Australia for 5 – Family travel to Australia – Destination Penrith

Australia is on the destination list for many families.  The culture, the beaches, the wildlife, and the friendly people are a universal draw for families looking to travel.  Our family is lucky enough to travel to Australia every year and enjoy this amazing country.  Family travel to Australia is rewarding with a huge array of possibilities.

How to get there:

We fly into Sydney via Chile as we complete what we call the Triangle of Awesome.  We travel to Chile for work so our travel plans are a bit unique.  Flying into SYD is relatively straight forward although it can be expensive.  We use Google flight tracker to keep up on the cheapest fares.  Find out how to use this great tool in our flight tracker post.
Rental cars can be quite expensive and if you plan to stay longer than a week I would highly recommend a peer to peer car sharing program called Drive My Car. You can save a boatload of money over regular rental rates.

Where to stay:

Depending on your goals and travel plans you have quite a few options for accommodations. We have always spent our time in Penrith as it is near the Penrith Whitewater Center where I train.  In Australia real estate is very expensive creating a vibrant rental market.  You can rent a house or condo by the week in most suburbs from a leasing agency or use AirBnB to find your pad.  We have used both and find its a bit cheaper to rent by the week from a leasing agency.  It can be expensive to find housing; for a 2 bedroom condo with a community pool and wifi we pay $1050AUD per week.  We use Western Sydney Accommodation for our go to as you pay less fees than with AirBnB.

What do do:

Penrith is good sized town nestled between the Blue Mountains and Sydney giving you options to travel in either directions to find a vast array of experiences.  Here is a few we enjoy:

Penrith Whitewater Stadium

For us this is a no brainer as my kayaking career keeps me at the whitewater center daily.  They offer exciting rafting and kayaking trips most days of the week over the summer.  It was the site of the 2000 Olympic Games for canoe slalom and is free to visit and watch the rafters and kayakers navigate the artificial whitewater channel.

Penrith Panthers Rugby

If you find yourself in Australia during rugby season (March-September) then lookup to see if you can watch a rugby game live.  They are super fun to watch and enjoy the spectators.  The games we have seen have always been packed of people and very exciting.  If you get general admission and want to actually get a seat show up a few hours early as it fills fast.  You are quite close to the field which gives you all the more appreciation for the intensity of the game of rugby!

Blue Mountains

Heading into the mountains from Penrith you quickly climb into the Blue Mountains.  In this beautiful mountain range know for steep cliff, eucalyptus forests and waterfalls you can find vistas, hikes, and overlooks everywhere! Specifically we enjoy visiting the 3 Sisters and Wentworth Falls.  There are hikes of various difficulties that your family can enjoy and see the Australian outback.

Featherdale Wildlife Park

My daughters favorite place in all of Australia.  Featherdale Wildlife Park is a koala bear conservatory that is a small wildlife park that has a free range policy with their kangaroos and wallabies.  You can get up close and personal with them which all the kids really enjoy.  You also can get close to koalas, they used to allow you to take a picture nearby to one, but since have changed their policy requiring a fee to take a picture with the koalas.  Its a pretty small park, but has a cool variety of animals including Tasmanian devils, wombats, echidnas, dingos, and kangaroos everywhere plus a huge variety of birds.  Its a bit expensive for the size but the interaction with the critters makes it worth it for us every time we go to Australia we go visit at least once.


Beaches are EVERYWHERE and they are all incredible.  You can find any number of them with variety.  The beaches are sandy, clean, fun, and bountiful.  They do a great job of having life guards and often will have a designated swimming zone that is watched by life guards that avoids dangerous rip tides.  Depending on the season, wind, and tide there can be a lot of blue bottle jelly fish that wash up in the surf which can make swimming painful.  When you arrive at the beach an easy way to tell if bluebottles are around is look for them on the beach washed up at the high water mark.  If you see a ton of them swimming could be a bit more exciting as their sting is not dangerous but can be painful for the kids.  Our favorite beach is Dee Why as it has a great parking, beautiful water, good surf for the kids, is less crowded, and a great burrito place just up the street.

