Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pinching Pennies when Traveling with Children

We have traveled quite a bit this year, via planes, trains and automobiles.With all these travels, I've been taking notes as to how to do it while saving a buck or fifty.

  • Preparation is KEY.  A trip to the 99 cent store and saving up gifts from birthdays / Christmas can do wonders for boredom.
  • A DVD player with headphones and an old favorite movie and new ones will kill an hour or two
  • Fun snacks that can't easily be choked on (you don't want to swerve trying to do the Heimlich maneuver).  Finger foods.
  • Drinks!  Stay hydrated.  With my baby, I kept dry formula in bottles and hot water in a thermos ready, so that I could pass it back to the kiddo in the carseat behind me.  Juice boxes / recycled water bottles help with bigger kiddos.
  • A portable potty.  With potty trained little ones, having a traveling bathroom will save you many frustrations and messes.  Plus, you won't have to go to McDonald's just to use the bathroom and then end up buying a happy meal.
  • Consider naptime and bedtime and bring pajamas and blankies / stuffed animals for those times.  Do your best to keep schedule, even if it is difficult.
  • At gas stations, get the wiggles out.  Jumping jacks, running in circles and being loud will be a good release for everyone.  This helps attitudes, and keeps you out of the snack section of the convenience store.

  • When flying with little ones, prepare ahead as much as possible.  Dress yourself and your little ones for the security checkpoint.  Hats, shoes, jackets and belts have to be removed (from EVERYONE), no matter how cute they are on your one year old.
  • Eat before getting to the airport.  Even a fast food drive through is cheaper than a $20 sandwich in an airport deli.
  • Consider shipping your clothes to your destination ahead of time, if possible.  It most likely will save you money (checked baggage fees range between $50 and $100 a bag), and you don't have to wait at the baggage claim for a bag that doesn't show.
  • If traveling with a child that is old enough to walk, encourage them to walk.  If not, bring an umbrella stroller.  You can check it at the gate for no fee, and it is helpful for hanging your bags on it, having other children touch it to keep them close at hand, and especially helpful to keep your little one strapped in and out of trouble.
  • With babies, bring dry formula in bottles.  It is easier to get through security, and you can grab a warm water for free after the security checkpoint to make up the bottle.  Don't forget to get that bottle ready before the flight though!
  • Have favorite sippy and / or cups with lids for older kiddos, but make sure they are empty.  Pick up a big bottle of water for yourself after the security point, and then split it up between your bottle and your kids'.
  • Carry a backpack and wear comfortable slip on shoes.  No fashion statement is important enough to compromise your sanity.  Pack wallet, cell phone and tickets in an easy to access pocket.
  • Carry ons should contain favorite toys (including blankie and stuffed animals for sleeping), books, a DVD player (bur keep in mind that needs to be checked at security) and SNACKS.  Many airlines are moving away from having snacks available on flights unless you pay for them, and you can get cheapie and delicious snacks at your local Walmart before the flight.
  • Both strollers and carseats are free to check, per child.  However, if you have extra hands, having your child strapped into their carseat on the plane will help put them at ease.
  • PRIORITY BOARDING.  If you are traveling with little ones, most likely you fall in that category.  Don't pass up the opportunity to get settled before the chaos of boarding begins.
  • Pacifiers or sugar free lollipops are a great idea if you are concerned in altitude pressure changes.
  • Remember to consider naptime / bedtime routines when flying
  • Give yourself a break, take a deep breath, and remember that eventually the plane will touch down and the flight over.
  • From what friends have said as well as my own experience, kids from 13 to 18 months are the most challenging to fly with.  After that, they get much more fun.  :-)
  • (I also blogged about flying with a 1 year old a couple of years ago.  Feel free to check it out.)
  • When driving, keep an ice chest filled with healthy and fun snacks and drinks for adults and kids alike.  I also like to pack sandwiches...hey, if you can skip a fast food stop you have extra money to spend at your destination.  Plus, if you find a cool look out point along the way, you can have an impromptu picnic that is sure to be a great memory.
  • Keeping blood sugar regulated will be greatly helpful in keeping attitudes in check.
  • Even when you plan ahead with snacks, you might forget something.  Keep cash in your wallet, just in case.  
  • If you haven't noticed a theme with all of my money saving posts, preparation is KEY to saving money.  Traveling is no exception.  Make to-do lists and start working on it a week ahead, so that you don't feel overwhelmed on the day of travel.  That way, you can also charge batteries (avoiding a trip to a pricey Best Buy for batteries).
  • Think outside the box.  For example, you can call ahead to your hotel to find out if they have a crib available for free use.  That saves gas money and space in your trunk.
  • Have a sense of humor.  A little laughter goes a long way in relieving stress.
I know that I don't know everything, and many people travel far more than I do.  These are simply observations I'd love to share with you.  Don't forget to enjoy the ride.  It is always an adventure traveling with kids, but it is always worth it.

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