I’ve said it before, but there is no vacation on a family vacation. You essentially transport all the stress and chaos of any typical day and add unfamiliar situations and places that don’t have all the essentials.
Honestly, I’d give our trip two big thumbs up. We were free of most tantrums, the kids obviously had fun with all our family, and we got to escape the Florida heat and experience mountain life for two weeks.
But all that is in exchange for two messy (literally and figuratively) travel days. Woof.
Don’t stress much about when you schedule the flights. Neither of our boys napped more than thirty minutes for the entire 8 hour (round trip) fly time. It’s new, unfamiliar, and exciting. They aren’t coming down off that high quickly enough to sleep well. Their schedule will be completely off on travel day. Embrace it.
If you can, use a baby carrier through the airport. I didn’t have to take it off through security which made life so much easier.
We used our car seat on the plane for our 1 year old…our convertible car seat - it is a tank. My husband carried it on his back with this car seat bag. While efficiency and connivence is a 10, this thing was so freaking heavy once the seat was in. Maybe lift some weights and run a marathon to prep for your trip?
We divided our carry-ons into two separate bags - an adult/in case of emergency bag with tickets, IDs, phones, etc. and the baby bag that had extra clothes, snacks, toys, books, etc. It worked well.
Like I mentioned, I am a very nervous flyer. This led us to arrive at the airport both times with HOURS to spare. While it was nice to let the babies run all over, it was a bit too long. I would say if you can be at your gate 1 hour before boarding, that is plenty to get everything organized and let the little legs stretch.
On the Flight
Bring a bunch of toys for kids that don’t like TV/movies yet. For the bigger kids, bring an iPad loaded with shows and movies. Vance needed constant entertainment, and Brooks only every so often looked away from the iPad.
Don’t get your hopes up on wiping anything down. You won’t have time or room or the capacity to do so.
We flew Southwest and got drink tickets when we printed our boarding passes. For some reason, we couldn’t use a digital pass with the way our tickets were purchased. However, when we printed them we got drink tickets. I saved those up and handed them to the poor souls seated in front of the boys about mid way through the flight. They were so appreciative that they barely noticed the tiny foot kicking them the rest of the way.
I need to take a second here to publicly appreciate my husband. I officially lost my shit in terms of anxiety on both flights. He stepped in and handled both boys for BOTH FLIGHTS. I looked out the window the whole time and cried. He deserves a medal, a boys night, a stripper gram, and whatever else he wants because he got us through it. To you good sir, a tip of the cap.
At Our Destination
If you have two kids of the same gender and roughly the same size, I highly recommend color coding clothes. It was so much easier to grab all the blue things for Brooks and all the green things for Vance without having to read the sizes. And when you’re putting on 4 layers on a toddler, any little bit of help is crucial.
High altitude can cause a myriad of health issues. We luckily avoided all the big ones, but I was really close to running to the local grocery for some meds. I knew right where it was and had the app downloaded just in case. Two minutes of prep that could save you in the long run.
On the car ride after the flight, our little guy tossed all his cookies in his carseat. We were lucky to be heading to a family home, so I knew there would be helping hands and a washing machine, but the biggest comfort was knowing exactly where he was going to go to sleep. I knew he had a little bed ready to rest his little head. It made my momma heart much happier when I was knee deep in vomit.
Little side note here - if you experience some regression in terms of sleep on a trip, I wouldn’t be too concerned. We ended up having Brooks (2.5 yo) sleep in a pack n play because he wasn’t ready to sleep in a real bed with free range of an entire room. He slept great on the trip and the transition back to his normal bed has been fine. I would prioritize good sleep so that you can have some fun on your trip.
I cannot recommend buying medical grade vomit bags enough. They are so much better than those plane bags. You can hold it with one hand (super handy when you have another kid requesting more snacks at the same time - yep, that happened), it doesn’t get moist like a paper bag, and if all goes well, you can use them as toys. They are cheap on Amazon. Do it and put one in front of every seat on the plane, every seat back in the car, and every carry on.
I wouldn’t recommend a family vacation as a time to plan on special bonding with your partner. My husband and I spent 1 nap time alone and actually bonding. It was great, but it wasn’t like we were going to look into each others eyes and hear doves when we were SO exhausted.
Similarly, plan on giving your partner a bit of grace. They are as stressed as you and trying as hard to make this a special time for your family.
There you have it. That’s how it went. Our first vomit filled, hurry up and wait family vacation. I have never been happier to be home, but being able to say “OK!” every time Brooks said, “ I want to go outside and play in snow,” was so worth it.