How Kristin Travels
I have always loved to travel. Before I had my first son, people used to tell me to enjoy it while I could because it would all change once we had kids. They were right—having kids did change the way we travel, and we aren’t traveling internationally as much as we did before kids, but I am having so much fun sharing these experiences with my family. As my family grows and my expectations change, I feel like our trips are more and more successful.
I now have two sons, Sawyer (5) and Shepard (1), and my husband travels a lot for work. This year, we decided that when he travels, so will we. (This is especially doable for us because my husband flies so much he got a companion pass with Southwest Airlines for me.) So far we've been to New York City, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Denver. I would much rather be on the road with my husband than home with the kids by myself!
Visiting new places with my kids has completely changed the way we travel. I involve my five-year-old son in planning the activities. We look at tourism websites or check out books from the library. We choose one typical tourist site to visit in each place and then fill the rest of our time with activities we would do if we lived there (for example, libraries have become one of my favorite places to visit in new cities). I try to see each area as a mom living in that city would and find family-friendly activities. We have done some really fun things without spending much money. I try to encourage my son to think about how life would be different living in different places too.
For our trip to New York City, Sawyer really wanted to see the T-Rex skeleton at the Museum of Natural History so that was the first thing we did when we got there. He loved seeing the skeleton, but he wasn’t very interested in spending more time at the museum, so we went across the street to Central Park and spent hours exploring, climbing rocks, and watching squirrels. It was so much fun!
The next day we planned to visit Times Square and Rockefeller Center but it was a pretty cold day and we needed a place to warm up, so we stopped at the New York Public Library. The children’s section was the perfect place for the kids to play. We had fun reading together, there were supplies for kids to work on an art project (which Sawyer loved), and we happened to be there for a free concert that we all enjoyed. This ended up being my favorite part of our trip. The kids were happy and it was a very low-stress activity for me, which makes me happy. Since that trip I’m focusing more on finding similar activities that are low cost or free, low stress for me and fun for everyone.
If we are going on a longer trip each member of our family (minus the baby) chooses one thing we want to do and we focus on those three places. I've had to become much more realistic about what we can do and see since I am usually with the kids alone while my husband is working.
We almost always fly to the cities we visit, and I've learned to have some activities and snacks prepared. I usually pack a Ziplock bag for each kid with a few toys. For Sawyer I pack a couple matchbox cars or Transformers. He also always brings a stuffed animal to play with. Sawyer loves to color and draw, so when he was younger I always packed a coloring book and markers or crayons and one of the Water Wow books from Melissa and Doug. Now he is happy to draw in a small notebook, so I just bring that with a box of crayons.
For longer flights (over three hours) I bring the IPad so he can watch a movie. I also pack a Ziplock bag for Shepard with a few of his smaller toys. I change it up depending on what entertains him but I’ve been packing a car he likes to drive around, a sock puppet or finger puppets, stickers and a slinky. He loves to look at pictures of animals so I also bring a couple of board books that he can look at.
Most flights we resort to entertainment we can find and make with things on the plane. He thinks it’s hilarious to put things in the empty barf bags and then pull them back out so we do that for as long as he wants. When the flight attendants bring drinks I always ask for a cup of water with a lid and straw and that provides some entertainment too, he likes to have a drink but also to blow bubbles in the cup and that keeps him happy for a while. Some flights he is amazing and others are rough so we just do our best!
In the end, if your baby has had enough, he might cry and it's not the end of the world. I think as long as other passengers see that you are trying they are usually very understanding. I used to get extreme anxiety anytime we flew that my baby would cry and disturb other people, but after a 10-hour flight home from Thailand with a fussy baby, I learned that no matter how hard you try you can't prevent them from crying. Yes, it was a miserable flight, but life went on, and I never saw those other passengers again. So now I don't worry so much about flying with a baby.