Traveling can be stressful! I learned this lesson when my children were 3 years old and 6 months old and we drove across the country from Tennessee to our new home in California. This was our first trip over 2 hours long! Yes, you read that right, our children had not been in the car longer than 2 consecutive hours and now I was putting my children in a car for a week, 32 hours to be exact. Call me crazy, but it worked and we made it.
It's now been over 2 years and we have since moved from California to Ljubljana, Slovenia. We've been to 13 countries (in 6 months), and 25 States with both our children in tow! I think it's safe to say I've figured out how to travel with two children under the age of 4 and I'm here to tell you how I do it!
1) I call this my Mommy & Daddy Super Weapon. We don't let our children use electronic devices unless we are traveling. Yep, you read that right. Our children get zero electronic time at home. We have learned that if you keep something new and special your children will appreciate it more when you need them to sit quietly for long period of times. It's MAGIC!! I recommend that you make sure it has new apps, movies, and music to entertain your children at least a week before your big trip. We like to mix it up for each trip so they are seeing something new for the first time. Also, make sure to pack headphones! No one in a car/bus/ airplane wants to hear your child's entertainment!
2) Pack light! I can't say this enough. Pack light, especially if you are traveling via airplane. My secret for summer time is packing cloth shorts for your children. They aren't bulky and you wouldn't believe how many pairs you can fit in a suitcase! Make sure you wear light jackets on the airplane and don't pack each person in one suitcase! I have this fear that one of our suitcases will be lost and then that one person will be without clothing the entire trip. Therefore, I always made sure to pack everyone in each suitcase.
3) In your carry on, be sure to pack a change of clothing for everyone. During our first overseas airplane ride from Philly to Paris I sat in something gross! Needless to say, I ended up changing my pants before the flight even took off.
4) Instead of a backpack full of toys that will end up in all corners of the airplane, I let my children pack 1-2 favorite toys and I always make sure to have crayons, and coloring books. This will save you from the drama associated with lost toys.
5) Pack lots of snacks, and don't forget the water bottle! The water bottle is very handy when traveling via the air. I've noticed that multiple airports I've travelled through have drinking water stations that you can fill your empty water bottles up after you've passed through security. This trick will save you money, as a bottled water passed security isn't cheap!
6) If you have children under the age of 4 I HIGHLY recommend you purchase an umbrella stroller. I had the bright idea of traveling to London without a stroller and ended up walking 18 kilometers (25,000 steps to be exact!) while holding my 2 year old. Needless to say, I had another stroller the next day... Avoid my mistake and bring an umbrella stroller. Light strollers can be checked at the gate for free and they are small enough to fold up and store in a trunk or random corner of the hotel room.
If your child is under the age of 2 I recommend traveling with a soft shell baby carrier that you can wear on your back or on your front.
7) The day of travel is what I like to call "Armistice Day" in other words, the opposing sides (parents vs children) call truths and cease hostilities until we arrive at our destination. If my child wants a sucker at 5am while going through security at the airport they get it! You know why? Because I would much rather a happy child during security checks, than a sleepy toddler acting like a terror(ist)... Trust me, people will judge you more if your child is screaming bloody murder, than if they are peacefully sucking on a lollipop at 5am...
8) Try to keep your routine as normal as possible while traveling. When we are traveling in the car we try to keep lunch time, nap time, and dinner time all the same. During nap hour we will turn the music on low, we will make sure they have their blankets/ pacifier and we avoid stopping at all costs!!!
9) Plan your trip ahead of time, but be flexible. Make sure that your expectations are realistic. Hiking to the Acropolis in Athens with your toddler, might not be feasible for your family. However spending 4 hours at the Natural History Museum in London with your two children alone is totally doable.
10) Call your hotel in advance and let them know if you need a crib or extra bed in your room. This is very helpful when arriving late at night with small children, but make sure to check the fine print as most hotels offer this luxury for free, but some may charge extra.
Traveling with children can be very stressful. However, the more you travel with them the easier traveling will become.