This is a little snap shot of our recent, epic cruise on the Disney Wonder ship:
Here’s our 30 min podcast offering tips, tricks and details of our experience:
-Lanyard & Disney pins (get them on Amazon!)
-Pirate outfit for pirate night
-Magnets for cabin door (name of family and other fun stuff)
-Ear plugs (the ship can be noisy especially if there is a storm)
-Plastic bags for soiled clothes and such
-Cash for shopping at ports of call and tips
-Large water bottles to refill and carry
-Pack layers as temps can change quickly
-Vitamins and electrolytes
-Small bag/ backpack for going into ports
-Nausea bracelets for kids under 12 (the ship offers free nausea pills for adults)
-Download the kids’ favorite shows & music. It will come in handy in stressful moments with no service and in the long boarding and deboarding process. Bring games and snacks too!
-Pack as light as possible. You are stuck with your luggage for a little while. You’ll appreciate this.
-Confirm your dining schedule before you arrive.
-Clean the house and be as organized as possible prior to leaving for a stress free return home. It’s very hard to return to reality after the Disney Cruise!
-Don’t mention nausea or discuss in front of kids if they are not showing signs or concerns of being sick (suggestion is powerful and contagious). We were on the boat for 5 days and it didn’t bother our 5 year-old a bit!
-Keep a full stomach on ship to avoid nausea. Empty stomach are leading cause to sea sickness.
-Try to organize, pack and prep night before departure morning. The ship is chaotic when it’s time to deboard.
-Try to catch the sunrise from the deck. They are amazing and there is usually no one around early in the morning.
-If you plan an adult dinner try to do it towards middle of trip. We did it on our last night and felt more like we wanted to share the last night with our son so we didn’t spend as much time at dinner as we might have had it been earlier in the week.
-Wi-fi packages are pricey. Free Wi-fi is nonexistent on the boat.
-There is lots of storage in the stateroom under the bed, in the closet and there are several drawers available.
-Check weather of all destinations and ports of call 1 day before departure and be sure to pack accordingly.
-Update your phone before you leave home and download the Disney Navigator app.
Enjoy your trip!! It truly was the best vacation that we have been on as a family to date. It was so great that we scheduled another cruise next year!
Vacations bring visions of beaches, breezes, reclining, and reading those books or magazines you just haven’t gotten to yet. Vacations with kids are often not at all as the brochure advertised. There is no brochure for a trip filled with barf, missing baggage, or panic over where the favorite toy has disappeared! But these are the realities sometimes traveling with kids.
We traveled on over 100 flights with our first kiddo – for work and for family trips – and many since adding to the family. We recently took an overseas trip with 20 people, including 10 children – many were teens and two toddlers. I have learned A LOT along the way and I’ve shared this with many friends traveling with their kiddos over the years. Travel with kids seems overwhelming, but the ability to expose your children to new places, people, experiences, bond with each other, and make memories is absolutely worth it. If you think back to your childhood, how many memories were made with parents and siblings or extended family road-tripping or somewhere away from home? These are special times, and you can increase the enjoyment and decrease the stress with a few no-fail tips for every trip.
Here are easy action items and suggestions to arrive sane there and back for any trip:
Manage expectations. True in work, life, parenting, coaching – but no more true than on a sweaty tram home to the parking lot after a long day at Disneyland with two over-tired, screaming kiddos and a stranger’s armpit in your face. Mickey was great but the ride home should have been one of Dante’s Circles. Start the trip with an honest admission that traveling with kids is hard work – away from routines, familiar places and things – naps may not happen on schedule or at all, people may puke, there may be delays. Start knowing these things may happen and promising to your tribe you will roll through it, don’t hide the fact that traveling has hiccups from your kids. Prepare them for waits and that problems may arise and we all have to be on the same team to get to the fun parts. It is worth it for lifelong memories, the bonding time, and for the adventure. I promise you will remember the crazy and fun decades after you have forgotten what spilled apple juice smells on pants after a 5 hour flight.
Make a list. Sit down and talk about the trip, ask for 2 must-dos or three priorities of EACH member of the family. Let them share without comment from others until the list is made. This works for 2 person or 20 person trips. Often some of the struggles on a trip can be totally avoided when we take time to figure out what matters most to those we are traveling with and plan around those priorities. This often will reveal if there are unrealistic expectations and help you prioritize your schedule while traveling and make choices on the fly when plans change. If you are traveling with a large group or small group, schedule it so that individuals or individual families have meals alone or everyone gets some down time EVERY DAY. This will save your sanity. And, take the list with you!
