10 Tips for Traveling with Kids

My Top Ten Favorite Travel Hacks for Vacationing with Kids10 Tips for Travelling with Teenagers

We just returned from our second two-week trip through Europe with our kids and although we had a few small mishaps (aka setting off the train station alarm in Brussels) we also picked up a few great hacks to share.

While making an adventure like ours (15 days, six countries, seven hotels, plains, ferries, trains and automobiles) work is helped by the fact that I travel globally about 100 days per year for work, I think these easy tips can make family travel with kids less stressful for any family.

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Visit the Google Information page to view the busiest days and times to visit.

  • Research, Plan, & Prepare: There are a number of times where spontaneity is delightful – an unplanned evening out, or day at an amusement park for instance – but an extended family vacation is not that time. Do your research, use tools like Google Flights, and Google localized business pages to plan for the best value on your airline tickets, or best time of day to visit museums and popular attractions.
  • Pack Light, Use Local Amenities, & Buy as You Go: When traveling with children use the rule of twos: only bring the amount of luggage and gear that can be carried with two hands per person: that means four people, no more than eight pieces of luggage or gear (that includes suitcases, carry on, purse, strollers, or diaper bags). Hotels offer cribs, rental car companies offer child safety seats, and diapers are available in every city of the world. Don’t let your luggage dictate your adventure!
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Everything we packed for four people on a two week trip to Europe.

  • Bring the Best: To help the packing light process along, CURATE! Only bring the best: the shoes you love to wear, your comfiest most fashionable clothes – not the T-shirt with the stain for lounging around bring the silk pajamas, and pack the makeup you use every day, don’t “try” something new on vacation. 
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    I like these cosmetic pot jars for skincare, hair gels, and liquid makeup.

    Consider repotting items into smaller containers if needed. Travel is not the time to bring your “good enough” items because you’ll find yourself feeling less energized and more weighted down, instead bring your best stuff and USE it. That’s the whole point. Marie Kondo your vacay and only bring the items that spark joy.

  • Book Flights Early and Reserve Your Seats in Advance: The time to save money is NOT by booking the lowest cost econo seats that give you seat assignments at the airport, that guarantees unnecessary stress (I’ll go into tips on saving money on travel in a later post).  Buy your way out of travel stress. Book directly through the airlines (more on that later) and select your seats, and potentially your flight days and times, based on the most desirable locations, get aisle seats, toward the front of the plane, and read up on the inflight amenities so you know what to expect.

Pro Tip: For the best prices, book flights mid-week, always including a Saturday night stay, six to twelve weeks in advance, and ALWAYS book seats that allow you to review the seat map and select your seats first.

  • Book Flights the Right Way: An airline snafu can throw your entire adventure out of order, and correcting that snafu becomes exponentially more complicated if you book through a third-party site because, if your flight gets canceled or rescheduled to an unworkable time and needs to be rebooked you’ll have to call the third party, who will then call the airline, and all that game of telephone wastes your valuable travel time. Trust me, it isn’t worth the $10 you’ll save, and you’ll have access to more perks (like travel apps and lower cost upgrades) when you book directly through the carrier. Airlines really are the best way to get the best deals, especially if you’re flexible about the time of day, days of the week, and when applicable the airports (I.e. Miami vs. Fort Lauderdale).
  • Understand Your Hotel Amenities: Read the fine print on your hotel booking, is there a resort fee? What does it include? Is there a free breakfast? What hours is it available, will you actually be at the hotel to enjoy it and make it worth the extra cost? The best way to maximize your hotel stay is to read all the little details on the “about” page, calibrate your expectations, and know all the little extras you’re entitled to, I.E. a welcome drink, free internet, complimentary coffee or happy hour reception. Today’s hotels offer a lot of little perks you’ll only learn about by reading the fine print. But, just as these little extras can really add to your experience, hidden fees can bump up the cost for parking, daily hotel taxes, and resort fees which can be as high as $60 a night!
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    Working on our “Daily Briefing” travel itinerary.

    Go slow to go fast: It can be tempting to go-go-go and try to pack every activity into your itinerary, figuring out your route on the way, but with Kids (and husbands) this can turn into sun-baked meltdowns. Instead, create a daily plan of activities you’d like to do, in order of proximity (remember transit times, lines, and security) and outline a rough but flexible time of day to hit each spot, then choose one or two as your “must do” and the rest as “would be nice”. That way, if you show up to the Churchill War Rooms in London to see a line around the block, you can easily decide to skip it and move on to the next, less crowded activity.

