Tips for Family Travel for Four via Trips with Tykes!

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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 us. 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 info at mommypoints.com 

Leslie has her own travel site, Trips With Tykes, that she has been writing for a couple of years.  It talks about “one mom’s take on air travel with little ones in tow.”  I am more than happy to introduce her family on Mommy Points and to let her discuss her great tips for traveling with two kids.  She has learned to not only travel more while having kids, but to do it in a really logical and thoughtful way.  Read more to get her take about traveling with children.  You can also check out her Ten Most Popular Posts on her family travel site!

tripswithtykesTell me a little bit about your family?

My husband, Thomas, and I are attorneys living in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Our daughter Virginia is 5 and started kindergarten this fall.  We recently expanded our traveling family with the addition of our son Charles last September.

How has your traveling pattern changed (or not changed) since you have had kids? 

We travel just as much, if not a bit more, than we did pre-kids.  Our trips are probably not as exotic on the whole, as we often travel to visit extended family scattered across the country.  But we think it is important for our children to get to see family often so that they can have meaningful relationships with all of their relatives, particularly my parents who live a long way from us in Alabama.  When our daughter was born, three of her great-grandmothers were still living, and we feel so grateful that she was able to visit several times with the two of them who have now passed away.

Where all have you traveled with your children, and what have been some memorable experiences on some of those trips (both good and bad)?

Although we travel a lot to see family in places like Alabama, Connecticut, and North Carolina, we also try to work some true vacation destinations into our family travel schedule.  Disneyland, beaches, and ski destinations are regularly on the top of our list.

One method we have found successful to satisfy everyone is to combine family visits and vacations by meeting up with family at leisure destinations.  In the summer of 2012, we managed to take our daughter to the Kona coast of Hawaii for a week with 17 adult family members!  Aunt, uncles, cousins, and both sets of grandparents were in attendance.  She was the only child in our group, but it made for a great vacation because we had lots of willing babysitters.  Even nearly two years later, our daughter talks about that trip and still remembers each and every one of the family members who were in attendance.

Hawaii2012

We also have some special memories from our visits to Disneyland.  We took our daughter there for the first time a few months before her second birthday, and it was truly magical even at such a young age.  I know our daughter will never remember that visit, but I will certainly remember the look on her face when she saw Mickey Mouse for the first time.  It was a look of pure wonder, almost as if she had been waiting her whole life to meet him!

Disneyland

What are some tips for traveling with kids that you have learned along the way?

I’ve found that one thing that helps me immensely is to try to visualize the logistics of a particular trip before I make any reservations at all.  I think about every step of the traveling process: how I’m going to get to the airport, what airline meets my needs for a particular trip (free bags, early boarding, seating options, food choices, etc.), whether I need a rental car at my destination, and what my best lodging options are.  If I can do that, then I can see where there are opportunities to make things easier on myself by making the right choices up front.  Every trip is different, every child is different, and every age of travel is different, so what works on one trip may not be the right choice on another.  Planning a trip with kids is a little like putting a lot of puzzle pieces into the right places, and if you can do that, the experience can be much less stressful.

For example, I’ve learned that I really dislike carrying too much gear with me, particularly when traveling through larger airports with car rental shuttles and longer security lines.  I see other parents do it, but it happens to stress me out more than most.  So, I try to take only the necessities, and the first to go for me is usually a car seat.  Instead, I look for transportation options that don’t require a car seat, or I will look for car rental options with free car seats (Hertz offers car seats free to AAA members).

I also have found it very helpful to buy and ship ahead duplicate baby gear such as Pack-N-Plays, bouncy chairs, or high chairs for use when visiting family who live in other locations.  It is so much easier (and even sometimes cheaper when you factor in bag fees) to buy more than one item than it is to carry it with you, particularly if you will be making multiple visits or if there are other babies in the family who could share the use of the gear as well.

VirginiaInAirCanadaCockpitOnMontrealFlight

How do points and miles figure into your family travels?

Points and miles have helped us a lot, but with two full-time careers, we find it is hard for us to do much to accumulate miles beyond the basics.  My husband and I apply for several credit cards each year to acquire signup bonuses, but we do not go overboard.  We also pay attention to which of our cards have better rewards for certain purchases, and try to use the right card at the right time.

We also try not to let miles and points dictate our travel plans.  For example, we will occasionally choose to fly an airline like Virgin America instead of United (where we sometimes have status and where we accumulate a lot more miles) because the times of a flight might be better for our travel schedule or because we’ve found the in-flight experience with Virgin to be superior with a child.

Virgin America flight

We regularly choose to stay in hotels and resorts that don’t have points programs, if they offer us a unique experience or an opportunity to see family members that we wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to see.  That said, when all things are equal, we do seek out chances to stay at our hotel chain of choice so we can bank points for future “free” vacations.

Miles and points have enabled us to enjoy quite a few extra trips over these past five years both with and without our children.  Within the past year, miles and points have gotten us business class tickets for the whole family to Montreal, a free weekend at a Ritz Carlton slopeside at Lake Tahoe, free flights for the whole family to Southern California to see Mickey Mouse, and free night in the Renaissance Times Square for a short babymoon before our son was born.  We definitely consider that a success.

What future trips are on your horizon?

We just returned from two big trips: Hong Kong with just our daughter and Montreal with both kids.  We took a trip to Alabama in August to see my family before our daughter started kindergarten and we became limited by school calendars.  We also have a trip to Anaheim in the fall with both kids to introduce our son to Disneyland for the first time!

What would you say to other families that are nervous about the logistics of hitting the sky (or road) with the little ones?

I tell everyone who will listen (and even some parents who won’t) that it is definitely worth it!  Traveling has exposed my daughter to so many different experiences, and has given her an appreciation for trying new things.  I think it has really emboldened her and helped her to gain a level of maturity and independence that she might not otherwise have.  And we hope that it will have the same influence on our son in the next few years.

We’ve certainly had our share of unfortunate stories (the jerk who pitched a fit worse than any toddler when my daughter’s car seat limited his ability to fully recline his seat, being stranded overnight in a DFW snowstorm, and a 23 hour flight delay in Hawaii) but the good far, far outweighs the bad.

First flight_3mold

Thank you so much to this awesome family for sharing their story, and we look forward to hearing more about their traveling adventures!

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  1. Thanks for sharing the family travel site and tips. Now that our boys are 8 and 4 years old, we have shed the baby and toddler stuff when we travel, though we do still schlep car seats with us. I think the hardest thing about family travel is in scoring award seats, since we are bound to school schedule.

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