Simplify packing: Unless you are going to a third-world country, even overseas there are stores with diapers, wipes, mouthwash, etc. We all pack as if we were going to the deepest backwoods. Unless you are…. My take after so many trips, and especially now with bag fees nearing what ticket prices used to be, is to pack only what you need for the trip there plus a day, in consumable supplies, and plan to stop at (with a family member or in your rental car) a Target or Walmart on your way to your first stop. If you don’t plan to have transportation, it is hard to find a place that isn’t a block or a $3 Uber away from a Walgreens or grocery. You will have to buy supplies to replace what you take from home anyway, instead of lugging it all around and paying to do so, get the bulk of what you need where you are going. Diapers, wipes, baby food, formula, even toiletries are all on sale and take coupons in nearly every city in the U.S. Overseas it is harder, but I managed to find a pharmacy with the same over the counter meds we take at home, for less, and it only took 5 minutes out of my trek, instead of an hour to figure out what to pack and not. Then, you can also buy that full size shampoo in the brand you’d rather use, or save more room for souveniers. Pack your own medication, clothes, allergy-sensitive or special products, kids favorite toys (mine each get 2 small ones!), shoes, baby gear* (more on that below). For clothes, consider doing laundry halfway through the trip (if more than 4-5 days). Most hotels have laundry machines, some will do your laundry for a fee that is reasonable. In a pinch, there is always the sink for underwear and small things like bathing suits that get worn over and over. When we go see family, with their prior permission, we often borrow clothes so we don’t have to take much but shoes, underwear, and pjs. Sounds crazy, but it has made it so much easier to travel and get through airports with much less stuff, and reduce wait times for baggage.
Carry On EVERYTHING: On all but maybe 10 of those flights… we carried on everything. I know you think I am nuts, but this decreases the time we are in the airport (germs, hassles, lines, stress) by at least two hours every trip, we don’t have to arrive as early and we can go straight to our car/transportation getting off the plane, usually skip baggage claim and bypass everyone waiting. Even when the baby was little, even when I traveled alone, even when we went on long trips. We roll our clothes, use space saving bags, and Dad gets the bags, I get the kids. If I’m traveling alone, I usually identify someone in the security line that looks like a mom, dad, grandma or grandpa and ask for help with my bags getting on the belt or on the plane. Usually I don’t need help if I have a roller bag and stroller and a backpack. The stroller carries a LOT and you can bungee a carseat to a roller bag. Older kids can also take a bag or two. Our 3 year old did an entire trip recently with no stroller and dragging his own bag. Mostly because he didn’t want his sister touching his bag, but, you know. He did it. I usually try to consolidate the kids into one suitcase for their clothes and the toy they sleep with, we share a suitcase, and then we and they each get a bag they promise to carry (backpack!) with their books/tablet/coloring stickers/snacks for the plane.
Essentials: Your kids are going to be bored once you reach 10,000 feet or 30 miles from home in a car. I promise. If you are tech free family, all power to you. Bring thin/light books, a coloring book they haven’t seen, crayons (plan to lose some on the floor at landing), snacks like granola bars, fruit leather/snacks, pouches if you are brave. Window clings and those wixisticks are for whatever reason at least 15 minutes of fun. Stickers/sticker books. If you are a tech family, PRELOAD and don’t expect working wifi, most won’t stream video. Make sure the tablet/phone has games and at least one movie that will work if there is no WIFI. Plan to pay for wifi. Southwest has a lot of free video content if you just connect to their WIFI. And, plane trays and seat pockets are dirtier than most public restroom toilets. I always – ALWAYS – wipe the entire tray, armrest, window down with a Wet One. I don’t mind looking like the crazy mom if my kid avoids Influenza A the first two days into our Disney vacation.