  • Skip The Lines: One way to derail a family vacay is to expect people to complacently wait in a line for some must-do activity, restaurant, or boat ride. Instead, book Activity Passes in advance that let you skip the line or the ticket window, research after hours your options (like visiting the Colosseum at night). Every time I walk out of the Vatican Museum to see people waiting in a three-hour line to get in I shake my head. Ten minutes of advanced planning can get you out of that line and into the Sistine Chapel without incident, and usually with only a nominal additional charge. Visit the websites for each of the locations you plan to visit and research if appointments are available for the sights you’d like to see – especially in Italy where reservations to the most popular sites are an absolute MUST and don’t cost extra.
  • Spring for Space: When booking hotel rooms, read the room descriptions that list square footage. Go for the larger room if possible, that extra ten feet, or with older kids, second adjoining room, can add so much extra luxury and comfort to your vacation.  I’d forgo an extra night of vacation rather than downgrade to the smallest most economical room available.  I know that people often say that “Hotel rooms don’t matter, you’re only in it to sleep” but, SLEEP is critical! Which leads me to my final tip.
  • Schedule Sleep: Tired cranky families fall apart on vacation, meltdowns, runny noses, forgotten passports, brothers throwing fisticuffs in Vienna hotel rooms – this all comes from being overtired.  When planning a trip it can be easy to overlook the importance of eight uninterrupted hours of sleep (at least most nights) but don’t! If you have a busy day the night before, arrange for a leisurely morning the day after.  I know that we all want to maximize our go-go-go fun-button-punching while on a trip, but getting that little extra sleep will ensure that you can maximize your travel fun and minimize mishaps that come when your brain is run down from too much going.

What did I miss?  What are your favorite travel tips to remember?

Read More:

One Year in Review

The LaBelleValise blog is now one year old.  This blog started as a travel log on all the places work, life, and wanderlust takes me and over the past year the adventure has been better than I hoped.

Here are a few of the highlightswpid-20141203_115451.jpg

Home Organization: Make-up Brush Holders

I am an addict. I am addicted to make-up tutorials and home organization videos.

I know, there are more important ways for me to spend my time, but they just don’t offer the same mind-numbing thrill as turning on a good “Get Ready with Me” make-up montage while prepping, primping, and priming for a day at the office.

This weekend, I kicked it up a notch and went a little beauty guru myself.

Enter another useful way to use Downy Unstoppables (one of my holy grail 1,001 use products).

Make-Up Brush Holder Supplies

All the supplies you’ll need to make an easy, sweet-smelling make-up brush holder.

What you’ll need:

  1. Container: cute, wide-mouth container with enough depth and width to easily hold all of your brushes, leaving a little breathing room between each brush to make it easy to grab and replace them.
  2. Rice: enough to fill your container 3/4 full
  3. Downy Unstoppables: 1 Large tablespoon

Steps:

Pretty self-explanatory here, but the instructions anyway, because I figured out a little tip I like …

  1. Mix the rice and Unstoppables in a large container (I used the large clear vase shown here because it was hanging around in my laundry room), then pour the mixture into your container.
  2. Place the brushes (soft part up) into your container:  Tip – I organize my brushes in order of use, that way I’m never looking for a brush.
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Put brushes into your storage container in order of use: foundation brushes to the outside and fine, detailing brushes for your eyes on the inside. This way, when doing your make-up you work from one end of the container to the next, and you’re never looking for supplies.

 

 

Show Season

I am struggling with some real First World Fashion Girl Problems.

How does one properly prepare for a whirlwind five weeks of apparel markets, black tie parties, runway shows, and endless meetings with buyers?

In my line of work, in addition to all of the professional prep, appearance matters, so I’m needing a head to toe beauty detailing.

