When we were growing up we did a lot of family vacations. In the early days, we did a lot of camping, we went to lakes, the beach, and some national parks. I still have a very vivid memory of driving through a Redwood tree. As we got older we went to more places and stayed in hotels, mostly we traveled by car because flying with 3 or 4 kids (depending on if our older brother stayed home or went with us) was expensive for my folks. We flew occasionally, especially if the trip was far away. But since there were so many of us it tended to get crazy.
I knew when I began my own family that I wanted my kids to experience life, to have more great memories than great toys. So we decided early on to gift experiences as well as “stuff.” We discovered that our kids were just as excited to go to new places as they were to get things. Of course, we always do a little souvenir at each place we visit, but it is usually something small and aligns more with memorabilia than toys.
We make sure to use a travel agent when we plan big trips that include plane-fare, hotel stays, and rental cars. You might think no that it is cheaper to find your own deal, but when it comes down to it the agents find better deals because hotels and airlines make package deals with them and each agent has a reward account with one or more hotels and airlines. We also maintain a rewards credit card that earns us travel points. That way when we use it we earn more rewards.
As far as traveling with small children you might be surprised how easy it really is. Most airlines allow for one free car seat and one free stroller check per person. So you do not even have to pay extra to bring them. Children under two can fly on a parents lap for free. And as long as you prepare flying with kids can be fairly uneventful. pack lots of snacks, toys, coloring books, and bring headphones for over their ears. Airlines usually have entertainment centers with games, music, and movies available for free now. They even stock kids favorites, including tv shows, and new release movies. However, airlines only give out earbuds for free. So if you want a small child to enjoy the sound bring good headphones.
Try to get a window seat, that way kids can watch outside during takeoff and landing. Also, try to make sure kids are snacking or chewing gum during takeoff and landing. It helps alleviate the pressure in their ears. Moms who breastfeed can even nurse their baby or toddler during those times, it too helps with pressure.
You know your child best, you know their schedule and routine, and their fussiness factors. We have discovered our kids fly best mid-morning or just after dinner. That way they nap or sleep throughout the flight with small windows of wake-fullness. So think about what times are best for you and your kids. When you fly with kids try to make sure you arrive at the airport more than two hours ahead. Traveling with car seats and strollers means checking them into bulky and oversize baggage check which means standing in line, you cannot do self-check. So allow for extra time.
Travelling is fun, it can be stressful but it is also very rewarding. So don’t be afraid to travel with kids.