Photo by TheTravelMama
Colleen and Karissa in Sicily
Traveling by yourself or with your husband is fun, relaxing and exotic. Traveling with toddlers? Um, well, let me just say ... disrupted sleep schedules, meltdowns in public transit, and all that extra stuff to pack.
It's enough to make me decide to just stay home!
But Colleen Lanin, aka TheTravelMama, CafeMom of 4 year old Karissa and 1 year old Leo, assures me that vacationing with kids doesn't have to be stressful. Heck, it can even be fun! The Travel Mamas blogger is writing a book called The Travel Mamas' Guide, real mom advice on on how to stay sane while traveling with kids, and she agreed to share some of her secrets will all of us.
"I would love to tell you that we travel nonstop, but we are a regular family with a regular budget and a husband with a regular job," says Colleen, who lives in Southern California. "My expertise is based on personal experiences, interviews with other moms who travel with their kids, and doing lots of research and scouring the web for ways to make travel easier for parents."
She and her family travels at least every month or so, including cruises, amusement parks, and European tours, but more often than not it's low cost family getaways or weekend trips. Next up: A 9 day trip to Georgia and South Carolina.
I asked for her top Traveling with Toddlers tips -- more from her tomorrow in Part 2:
What is the best type of vacations for families with kids?
There is no sense in going on a vacation that is going to leave you more drained than before you left! So stick with destinations and accommodations that are child-friendly, if possible. I love Hawaii because our kids love water activities and so many of the hotels go out of their way to welcome families with young kids.
It's a cliche, but you can't beat Disney for child-friendly travel. A Disney cruise offers the best of all worlds: activities the family can enjoy together, trustworthy babysitting, and camps for children as young as 12 weeks, and sites and activities for adults.
How many toys should you bring on vacation? Bring too little and the kids will surely be bored. Bring too much and they won't play with half of it. How can you win?
It depends on where you're going -- is it someplace where the kids will be busy most days splashing in the pool or going to fun attractions like aquariums, theme parks, and children's museums? Then you won't need many.
If you're going to be spending quite a bit of time in the car, or hanging out at childless friends' houses, you will need to pack a lot more gizmos to keep the kids happy.
What types of toys should we bring?
Anything that comes with its own case is great, like magnet sets or lace board books. I love Crayola's triangular-shaped crayons for use in the car or on a plane because they don't roll all over the place.
Crayola markers with flip-top lids are handy because they save you from wrenching your neck between two airplane seats to retrieve fallen lids. I like to stock up on new little "disposable" toys from the dollar store before a trip. Another great resource is Kids Travel Happy -- they specialize in travel toys and activities.
What's the rule for how many clothes to pack? I always get this wrong, too.
If we're going on a trip shorter than a week, I try to pack enough clothes for every day and a couple extra outfits for messes or unexpected weather. If we're going for longer than a week, I pack just enough for seven days or so and schedule in time to do laundry.
What's on your must-pack list?
I keep a separate toiletries bag specifically for travel so it's easy to grab for a last-minute trip. Then I look through everything before a trip to see if anything is running low and needs to be replaced.
In addition to my standard makeup bag, I always pack a bunch of zipper-lock plastic bags filled with travel-sized containers of everything we'll need, from shampoo to baby soap to sunblock. I always bring along some extra bags too in case anything spills and i need a replacement bag.
But definitely check out the rest of my packing list at Travel Mamas.
Any other advice?
I'm a believer that more is more. If you buy an airplane seat for your kids (and you should for safety's sake!), then you are typically allowed one to two bags per person, plus carry-ons, so you can really pack in a lot of stuff. For parents who want to lighten their load, they can check out Babies Travel Lite, which allows parents to buy and ship all sorts of baby and toddler gear to their destination.
Oh, and make sure you join her CafeMom group TravelMamas if there's anything specific you'd like to ask her yourself.
++What's the hardest part about going on vacation with toddlers? Are you planning any trips this summer?