My Fashionista To Do List:

1. A manicure that can make it through five runway shows
2. The perfect black strappy sandal and/or peep toe pump
3. Pretty pink Burberry shellac pedicure
4. Eyelash extensions
5. Root touch up for a sunny golden blonde
6. Quick trim for a sideswept bang
7. Spray tan
8. Little black dress and a suburban vamp ballgown
9. Racer-back nude push-up bra
10. Seemless nude boy shorts

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That is my “prep” list for the next week in anticipation of the Fall show season. While my sensible, college-educated, mature self finds this list ridiculous, my inner tween is squealing that I landed a job where personal appearance maintenance is just as important as boning up on the Wall Street Journal’s top read articles.

My Go-To Carry On Travel Gear List

Prepping for my next big voyage: Toronto, Amsterdam, and London. Is it in bad taste if I thank the tragic Ebola outbreak for saving my Labor Day weekend and cancelling my leg in Pretoria?

Figured I’d share my packing lists:

Travel Items

After a luggage-check mishap in the UK earlier this year I am now firmly committed to the carry on only approach. So, I use my smaller carry-on for toiletries and make-up kit, and put my hair items inside my larger rolling bag (which I also carry on). I then tuck my purse inside its protective bag inside the smaller carry-on, and keep my baggage light and easy, and out of the cargo hold.

Clear Plastic Sample Containers for Makeup and Skincare

I also re-pot my foundations into these clever little clear plastic makeup sample containers I found on Amazon: Click Here to buy.

Travel Makeup

The trick to ensure I can go carry on only? Editing my wardrobe down to basic, easy, color story mix-and-match items that can make a variety of looks without a lot of weight.

Packing List

The Buffer Day

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One o’clock on a Friday afternoon is a perfectly reasonable time to depart from Salt Lake City International Airport en route to the lush green countryside of England. The airport is busy and fully staffed but not yet crowded with weekend warriors and the commuting execs have already cleared out of the Priority security lanes, eager to return after a week away from home and hearth.

My trusty Kelly green roller bag and I whizzed through security, swift and practiced in the head, shoulders, knees, and toes of airport security and onto the Delta lounge for a glass of white wine and a spoonful of Nutella, before I arrived at gate C9, just in time to line up for priority boarding.

Then they called my name. An error with my boarding pass “The Assistant” had once again booked a ticket with my awkward last name typed incorrectly. Some gate agents let it slide, other over-diligent types require that I show my passport and reprint my boarding pass. That flight was staffed by the diligent type.

“The flight is completely full today, Miss would you mind gate checking your bag?”

Now, I believe in flight karma, and I love it when they call me Miss, so I agreed.

“Be the traveler you want to travel with.”

Because I believe in flight karma, when asked to switch seats for families, change flights without affecting arrival times, or check my bag, I try to acquiesce. So I agreed, bid my bag a brief adieu and onto the plane I went, where my sacrifice was rewarded with a bulkhead seat followed by an international flight with no passenger in the seat beside me.

Flight karma is good … until I arrived in Manchester, wearing my less-then-clean ankle length white travel skirt, eighteen hours of grime, black cowboy boots, and my trusty Kelly green suitcase did not.

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My hotel was located a traffic-free one hour ride from the airport, and I was ensured that my bag would be delivered at 6:00 when the next flight arrived from Ansterdam.

But, the gate agent forgot to tell me that the lost luggage desk closes at 6:00 PM.

A call to the lost luggage line confirmed that my baggage would be delivered in the morning, at 9:00 am, when the luggage desk opened.

But, on Sundays, the lost luggage desk does not open until 11:00 am.

Time to make the most of a bad situation.

Handy in-room sewing kit in hand I took my plaid pashmina and fashioned a makeshift knee length kilt for a better finished effect than the rumpled white skirt I had been wearing for two days of planes, trains, and automobiles. With my black travel cardigan, a low braid, and my black boots I almost looked casual and sporting. Unfortunately, the event I was hosting beginning at 12:30 was neither casual nor sporting.

Google, Siri, and a couple of calls later I’d identified a few shopping options within a 30 minute drive and decided it was time to call an audible, “My luggage isn’t going to make it in time for my work function, can you get me a taxi into the nearest city center?”

Hard target search: straightening iron and cosmetics at Boots, then a head-to-toe polyester masterpiece for 50£ at Primark, and I almost looked like the professional I pretend to be (so long as nobody looked too closely or smoked in my immediate vicinity.)

Not a hair out of place, a raised voice, or a lost second of sleep. I have proved again that in travel, as in life, It ain’t a problem if you can solve it with a taxi ride and an American Express.