We're so happy to be connecting with our dear friend Morgan Schoenrock at @finn.makes.four for tips and tricks she's developed when traveling with her family. Morgan has a "big kid" in elementary school and a baby, so we love her perspective of making travel easier when spanning two different age groups.
Wanderwild: Hi Morgan! We loved following along on your latest adventure to the Big Island of Hawaii. You seem like a pro!
Morgan: Traveling with kids, of any age, always has its challenges. We have been traveling with our oldest son since he was just a few months old. This year we added a baby to our family and we are now traveling with a big and a little, who both have very different needs. As a family we travel at least three times a year, so it’s important to us to create good traveling habits so we can continue to adventure together.
Wanderwild: We have so many questions, but let's start with our favorite, packing your backpack! What are your best tips?
Morgan: What you bring on the plane/in the car with you is VITAL. Bring too much and you’re stuck carrying your kids heavy backpack through the airport, bring too little and you will have meltdown after meltdown. The items you need for bigs and littles are very different-even the items different kids will want can be a wide range. I stick to these three categories with each kid, no matter their age: PLAY, FOOD, and COMFORT.
Before leaving on your trip take note of the things your kids play with, eat, and use as comfort on a daily basis. It can be tempting to try new and exciting treats for your kids on a trip, which is a great tip-BUT traveling is NOT the time to forget the basics your kid relies on daily. Your backpacks should have these toys, food, and comfort items for each child. We use a craft box inside our Wanderwild lunchbox for snacks that the big can access easily on his own. When you’re traveling with a big and a little try to set up your big for independence so you can focus on your littles needs.
Outside of play, food, and comfort items you will want to pack a change of clothes for each family member. Trust me, you do not want anyone in your family to be stuck traveling in wet or soiled clothes. All these items fit comfortably in our Wanderwild backpacks for both our boys.
*Pro tip: pack a separate ‘surprise bag’ with fun toys/treats to open on your trip at set intervals throughout your ride*
Wanderwild: All really great tips! So let's talk about the stuff you can't fit in your backpack. Especially babies, they always seem to need so much gear!
Morgan: Traveling with really little kids always reminds me how much gear they need-particularly the kids under one. A vacation is not the time to force your kids into being flexible. If you can, try to bring the items they use daily to sleep, play, or eat. Most airlines try to make it easy for you to bring everything you need on your trip! Items like car seats, high chairs, and pack n’ plays can fly FREE with most airlines with your checked baggage.
In addition to checking items at the ticket counter when flying, you can bring your stroller thru security and gate check it before boarding your flight. This means it will be waiting for you right outside the plane at your destination, also FREE. Baby wearing is something I HIGHLY recommend for littles and will make security a breeze, however if you are more comfortable with your stroller stick with that.
*Pro tip: Get a sturdy car seat travel bag and you can fill the bag with other heavy items to travel with. They will not weigh the car seat bag, it travels free, and it’s a great way to bring heavier items without pushing your bags over weight limits.*
Wanderwild: These are all great points, and we especially agree on the baby wearing part! It really makes maneuvering while being hands free so much easier. What other advice would you give our Wanderwild families?
Morgan: This may be the most important tip I have, so if you take anything from this article it should be this. Check your expectations. Traveling with children is not the relaxing vacations of your past. It is amazing and fun in new ways - BUT, kids can be particularly challenging on vacations. The new things, new places, and so much fun wearing them down can result in difficult moments. It's important to remember not every day/moment is going to be this picture perfect family memory.
With children of different ages activities that please everyone can be hard. Because of this be prepared that you and your partner may be doing different things with each of your kids. Just like at home, kids meltdown, they have off days, or don’t enjoy things we think they will. Don’t let this ruin your trip or deter you from traveling. Go into your trip knowing there will be tears and tantrums, but don’t let these moments set the tone.
*Pro tip: Before any trip try to schedule one activity just for the big-this helps them be a better sport having to cater to baby’s needs throughout.*
Wanderwild: We agree that this point is so important! Our best advice for managing the ups and downs of how the kids are doing is building in breaks every day. Even if the kids appear to be having a blast in the pool, a good break back in the room can help prevent a melt-down later.
Morgan: Yes, agreed! Overall traveling with children can be challenging, but it will also be some of the best memories your children make together. With a big and a little vacations are some of the only times my boys are interested in the same things at 6 years and 6 months old. The memories we are making outweigh all the struggles. Have fun, make memories, and adventure together!
Wanderwild: Thanks, Morgan! We can't wait to #gowanderwild with you on future family adventures.