Baby Gear: I may not offer a popular opinion here, but we found most of the baby gear (we tried A LOT and regret it) to be totally useless. Under 3 (probably 4) a stroller is essential. Beware if you take your nice one…. When you gate check it, it will come off the plane with something bent or broken, possibly beyond repair. Happened every flight. We finally bought a $20 travel system on Craigslist, Evenflo, that lasted us through two years of travel. It was a lightweight seat/car seat too, and worked great, had a big basket. Graco’s wheels are too big for security belts at TSA… and will lead you to screenings you don’t want. An umbrella stroller is better than no stroller, you can hang stuff on it. Bring your booster seat (they can’t use these on the plane if no back). And for a car seat between bucket and booster, we got a Cosco (not Costco) Scenera for $30 we use for any travel or we used to borrow one from a friend. We now have an extra to loan to friends. TAKE YOUR CAR SEAT if you can. Kids under 3 will often sleep if in a seat, and if not, they want to get down which is often not possible. If kiddo is under two and you didn’t buy a seat and you are on any airline but especially Southwest, ask if it’s a full flight – really full – and bring it on anyway. 9/10 times we choose the last row, and no one wants to sit by two people and a baby. If there was a seat, we got the open one and if not, they will gate check your seat (bring a bag even a garbage bag or sports bag to put it in). Get tags for your bag and stroller BEFORE boarding is called. Baby seats MUST go in a window seat. So consider that when booking, it is an FAA regulation for safety and non-negotiable. Don’t pay for seats, they must seat a parent with a child and a baby in a window. So unless you want to be sure you all sit in a row, you do not have to pay ahead for seat selection. With the four of us we usually take two seat in two rows. When you buckle a baby seat in make sure the buckle is facing away from the seat or into a space you can lift to release it. We once had our seat stuck on a plane for a bit because we had buckled it facing the hard side of the seat and could not lift the tab to unbuckle it. Ask for an extender if you need it. And check to see where the buckle lies, in case kiddo is sitting on it. Often there is nothing you can do but you can pad it with a diaper. Take a bag that is a tote, zippered, on the top so you can reach into it easily while seated. Or a backpack with easy front pockets. I pre-filled bottles with toddler formula and breastmilk, so all I had to do was add water or open them. TSA will likely screen breastmilk and bottles. It’s annoying. Be prepared to have to go to a different area with all your junk and have them swab them. Buy water for bottles past security don’t take it through, even though it’s allowed, they are usually difficult about it.
Transportation: Car rentals are cheapest in the US usually weekend day to weekend day, weekdays are more. I like carrrentals.com the best. Go there, check the price, then check the cheapest company’s price on their website. We have found more and more that Uber and Lyft are cheaper in most places (even Hawaii and overseas) than renting or even than some public transportation. Obviously, be cautious and you must feel comfortable using these services. We would send screenshots of the driver and car to whomever wasn’t riding with us for safety. I even do this now in the US when I use it locally. If you decide to venture into public transportation, ask for help from your hotel/someone that works at the train station, especially if you are in an unfamiliar place, before you set foot on the bus/train. TRUST ME it will save you a lot of time and headache, and scary experiences.
Other People: Do not make gift bags for people flying on your plane with your baby. If you have to fly with a tuna sandwich your neighbor is eating, or their B.O…. you do not need to make apologies for procreating and traveling with your family. There is a terrible truth in travel that upsets me every time I enter an airport. Take a 30 something women, do her hair, put her in a suit and people will fall over themselves to help her on a plane or help her with bags. Take the same woman, put her in yoga pants, a shirt with spit up, baby on hip, and give her a stroller and people will literally part waters around her in an airport to avoid helping her. My family has taken to seeking out moms traveling alone in airports just to offer a hand to get on the plane, or help with gate checking, ANYTHING, after so many terrible experiences seeing how parents are treated. It is nearly the inverse for fathers traveling…. But that’s a whole other blogpost for another day. 😊 ASK FOR HELP IF YOU NEED IT. From airport gate staff, or friendly-grandparent types. Usually they are just thrilled to offer help carrying a bag or just helping get situated on a plane. Obviously do not leave your kid or stuff with them, but they can be a hand to get through security or on the plane. And OFFER THIS HELP even if it seems weird when you see a parent struggling traveling alone. That one act of kindness can change an entire day/trip/memory. Our youngest got seriously hurt when he tripped in the gate area on a trip last year, he cut his lip on the charging station on a seat, and was bleeding profusely, EMS were called and it scared him and us. We were all shaken, including our older child. A mother and her son ran to the nearest store, bought each kid a small toy and asked if they could give them to them. (Don’t assume – ask…) This distraction of them coming to ask and the toy calmed our son down enough to be examined. He was fine, we were able to calm down, take a breath, and managed to make the flight. The whole thing could have been much different and we may have been refused boarding, if he had not been able to stop hyperventilating-crying long enough to be looked at. He was fine, we were fine, and those two happened to be sitting next to us on the flight. Both kids – even the little one – made them thank you notes on take off. Today, it is a sweet memory of the kindness of strangers instead of a traumatic memory. Be that person. We try to pay it forward every trip to other families with kiddos.
