Favorite Things for International Family Travel

For most of May we were focused on our trip back to Sweden for the summer. We were sorting and reducing stuff (yes, there is still plenty of reducing to be done!), packing, and preparing our camper to go and live with its summer foster family. Then we crossed the Atlantic and spent the end of May in that familiar, uncomfortable, jet lag blur. It seems only fitting that our favorite things in May are all things that make international travel easier with kids in tow.

Because we have pieces of our heart firmly planted on two continents, we have regularly traveled internationally with our kids at all ages and stages and we’re getting pretty comfortable with it. While main key to simplifying travel is generally to have less stuff, having the right stuff can make all the difference. After a bit of trial and error, here are our top recommendations!

1. Diono Radian Car Seat: We love our Diono for a lot of reasons. It’s narrower than most car seats, which is so helpful when fitting several car seats in the same car. You can position it forward or rear facing, and it can be adapted from newborn size to a booster for older kids. It also folds small(er) for transport. The reason it makes the list here is that it is FAA approved (the only one we know of!) for use on airline seats. Here’s why this is great: The child sitting in it is much safer and much more comfortable than he or she would be without it. It makes a huge difference in our kids’ ability to sleep on the flight, and since flights to Europe are overnight, this is significant. And because it’s in the seat itself, we are able to take a car seat with us when we travel without it counting as one of our checked bags.

airline approved car seat

High quality in-air selfie

2. Fly Safe Travel Harness: Also in the name of comfort and safety, this harness fits around the seat and converts the ordinary airplane lap belt into a 5-point harness. There are all kinds of scary statistics out there about how preschool aged kids can be injured on a flight due to turbulence or a rough landing because the seats and seat belts are designed for adults and not children. The odds of this are small, of course, but worth being aware of. We have also found that when our kids are used to riding in a 5-point harness in the car, they are more comfortable (and better able to sleep) with the support the harness adds. It’s light and folds up small, so it’s easy to slip into a carry-on bag.

child airline safety

Throwback to 2012. She’s too big for the harness now.

3. Tricot Slen baby wrap: The first time we flew with Emelie, she was 4 months old. We checked our stroller, put her in a front carrier, and headed for security. The carrier had to be put through the x-ray machine along with our bags. This meant waking a sleeping baby, taking off the harness, sending it through, then getting her back in the harness before we could repack our electronics and fluids and be on our way. It was very inconvenient, and waking her up in the middle of her nap was not the best way to start our travels. As it turns out, a wrap-style carrier can be worn through security without disturbing baby and leaving your hands free to take care of other things. They have other methods of making sure you’re safe to fly but all in all, the wrap made security a much more pleasant experience. There are many different types of wraps that would all work. This link is for the kind we have.

Tricot Slen

It can be tied so baby is facing in or out, or even on your back. We use it everywhere, but the advantages for air travel alone would make it worth it.

4. Universal Outlet Adapter There is certainly no shortage of travel adapters available on the market, and sometimes I feel like we have most of them. This one is our favorite. It has a very compact design but can be arranged to convert any type of plug to fit any type of outlet. It’s so smart. Just be sure that what you’re plugging in only needs an adapter and not a converter. Not that we’ve ever fried anything… recently.

universal travel adapter

You only need to bring the parts necessary for the place you’re going, if you’re only going to one place. Which is why we don’t have the whole thing with us on this trip. Photo borrowed from Amazon.

 

Other Tips:

Wall-mounted Bassinet: If you’re traveling with a lap-held infant, most longer flights will offer a baby bassinet that mounts on the bulkhead wall. Other than take off, landing, and severe turbulence, babies can lay in their own bed. Check with your airline about specific weight and length restrictions. Generally, these bassinets have to be requested separately at least 24 hours prior to your departure. They won’t automatically give you one, and if you’re not assigned to the bulkhead row you won’t be able to get one. It’s so helpful to be able to put the baby down, especially if you are traveling with older children who need help or even just to eat your meal.

wall bassinet

Arguably the most comfortable person on this flight!

Kid-friendly meals: This one took us embarrassingly long to figure out. Airline food has a reputation for being bad but most of us adults can realize that we can’t avoid eating for the entire trip so we do our best to eat it anyway. Kids can’t always be reasoned with in this way. How many times have we arrived at our destination with miserable children who have neither eaten nor slept in far too long? We tried packing more snacks for the plane, but it’s hard to find satisfying snacks that will clear the security restrictions. Finally we learned that you can request a child-friendly meal on most flights where a meal is provided. The added advantage is that it’s not just food that most kids are at least willing to try, but they are served first along with other special meals. This gives them more time to eat (anybody else parenting a painfully slow eater?) before the trays are collected back again. It also means that as parents we can help them with whatever they need without our own meals and tray tables being in the way.

 

travel tired

Even with a child-friendly meal and a comfortable car seat to sleep in, jet lag is still really tough. Sometimes, you just can’t take another step.

 

We’re always trying to improve our routines for international travel as a family! These are some things that help us, but we’d love to learn more! What are you favorite tips for traveling internationally with children?

 

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