While I am always happy to share my own traveling stories with my family, there are tons of other great traveling families out there with kids of different ages, different numbers of kids, and who have had different experiences than me. As part of my “Little C’s Traveling Friends” series, I am sharing different family’s stories so we can all learn from their experiences. If you would like to be a part of this series just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diana, her husband Nate, and their daughter Claire, have used points to travel to visit Nate’s parents in Minnesota, take a trip to Israel and Egypt, vacationed in France with family, and much more. They were kind enough to share some of their tips, travels and uh-oh moments with us.
Tell me a little bit about your family?
Our family is me (Diana), my husband, Nate, and our daughter, Claire. Nate and I met in college and got married in 2007. We welcomed Claire in to our family in December 2011 and live near Boston. Nate works as a chemical engineer and I am an architect. We have always loved to travel and are finding ways to bring Claire along with us these days!
How has your traveling pattern changed (or not changed) since you have had kids?
Before we had Claire, it seemed like we were traveling more weekends than we were home! Whether it was visiting Nate’s family (who live far from us in Minnesota), visiting friends, vacationing with family, or alone, we were always on the go. We got more and more daring with our travel as well, visiting Israel and Egypt in 2010, our last big trip “B.C.” (Before Claire!) These days, we cherish our time at home just as much as our travel time. Our travels are a bit more scaled back and family-focused these days.
When we do travel, the biggest changes we’ve had to make are leaving enough extra time and learning to pack for an infant, and now a toddler. Nate always liked to leave extra time, but I usually resisted and pushed for getting to the airport just in time. That’s a no go with a toddler! I’ve learned that I’d much rather end up with extra time to kill at the gate, than be sweating bullets trying to rush through security or deal with a last-minute gate change.
As for packing for a toddler, it seems to be a fine art. On our early trips, we tended to over-pack. Some of the trips in the middle, we overcompensated and didn’t have enough. I think we’ve found the sweet spot these days, although with a growing child it seems to be a moving target! We’re getting to the stage where we need lots of good entertainment and distraction for our kiddo, which is changing the dynamic a bit. Ah parenting: just when you think you have it figured out, everything changes!
Where all have you traveled with your children, and what have been some memorable experiences on some of those trips (both good and bad)?
Since Claire arrived, we have been to visit Nate’s family four times, traveled to Florida twice (once for a work conference for me and once to visit my grandfather), and to St. Martin with my extended family. Bringing Claire to Minnesota to meet family and friends for the first time was very memorable, especially meeting Nate’s grandfather. Two of Nate’s closest friends also had babies within 8 months of Claire being born, so it’s been very special to get to visit with their children so often!
At the other extreme, we will certainly never forget our flight back from St. Martin! Claire was just shy of 12 months old, and she shrieked for the last 30-45 minutes of the flight. It felt like AN ETERNITY to us! We think it might have been her ears bothering her, because other kids starting freaking out too when we starting our descent. The people around us were incredibly kind, but we were frazzled to say the least when we could finally get off the plane.
What are some tips for traveling with kids that you have learned along the way (gear, where to sit on the airplane or train, choosing hotels, destinations, flying or riding the train with infants, etc.)?
We have had great luck with the Mommy Point’s tip (head here for even more tips!) of having one person board early with the carseat and gear while the other person waits until the last minute to come on board with the baby. We also have a rolling carseat caddy and that makes it much easier to get the carseat through the airport! Another trick: ask security to “wand” the caddy/carseat together so you don’t have to take it apart to put it through the scanner.
The best general tip we can give is to be realistic about what you can do while you’re traveling with kids. Accept that you’ll have to spend some time in your hotel room or your host’s house for naps, and probably early in the evening after bedtime. Nate and I have learned to bring a lot of reading material or a movie and a laptop with us and it makes those early nights “stuck in the room” kind of fun. Sometimes we’ll grab a snack or a drink from the hotel bar before turning in for the night, too!
How do points and miles figure into your family travels?
Boy do we wish we had entered the miles and points world before having Claire! We still get great benefits from them now, but with all the extra traveling we were doing then, I think we could have really seen great rewards.
That being said, we got tipped off to this “hobby” by friends last fall and did our first credit card applications in September. Our approach was twofold: get some cards with great offers just for the fun of it and get other cards that will help us travel to Minnesota more often. Delta has some of the only direct flights from Boston to Minneapolis/St. Paul, so they became our default airline.
Since we’ve started collecting miles and points, some of the benefits have included using miles to fly family and myself to Phoenix, Minnesota and Miami. Using hotel points to attend a wedding in expensive Newport, Rhode Island, visiting friends, and setting up free hotel stays for family.
What future trips are on your horizon?
At the time that I asked Diana to be a part of our Little C’s Traveling Friends Series she was in the midst of planning for this family vacation to France. Once she returned to the states she was able to tell me about the trip.
One of our biggest reasons for trying to accumulate miles and points was for a big trip to France with Nate’s Mom, Dad and sister. June is such a popular travel time, so we weren’t able to use miles for our flights this time, but we did manage to use points along with Hyatt credit card free stays to cover all 8 nights of hotels!
Thanks to a tip from Mommy Points, we were able to stay at the Hotel du Louvre for our first 2 nights soon after it became available for bookings as a Hyatt. What a beautiful place with an amazing location; literally steps from the Louvre. In Strasbourg, we stayed at a Hilton a little outside the city center, but close to a tram stop to get you there.
One highlight of our last hotel, the Hyatt Madeleine in Paris, was the thoughtful “kid-friendly” touches that were included: a little baby toiletry set (soap, shampoo, diaper cream, etc.), a baby bath, a sleep sack, a changing pad, a bottle warmer and (this was my favorite!) kid-sized hangers in the closet!
All three of these hotels were able to provide rollaway cribs and the rooms were pretty big (by European standards) so we didn’t all feel crammed in.
What would you say to other families that are nervous about the logistics of hitting the sky (or road) with the little ones?
You can do it! I’ve found that the anticipation is usually worse than the actual travel. Be prepared with snacks and entertainment, be flexible and enjoy showing your kids the world. Worried about the cost? Read up on this blog for great tips on using miles and points to make travel possible on a smaller budget. And take lots of pictures!
Thanks so much to Diana, Nate and Claire for taking the time to share their trips and stories!