Drivealogue: If you haven’t seen these cards, they are conversation cards for families, for the car ride home from school, dinner table, etc. THESE ARE AWESOME FOR CAR TRIPS AND PLANE TRIPS and they make them in different age ranges. Even great for couples! I have a friend that sells them locally if you want some or you can buy them online.
YOUR TRIP: Finally, these are all musings from my experiences traveling as a mom and in business travel. I am an admitted over-organized, overthinking, germaphobe and plan ahead for even the relaxing trips. Your style may be totally different (and, frankly, better)! Set your expectations and then make sure what you do around housing, activities, packing, and schedules on your trip mirrors those must-dos and what you really want to get out of the trip. There is no wrong way to travel with kids, just easier and harder ways. Try to do it in the way that mirrors your family’s day-to-day needs and focus on the goal of time together and memories.
I wish you an amazing Spring Break whether you are staying home or traveling far, and pray that all your travels are safe and full of less stress and great memories! If you have questions, feel free to email me or message me.
Does the thought of traveling with kids give you hives or make you giddy with excitement… for me, it’s a little of both!
There have been many MOMnation posts asking questions about traveling with kids, so we hope to tackle a few of these common questions in the blog! The first one is asked often: When Do You Need a Passport and Where? And how do you get one?
Perhaps the best advice I’ve ever heard, from a fellow East Valley Mom, was to not call all trips vacations, even if it is “Spring Break” or “vacation time.” Some trips are just trips…. A lot of packing, travel, effort – worth it, but NOT relaxing. Some trips are vacations and time to have fun, unwind, relax. The MOST important thing to enjoy and survive a trip with kiddos is to manage your expectations of what the trip will be. And…. Plan more vacations and fewer trips!
After over 100 flights with littles, hauling baby gear, breast pumps, strollers, so many security searches, and dealing with sea sickness and kiddo barf in a rental car (longest, smelliest 7 hour drive EVER… ironically – one of the most memorable)! I can say emphatically, manage expectations and that will make your trip and your kids’ experiences much better. And, I can’t say this enough, you never EVER have to make “I’m sorry for my toddler” bags for people around you on planes, unless the guy with the tuna sandwich or snapping gum plans to give you one too. Families have a right to travel and fly, and to do it without hassle from other travelers OR mom-guilt.
On to passports: Laws have changed over the years and the enforcement of passport rules can vary by area/checkpoint. But the State Department has clear rules (as do other countries) about what must be presented, and it seems enforcement has gotten more strict at the border since we were kids. Even if you have heard, my friend said she didn’t have to show her license, even…. last time we went a few years ago, etc. It is always best to recheck both the State Department current guidelines and travel advisories before leaving the country. It’s also important to note, this advice pertains to short trips, not long stays in countries that may require Visas and other documents. You should always check the State Department for the specific requirements of the country you are traveling to.
Travel advisories are important as well. They are advice. In very few countries does the State Department actually prohibit travel, but you should know before you go. If there are travel warnings, you must be aware and make a conscious choice to still take the trip. We recently traveled overseas with a large group, including many kids, to a country that had an active advisory. We went with a plan to be very observant, clear rules for adults and kids about safety, and stayed in tourist-friendly and “safe” areas. We also signed up and registered our travel with the State Department so they could alert us in the event of any activity, and I’m glad we did. The trip went well but I was glad we had the information before we left and to know we would be alerted in the event of a security concern.
Here are the details on land/air/sea travel and what you need for documents:
If traveling by land you can use a passport card. This is the size of a driver’s license, but NOT a driver’s license. Few places now accept only a driver’s license to reenter the U.S., and there are no guarantees that even if you did a year ago or years ago, you will be allowed back in the country. If you plan to visit Mexico by land, get a passport card or passport.