Australia is a huge country/continent and there is MUCH more to do than listed above but if you are in or around the Sydney area this should give you an idea of where to start.  If you and your family travel to Australia during the summer, our families favorite TV show called My Kitchen Rules starts in early Feb and we absolutely love it; imagine a US show like Master Chef with Aussie, Frenchy, and Irish judges.


Africa for 5 – Family travel to Africa – Destination Durban

If you are looking for sun swept beaches that extend into the horizon South Africa has 1,600 miles of coast with both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.  We stayed on the coast for a week of fun and sun, it was incredible.  Family travel to Africa can be a wonderful experience.

How to get there:

We flew into South Africa via Johannesburg then took a flight from JNB to Durban.  From Durban we rented a car and ended up in a small ocean front town an hour south called Scottsburgh.  The roads were great, but make sure you have coins as there is a toll directly outside of the airport that accepts only coins.  Luckily for us a motorist behind us helped out as we didn’t have any coins at all.  Driving through Durban can have a lot of traffic so if possible plan accordingly to avoid it.

Where to stay:

Our goto site AirBnB got us a nice place called the Pearly Shells that had a kitchen with plenty of room for the family at an affordable rent.  Although it was a bit dated, we enjoyed the stay and felt secure.  It is recommended anywhere in South Africa to lock your valuables in the safe while gone and we always keep our passports on us when we go anywhere.

The vista from our porch at the Pearly Shells Holiday Flats.

What to do:

If you like the ocean this is the place for you.  There were MILES of untouched beach.  It is recommended due to safety concerns not to spend time on desolate beaches so we tended to stay at the beach in town.  Surfing, swimming, tide-pooling, and sunbathing became the afternoon tradition.

Shark Cage Diving KZN

My wife has what I consider a sick perversion to really want to swim with sharks.  She did it once in Australia and we checked out Shark Cage Diving KZN to see if they had any opportunities.  Sure enough they had a group that she, alongside my 11 year old son, could go do some cage diving.
The beach head was a few miles south of town but the entire crew was EXTREMELY welcoming and friendly.  After a safety brief, donning of wetsuits they were off in a boat while the other kids and I went tide-pooling.
Their report was that it was fantastic.  They saw a ton of sharks, got to spend a lot of time in the water and all the guides and staff were super helpful and accommodating.

uShaka Aquarium World

During a rainy day we headed back up to Durban to checkout the uShaka Aquarium World.  Turns out its an aquarium and a waterpark which seems like an interesting combo.  We opted for just the aquarium and started browsing.  We were interested in this aquarium specifically as they are doing a lot of work to help the penguin population in South Africa rebound and continue.  They had a great presentation with the penguins that the kids really liked.  Other than that it was a bit of a let down, there was not a lot to see and the costs of entry seemed like a lot for what you actually got to see.  We also had the singular experience of eating in the park.  It was the first time that I have been unable to eat food that I ordered.  We ordered a round of hamburgers from one of the restaurants and whatever the meat was, or what they put in it, made it inedible.  That was quite surprising to us because before then all the meat we had eaten in South Africa had been notably good!  For us Shaka Aquarium would be a pass in the future or as a recommendations.

 Croc World

Just 1km from our house was Croc World.  After reading about it and seeing their conservation efforts we thought it would be fun to see.  It did not disappoint! They have a TON of crocs just as the name implies.  They have a bunch of presentations including dangerous snakes, croc feeding, baby croc handling, and snake safety.  Each presentation was unique and engaging.  Its a conservatory and we were happy to visit and would go back again!  There is a great restaurant onsite which has an incredible view of the Indian Ocean.  The kids really enjoyed getting to handle the baby croc and found the presentations engaging.  If nothing else we learned which snakes to be sure to avoid in South Africa!  They had a great snake exhibit and one of the largest crocs in captivity that had be relocated from a nearby village after attacking humans.

