arrive to borrow a crib or pack n' play. They have never said no to us. If you need more space, book a room with a convertible sofa for older kids.
FINDING FUN: For fun, we do well-planned excursions with organized start and end times that consider meal, snack and nap times. We let the kids know the plan ahead of time so they know what to expect. We do beach and pool fun and swimming, sledding, building snowmen, touring around in one of those convertible tour buses (with the open tops), and playing in local parks. I have even brought my baby to a wine-tasting (she was strapped to the front of me, facing out, and had a great time watching everyone). We also like to go camping in a tent, and have a wonderful time exploring nature, having campfires and doing the whole looking at stars and then sleeping in your sleeping bag thing (inside the tent!).
Thanks, Adrienne! Parents, share your own travel tips with us in comments below!
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