The passport card allows for re-entry ONLY FROM LAND from Mexico, Canada, and sea port re-entry from the Caribbean or Bahamas.
If traveling by air even to Mexico or another country, you will MUST get a passport book. These are more expensive but far more useful/used for more purposes, and also can be used for a variety of identity verifications in business and life.
Due to increased regulations, there is no guarantee that a driver’s license will allow re-entry into the country, or a birth certificate for a child. I highly recommend not taking the risk. Some will disagree with me, but after reading some of the stories from moms who have been stopped at the border, I highly recommend getting passports for ANY travel outside the country. Due to the increase in child trafficking, border crossings are doing much more screening for this and it is important to be able to prove the relationship with your child (which is what a passport provides).
For air travel INSIDE the country, you do NOT need a passport, you need a state approved and AIR approved ID and I usually take my kids’ birth certificates or passports. I have NEVER in 100+ flights been asked for this traveling domestically but I like to have it with me just in case. Arizona licenses are only good through October 1, 2020 (next year!) for air travel. Then you will need an air-approved ID or passport. I recommend just getting a passport.
To obtain a passport card or passport, there are multiple requirements. I recommend filling out the paperwork at home, getting the photos at CVS or Walgreens, and then presenting this packet at a local office (there are many in Phoenix Metro area). This ensures that your documents are all in order and speeds up the process. To obtain a passport or passport card for a child, both parents must be present or have a signed affidavit from the second parent – in order to avoid parents taking a child out of the country in a custody battle. You need a birth certificate to prove citizenship and parent relationship, the other parent or a document giving consent, and passport-approved photos for the child.
If you need a passport quickly, there is a Tucson passport office that has fast-track appointments available and passports within two-weeks or even the same day in the event of a (provable) life-or-death emergency – i.e. a family member with a grave illness, etc. Information below.
There are many passport expediting agencies that claim to get your passport faster. I used one of these when I lived in D.C. It did make the paperwork slightly less overwhelming but I found out I could have done the exact same thing for far less cost, and had it expedited as well, just applying myself.
Expedited service is usually within two weeks (barring a government shutdown), and regular service within four. However, I requested expedited and received mine in just over a week. You must send off original documents with the application, so be aware of that and watch for them to come back! My best advice is plan travel as far as possible ahead and apply early for your passport!
Here is how to determine what passport/passport card you need:
The idea of camping is vastly different to each of us. If you have spent time camping as a child, it can have a Christmas/holiday type excitement. Then, as you start to drift back down from reminiscing, logic and reality spark. How many diapers do we need? Did we pack toys? When should we leave so that nap is not interrupted? Do we have enough room? Will we be warm or too cold? The list goes on…
When camping with kids it’s always easier and more fun to go with other friends who have kids because it takes a village..lol This will allow the kids to have a blast while entertaining each other, creating memories and exploring nature. It will also give you the time needed to unplug from the trenches of parenthood and drink a beer with your fellow soldiers.
This was our first camping trip as a family and we decided to rent an RV. We used RV rental outlet in Mesa AZ. They were awesome and very easy to deal with. Most of our friends have pop-up campers. We realized, after renting an RV, that it’s nice to be able to disconnect from the pop-up and have a vehicle to go into town and or explore some trails. We later purchased a pop-up because of this and a few other reasons.
Where to go? Are you trying to escape the heat? It was helpful to check the weather in the area that you are thinking of visiting.
In AZ you usually want to be above 6,000 feet in elevation to get 70/80s when its 105+ in valley. Most of lower lying areas like Payson and Prescott still hit 100s during the day in the summer. This can make things the opposite of fun quickly.
We decided to go to a campground, Yavapi Campground to be exact, that requires reservations, has bathrooms, is closer in proximity to town and is 3 hours or less from Phoenix. Keep in mind that cell service can be non-existent in some of these areas. If you have a job that requires checking in, this could make or break your true relaxation. Research the options for connecting to ensure that you can connect when needed but still enjoy the feeling of being disconnected. Verizon service was the strongest and existent in many areas while AT&T had no service anywhere at the campground.