Destination Family Factor

Family travel to Africa in Durban and the surrounding area have a ton of things to do, and amazing coastlines, and friendly people. Food and shops were accessible, activities were close, and the beach was amazing.

A memorable  week in South Africa.

Travel Hack: there really is a free lunch with Priority Pass!

As we often travel with a family of 5 food costs in the airport can rack up quite quickly!  To try to keep our costs as low as possible we utilize the benefits of lounge access that we get from our premium card; American Express Platinum.  With the Amex Platinum card you can enroll for free in the Priority Pass program.  Priority Pass is a network of lounges across the world of over 1000 lounges and expanding weekly!

One of the newer perks with Priority Pass is that many of the new “lounges” are not actually lounges but restaurants.  Basically you get a $28-$36 dollar credit (depending on the restaurant) to be used towards your bill.  Even better you can sign in for 1 guest which gets you double that amount with out actually paying any money as it classified as a lounge visit..

How to use it

Because we travel as a family of 5, I added my wife as an authorized card holder on my Amex account which allows her own priority pass membership.  So for our family with 2 priority pass memberships we get the restaurant priority pass credit ($28-$36) multiplied by 4! We recently used this to have a pre trip lunch in Sydney, Australia and had a credit of $144AUD to spend.  To make things even better there was a restaurant outside security in Sydney so we used our Priority Pass there for breakfast while we waited for the check in desk to open, then again past security at a restaurant for lunch before boarding.  We saved over $200AUD in that day alone!

A lunch from Better Burgers for FREE!

Where to use it

The list grows weekly and I highly recommend downloading the app on your phone and keeping it up to date, you also can find lounges from their website.
Current restaurants as of this writing:


  • PDX
    House Spirits Distillery
    Capers Cafe Le Bar
    Capers Market
  • DEN
    Timberline Steaks and Grille
  • MIA
    Corona Beach House
  • STL (St Louis)
    The Pasta House
    The Pasta House & Schlafly Brew House
  • LEX (Lexington KY)
    Kentucky Ale Taproom
  • MSP (Minneapolis)
  • JFK
    Bobby Van’s Steakhouse
  • CLE (Cleveland)
    Bar Symon


  • SYD (Sydney Australia)
    Better Burger
    Peroni Bar
    Bistro 2020
    Bar Roma
    Wok on Air
  • BNE (Brisbane Australia)
    Bar Roma
    Graze Grill and Bar
    Corretto Cafe & Bar
  • LGW (London Gatwick
    Grain Store Cafe & Bar
  • SIN (Singapore)
    The Green Market

The list continues to expand so make sure you update your app or check online and enjoy!

Better Burger in SYD

Travel Hack: the power of Google Flight Alerts

In order to keep our travel costs low we have to be forward thinking and planning to ensure we are getting the best prices possible on airline tickets. Knowing when to buy, recent fare changes, and fare trends can help keep the costs to a minimum.  We have utilized Google Flight Alerts to great success as a powerful online flight tracker.

Google Flights Alerts

Enter Google Flight Alerts.  You can easily track potential trips using Google’s powerful tool.

How to use it:

You need to have a google account and make sure you are logged in.

Start a search for a flight with dates you are interested in and click the track flights tool.

Choose your flights then click the tracking tab near the bottom.

Monitor and buy when you are confident.


Here is a flight I am tracking from a client who would like to travel to Australia for holiday. As you can see the flight costs are somewhat consistent.  I can track and watch to see if there is a dip in price then use that info to buy and save money

Another example is some flights I have been tracking for another client for a multi stage journey to Madagascar, then Dublin, then USA.  This flight was much more unstable in prices and I was able to buy at what I knew was the best possible price.

You can track almost any type of flight including one way flights like this from Auckland to SFO

I have 40-50 flight alerts at any given time for future trips I would like to go on, trips I am tracking for clients, and dream trips that I could only afford if there is a mistake fare!  Keep in mind Google does not search ALL possible fares. Southwest is one of the major ones that will not show a price so double check your flights against Southwest before you buy.

Have you used Google Flight Alert to score a great deal?

