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Travel with Toddlers

The U.S. Travel Association reports that the "Domestic Travel Market Report, 2004 Edition" found that 26% of household vacations taken in 2003 included children under the age of 18 -- that's around 170 million trips with kids. 91% of the vacations with children were for leisure. Almost half included a visit to see relatives or friends.

Top 6 Tips for Affordable Travel with Toddlers, from Travel Consultant Amy Vanderbilt

  1. Travel during the off-peak season:
    You will get better rates on flights and hotels if you travel even one week off the peak season. Check hotel websites and experiment with different dates to find the magic week when prices change.
  2. Be flexible on destination:
    Most people would suggest that if you travel last-minute, you will get a better rate, but how many parents do you know that can drop everything and run off with the kids for a vacation? Instead, schedule the weeks that you want to travel, and set your budget. Then, when you are within a month of the date, see what destinations are available for your price range and book it! That is one way to go last-minute but retain the advantage of planning. It also adds some adventure to your vacation outlook.
  3. Look for hotels with a free breakfast:
    Grab a few extras from the buffet to make a picnic lunch. This is particularly helpful when traveling with the kids and/or to places (such as Scandinavia) where the cost of food is up to four times what it is here in the U.S.
  4. For international travel:
    If you stay downtown, you will not pay too much extra and it will put you within range of public transportation. Public transport in Europe is very clean, safe, and an effective way to get around to all the sites you may want to see, PLUS you can avoid the high price of renting a car and the even higher price of keeping the tank full.
  5. Skip the hotel:
    There are apartments or homes for rent in the city you want to see that often offer a better deal for more space than you would get at a hotel. Plus, you will have a kitchen, which can translate into less money spent on eating out.
  6. Become a mom-preneur:
    If you spend more than $3,000 a year on personal travel, consider getting your own franchise of an online travel business. It requires no experience, and takes only about 5 minutes to set up. You will enjoy the rates that travel professionals get and you can write all your personal travel off of your taxes. That will net you about a 50-80% discount on all of your travel adventures.

Four in ten overnight trips taken with children include staying overnight in a hotel, motel, or bed and breakfast. With travel being such a popular hobby, it's important to find ways to make long car rides and turbulent plane trips bearable with toddlers.


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What Moms Can Do about Travel with Toddlers

Once you've booked your affordable trip, Nico Melendez, TSA spokesman and father of five, offers these tips to help families get through airport security faster and to enjoy a more peaceful flight:

  • Do your research: Melendez asks all moms to visit the TSA website to learn the limitations for kid-friendly liquids, like milk and formula.
  • Be realistic: "Someone flying from L.A. to Australia will need more baby food than someone flying to San Francisco." There is no set rule on how much baby food or formula you can bring; however, if the security officer believes it is too much for the distance you are traveling, it can be taken away.
  • Carry milk or formula separately: Carry your breast milk or formula separately and let the security officer know ahead of time that you have it. This will decrease delays, as well as the number of non-moms looking at you with the evil eye.
  • Fill small bellies before arriving at the airport: Melendez boasts that he got his five kids through the security checkpoint in under five minutes by giving them something to eat before the flight to decrease the amount of food that needed to be hauled on the plane. He also recommends using powder-based formulas versus liquid while traveling.
  • Prep your kids: Let them know ahead of time that they will need to take off their jacket and shoes. Melendez suggests even having young kids wear socks to the airport and put on their shoes after the security checkpoint.

Most airlines do not serve meals anymore. Be sure to pack a ton of finger foods -- like string cheese, crackers, and dried bananas -- that will stay fresh in case of long delays. We also recommend heading straight to the airport food court and ordering some sandwiches and taking them to go so that you have something to eat on the plane.

As for liquid, we also recommend heading straight to the newsstand and purchasing a couple of big bottles of water. Not only is it important to keep yourself hydrated, but you can use the water for those traveling with infant formula.

Before you reach for the Benadryl or Tylenol, thinking it will knock them out, listen up. Doctors say it can often have the opposite effect, leaving your kid climbing the walls! So try it out at home first (preferably when your kids are actually sick).
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