When to go? Make sure to check availability especially if traveling on a holiday. Campsites fill up quickly and most are reserved for holidays 30+ days in advance.
The drive up to Yavapai was super simple from Phoenix. Mostly I17. Consider the traffic going north on Fridays and south on Sundays. It’s best to hit the road before 3pm or after 6pm.
Yavapai Campground is 10 minutes from downtown Prescott, food & supplies. It is less than 1.5 miles from Lynx Lake. It’s within walking distance to the campground but beware, it’s downhill to the lake but uphill all the way back. It might be best to take the car if you have little littles.
The next thing we did was make a “to do” list a few days in advance, listing all supplies from clothes (be sure to include warm clothes for nighttime) to household supplies like dish soap, paper towels and garbage bags. We planned to make and eat most of our meals at the campground so the list continued with cooking supplies, food, snacks, cookware and storage supplies. Of course, we could not forget the most important part, S’mores supplies!! We did work out a “meal share” plan with our friends which basically means each family is in charge of one meal feeding the entire clan. We each took our turn and it worked out great!
We had a great time and would fully recommend this campground to anyone looking for family friendly Prescottcamping areas.
Matt Lambert is a local Realtor, super Dad and lover of the great outdoors. Find out more about Matt at EvoAZ.com.
Want to live close to the great outdoors but still be close to the freeway system and work? Located at Val Vista and McKellips, this 4 bedroom home is not only affordable but in a great location, just a quick drive to the lake or mountains! Details here or call 480-250-0023.
Traveling to new destinations is so much fun, but the question is how to get there. Yes, you can drive, but that only gets you so far and it can take a long time. As a family we love to fly, it’s fast and simple once you know what you are doing.
First, figure out the logistics of the trip:
When to Fly: When choosing your flight consider length of the flight, age of your child, time zone changes, and price of the ticket. When Ethan was 5 months old, we did a red eye from Honolulu to Phoenix. The timing worked well because he was small enough to sleep anywhere and we all slept for most of the flight. That being said, we have found that generally the kids are not going to sleep on the flight for a nap. There’s just too much noise and activity. If they do fall asleep, it’s at the very end of the flight when they have to be still for landing. We shoot for a midmorning or evening flight and just know that the kids won’t sleep well during the day and will need to go to bed early. Midmorning is nice because you don’t have to wake up early to leave, but you aren’t rushed by the end of the day.
Where to Sit: We always sit about 2/3 of the way to the back of the plane. We like to be closer to the bathroom (but not too close), but also not in the front where all the serious people sit. It does take a little longer to get off the plane, but we don’t mind because we typically end up waiting for our luggage at baggage claim anyway.
Next, here are some great tips for navigating airplane travel with little ones:
Show up early: Kids are slow. It’s much easier to navigate the airport, manage security, and find your game without stressing about time.
Check your Car Seat with the Luggage and Your Stroller at the Gate: When the kids were smaller, we didn’t put them in car seats on the plane. If you do, then you can take it through security and buckle it in when you board. We always chose to check the car seat but bring the stroller into the airport. The stroller is an amazing tool to have in the airport especially if you have more than one kid or your kids are runners.You can use the stroller to hold the kids or the luggage and you can check it right at the gate. Just make sure to get a tag before boarding.
Have a Plan to Get Through Security: When we go through security, I manage the kids and Victor manages the luggage. This is the most efficient way to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. If it’s just me and the kids, I make sure our luggage is through security and then the kids and I go through.
Board with Family Boarding: Many airlines offer family boarding. Take advantage of this. You can possibly board before your ticketed zone, find overhead storage for your bags, and settle the kids.
Meet the Pilot: Many pilots are happy to meet the kids before the flight. My kids started doing this at about age 3 and love to meet the pilot on every flight.
Go potty: Before you land, make sure anyone who is potty trained and might have to go, goes to the restroom. Ethan has a habit of telling us he needs to go potty when we land and it’s nearly impossible to get to the front or the back of the plane while everyone is waiting to get off.
Pick up Your Luggage: After we get off the plane, we had over to the baggage claim. We let the kids stretch their legs, go potty if needed, and take our time. By the time we get there, we hope that our bags are ready and we can continue our adventure!
Use these tips to navigate airline travel like a pro! What’s your best tip for traveling with kids? Please leave us a comment! We’d love to hear from you.