4 Chicago Mamas On Traveling With Kids

4 Chicago Mamas On Traveling With Kids

With back to school craze behind us and off-season travels beginning to spike, I’ve found myself pinning inspiration and tips for our next trip. My kids are wonderful little travelers, yet after our return flight from Poland I felt I could use some fresh ideas. And you know who has the best tips? Your girlfriends! So I reached out to a few of my fave Chicago mama friends (who always inspire me with their creative parenting ways), and asked them to share their winning strategies for traveling with kids. I hope you enjoy reading this piece as much as I did. And maybe you’ll walk away with a couple of new hacks for keeping your kids content during your next trip. 

Travel tips by Suzie (@mamapret)

Suzie is a wife to Dan and mama to Vivian (4) and Everett (2). The family currently calls the Roscoe Village neighborhood of Chicago home. When she’s not chasing after her kiddos, she spends her days working in respiratory medical sales.

“While Chicago always offers endless opportunities to explore our own city, we do try to take a few trips a year as a family. Our most recent big family trip was this past April. I have a brother that just recently had moved to Atlanta, GA and a sister that lives just outside of Washington, DC. So we packed up the kiddos and headed to see both over 10 days. It meant coordinating multiple flights, car rentals, hotel reservations, and train schedules. We survived, and had an amazing time in both cities with our families.

  • My first tip, would be to pick flights around nap schedules if at all possible. After trial and error, we’ve learned this is what works best for us. We currently schedule our flights around our youngest’s naps and find that he usually passes out on take off. In the off chance he doesn’t, we’re prepared with kid friendly snacks and toys to ward of as much crankiness as possible.

  • My second tip, would be to take your car seats with you. We have travel car seats (Costco Apt50 and Ride Safer Vest) that we take with us. For one, I’ve found the routine consistency helps my kiddos sleep on the plane when flying. The consistency also helps cut down the need for my kids to want to get up to explore the plane, which means I don’t spend a plane ride chasing a toddler down an aisle (been there on a flight to Honolulu before😳) It also guarantees that I have a reliable car seat for whatever form of transportation we end up using (rental, relative’s car, Uber). This does mean we also buy a plane seat for our kiddos to guarantee the car seat can be used on the plane even if they are under 2. If the additional seat isn’t in your budget, you can always ask a gate agent if there are any available seats on your flight to bring on a car seat. Most airlines will accommodate this request.

  • My third tip, would be to always make sure you have a days worth of diapers. Blowouts happen, and even worse they can happen on a delayed or even cancelled flight. The last thing you want to be searching for are diapers. My husband and I usually keep a stash in each of our carryons and the diaper bag, as well. This came in handy coming back from D.C, as our flight was cancelled and we weren’t able to get a new flight until the next day.

My final tip would be to roll with the punches. Traveling with kiddos takes some extra coordination and patience, but the amazing memories it makes are worth it.”

Traveling by car by Janis (@momumentalthing)

Janis is a freelance content writer and blogs about motherhood, style and maternal self care. She lives in the Chicagoland with her two daughters, husband, bulldog and fish.

“I'm going to say it: I haven’t gotten the courage to travel with the kids on an airplane. Everyone tells me how easy it is to travel by air with kids in tow, but I haven’t quite built the courage to jet set like that just yet. Yes I know people do it all the time and the more you do it, the easier it gets. I even hear about how many parents prefer to travel by air with tiny babies since they can nurse to comfort or the baby just ends up sleeping throughout the whole entire flight. But I. Just. Can’t.

And for the record, I know I’m a strong mom. I just know my anxiety and know my limits and THAT is something I refuse to do right now—especially with a persistent 3-year old and a stubborn 2-year old who refuses to use the potty (it’s only when she chooses to and not when you ask her). So instead, we drive. We’ve driven through Canada to Niagara Falls. We’ve driven to Wisconsin to Lake Geneva. We’ve driven to Michigan to enjoy the beach and we’ve driven countless times to the country to relax at the family cabin. But via air? Nope. We’re not ready. Am I depriving my kids from something they NEED to do now? I don’t know. But I do know for my peace of mind, Mama (and Papa) will fly with kids when the timing is right and when no one is in diapers!

So in order for us to have a comfortable road trip, here are my handy tips to make the drive a little easier:

  • Bring snacks. Lots and lots of snacks.

  • Bring water (or juice) to quench the thirst after said snacks.

  • Wipes. Lots and lots of baby wipes. Perfect for spills, smears and everything in between.

  • Tablets. They are life savers.

  • Coloring books and crayons.

  • Play games like: I Spy, Punch Bug (sans punching), Twenty Questions, counting all the red cars (or whatever color), any alphabet or phonics game and be prepared to have songs at the ready.

  • Encourage nap time.

  • Pop in a movie.

  • Bring a first-aid kit, because anything can happen.

