I get stressed thinking about taking both my children to a restaurant, so what came over me and my husband when we decided to take our 22-month-old and 4-year-old to Italy I will never know.
No, I do know. It was the thought of a getting that sweet, sweet free flight before our youngest turned 2.
You’re probably thinking we’re insane, and you’re probably right. To increase the insanity, this was going to be our youngest’s first flight ever, and our oldest’s second time flying.
Once the tickets were booked I immediately started searching for travel tips, but here’s the thing. Those were tips from people who travel all the time, and their kids travel all the time. But what about tips from someone who was winging it? Enter me. You’re welcome.
First off, we survived. That’s what you need to know. We did it, and you can too. But here are some tips in case you decide to be crazy like we were:
- Infant in arms: We had two flights to Italy and two flights back. Three of those flights were completely full, so we were stuck with three seats for four people. One of those flights had extra space, and I immediately asked a flight attendant if it was possible to find four seats. She was amazing and got us four seats next to each other in an exit row with leg space, LEG SPACE! I don’t know what we did to deserve this, but I may have shed a happy tear. TL;DR: Don’t be afraid to ask for a seat for your infant in arms.
- Layovers: See if the airport has playgrounds. We lucked out that Boston had a kids play area right by our gate and we let our boys run around like crazy there for the entire layover. Also, hat tip to the two tween/teen boys who entertained my boys for hours, I honestly felt like I should have paid them. TL;DR: Play areas and other kids are your friends.
- International flights: Download the MPC app to streamline getting back into the United States. This app has you answer the questions, enter your passport info, and do face scans before you get to customs. It also gets you into a shorter line. It saved us at least a half hour of waiting in line with two boys. TL;DR: Download the MPC app.
- In-flight entertainment: Never trust flight Wi-Fi. Download videos. I did a free trial of YouTube premium so I could download videos my boys would like on all our devices. It worked amazing. I will definitely buy a month of YouTube premium for every flight I have in the future. TL;DR: Download videos.
- Don’t bring: I got duped by other travel tip articles telling me a toddler bed that connects to the tray table in front of you would be amazing. It was not, we didn’t use it and it just took space in my carry on. TL;DR: Only pack what you know you’ll use.
- Stroller: I didn’t know I would be writing this story, but it’s like I knew because I tested two methods for you here. On the flight out we checked the stroller with our luggage and went sans stroller in the airport. On the way home we gate checked the stroller for each flight. Gate check wins. TL;DR: Gate check your stroller.
- Food: I started this story saying restaurants are scary with toddlers. That is true. Street food and takeout are amazing when traveling with kids. I mean, let’s be honest, street food is the best anyway. We had many meals in our Airbnb and it kept me liking my children. TL;DR: Get takeout.
- Downtime: Don’t pack too much into a day. Have a couple hours of relaxing in your hotel each day. You may think it’s wasting your time, but it’s making your time out enjoyable instead of stressful. TL;DR: Hotel time is great.
- Hotel: Get a hotel or AirBNB that has toys!
- Getting around: We switched up our travel methods every day. Sometimes when we went out we would purely walk with the stroller. Other times we left the stroller in the hotel and used a carrying sling and did public transportation or taxis. It’s nice to experience different ways to get around. TL;DR: To stroller or not to stroller ... both.
Like I mentioned before, we survived. So you should listen to me. No, but seriously, you know your kids, trust yourself on what will work best for you. This is just what worked best for me.
One final parting tip. Say your prayers, it may be the only reason we actually survived.