  • If room allows, sit in the back with this kids.”

International traveling by Ria (@urbanohana)

Ria is an educator, coach, counselor and mother building community through cultural awareness. She lives in Chicago with her two children and husband.

“Traveling with kids is never a breeze. Traveling internationally with kids is a whole different level of travel that requires a lot of preparation. The packing and preparing part is key weeks or days before your trip.

  • Check with your pediatriacian and schedule out your vaccinations and appointments so it isn't right before the trip. Ask your pediatrician if there are any travel vaccines necessary, such as Thyphoid, Yellow Fever, etc. Check the CDC website and see a travel vaccine specialist if necessary. Ask your pediatrician what types of medicine you should pack and what types of food or drinks you and your child should avoid. A little first aid kit with bandaids, anti-diarrhea medicine, vitamins, baby and toddler multipowders with vitamins and minerals, pedialyte, and a thermometer.

  • If there is an option to, schedule a flight that works with your family. My kids are not early birds so we never set ourselves to start out stressed by taking red eyes or super early morning flights. With long international travel there is often a layover, see if you can plan for enough time to get out and walk, grab food, and use the restrooms during your layover.

  • Set low expectations, throw out the nap and bedtime schedules, and be flexible. You will just have to roll with the punches.

  • Have a talk with your partner about expectations and who will manage what during the flight. Make a plan for yourself and for each other. It's important to take care of yourself too! Make sure you have something to eat and drink and whatever it is you'll need to feel more comfortable. For me that's my essential oils and I need lots of lavender oils to help ease my travel anxiety.

  • If your kids are old enough to understand, then have a pep talk with them and prepare them weeks and days before about the upcoming trip. Let them be a part of the process and tell them where you are going and how long or short the flight may be.

  • Tackle germs! Bring lots and lots of wipes, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, and any kind of multisurface spray you might need.

  • Bring plastic bags, ziplock bags, and wet bags that will help contain any messes, trash, vomit, dirty diapers, etc.

  • Have your baby wear overnight diapers or pad their diaper with a booster diaper.

  • SNACKS! You can not pack enough snacks! Inevitably you, your children, or partner will be hangry, you will need lots of snacks! Some of my go to snacks are Kind granola bars, pressed fruit snacks, fruit snacks, crackers, oyster crackers, pumpkin seeds, fruit , candy, and definitely lollipops! I say junk food is totally ok and necessary for some peace and quiet on the plane.”

My final thoughts (@magdalasota_)

Whoa! Do you also feel like we just got a complete list of tricks and tips for traveling with the little people? Thanks, mamas!! And last but not least, here are a few suggestions from me.

  • My first tip would be this: don’t pull your tricks out all at once. Whatever you have planned for the trip — iPad time, movie, magazines, toys, snacks, kinder joy (my kids love them!) — space it out. Personally, I’m a big fan of Little Passports, Kiwico and similar STEM subscription boxes found on Amazon. Our family loves these fun sets because they provide an element of surprise, are educational and typically include a small toy (do you know a kid who doesn’t like a new toy?).

  • Tip #2: bring your kids’ favorite snacks and treats. When we travel, I let the boys pick special chocolate treats and candy, but I always make sure they eat a balanced meal before. Flying with sugar high kids not recommended. 

  • The third tip applies to traveling with kids, but also to any life situation: dress for success. If you’re babywearing or nursing, wear clothing that doesn’t stain easily, can be pulled down or up, and unbottened with one hand. Just imagine yourself trying to pee with a baby in a baby carrier in a tiny airplane bathroom. My go to travel outfits almost always include loose fitting jeans, a black tank top (or a nursing top), and a leather jacket (anything can be wiped off a leather jacket) or a cardigan (more appropriate for summer travel and if space is limited). When I travel with my boys I always bring a change of clothes for everyone (yes, including an extra t-shirt for myself).  

  • Final tip: consolidate everything into one backpack to free your hands, especially if you’re flying alone with your little tribe. Cross-body bags (aka fanny packs) are perfect for storing your wallet, documents and phone. The boys get their own rolling-wheels luggage for toys, snacks and a change of clothes. Giving your kids their own bags may seem like a risky idea (and I’m not going to lie, sometimes I did end up carrying Julian’s luggage), but in my opinion, it teaches the littles it’s their job to pull their own suitcase (and keeps them occupied).


Lowering your expectations is the best strategy. On our last long haul flight to Poland I read 100 pages of my book, had two glasses of wine, and slept 4 hours. What a great surprise, I thought to myself! On the way back however, I only got 1.5 hours of sleep in a very uncomfortable position, Julian peed his pants not once, but twice (and still refused to wear a pull up), snatched peanuts from the passenger behind us, and proceeded to sprinkle them all over Adrian’s seat. So, I’d say there’s only so much you can prepare for because *life* will happen, but it’s nice to have solid advice when you need it.


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