Booking Report – Santiago, Chile to Sydney, Australia

Santiago to Sydney for a family of 5

As our wanderlust continues to meld with our work/travel/training lifestyle we found ourselves at an impasse last fall.  We love Australia; for us its a perfect continent.  I can work and train at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium (the home of the 2000 Olympic Games) which is a fantastic venue for both work and slalom kayak training.  The wife and kids LOVE the country as we are close to the beach and its a very outdoorsy place similar to our home in Idaho. We also love Chile.  We work there teaching kayaking from Christmas till the end of February.  This year we combined them into what we are calling the “Triangle of Awesome” with the addition of a flight from Santiago to Sydney.
The triangle of awesome

A great way to avoid winter!

The flights to Chile are covered from work and based off the way we fly it costs the same to fly home from Chile as it does from Australia.  So getting down and back was covered, we just needed to figure out how to get from Santiago to Sydney.  A few quick searches yielded one way plane tickets in excess of $1200 per person which is WAY out of our budget.

 So we moved onto points-

Latam is the main flight provider with LA801 which goes from Santiago (SCL) to Auckland (AKL) then onto Sydney (SYD).  Checking on milage charts it would be a spendy flight with Latam miles (169k per person) as they only book roundtrip tickets.   Moving on to American Airlines we checked but availability was impossible to find.  Then we tried British Airway Avios- and we had a winner!  They had bookable flights with an interesting twist.  The AKL-SYD redemption charts for business class (with lie flat seats on an Boeing 787-9) for 10k miles MORE than the coach fare.  We did not quite have enough miles to book the whole family in business (plus we don’t want to spoil the children anymore than they already are) so we split the family into 2 groups (My wife with 2 kids and myself with 1 child) and booked the group of 2 in business for the ALK-SYD leg and the rest in coach. So our itinerary looked like this
SCL-AKL 12 hours flight time – whole family in coach
AKL-SYD 4 hours flight time – 2 in business and 3 in coach
The plan was for my wife and I to sit in business and leave the kids in coach. We were worried they wouldn’t allow it as some carriers do not allow parents to split cabin from their kids if the kids are under 15, but not only was the flight staff ok with it, one of the flight attendant let us know she would keep a special eye on the kids and let us know if we were needed.  Keep in mind this is the 1st time we have split cabins with our kids and only just now feel comfortable enough with their travel skills to leave them in a cabin by themselves. To further eleviate the split we sat in the last row of business class and put them in the first row of coach.  Our kids have each traveled over 75,000 miles over the last 2 years so we decided they were ok in a separate cabin.

When we told our youngest he was in a different cabin, he went to the wrong one! (kidding, he did get a great tour after the flight and was able to meet our captain)

Total Costs:

Using our British Avios (which we transferred in from our Amex Membership rewards) the total costs were:
40k Avios for the coach tickets (3)
50k Avios for the coach/business tickets (2)
Total Avios spent: 220k
Total cost in taxes fees etc: $275 USD
The tickets we found on the same date would of costs just over $6000 so we got a value of just about .03 cents per point which is a redemption we were happy with.

A beautiful landing on Latam LA801 in Auckland!

How I saved $200 AND got 2 week free car rental!

How I used for a free car rental!

Recently I began the process of price shopping for an upcoming trip to Europe for some kayak racing.  Typically I can find flights from my home airport to most places in Europe for around $1200-1600 USD depending on the dates.  During my travels I have to rent a car as public transport is quite challenging with a 12 foot kayak to lug about.  Barcelona typically has some of the cheapest per day rental cars in Europe and luckily BCN was my destination for this trip.

After the initial salvo of searches I found a few flights on my preferred airline (American) and others (United and Delta) all at the $1450 range which I was happy with as I had little flexibility on the dates or timing of the trip.  Before I finalized my booking I made a quick stop at to see if I could save some extra money on my rental car by combining them.

Using the exact same dates on the exact same flights I was able to find my same itinerary on American Airlines which included a rental car from Avis for $1240!  Not only did I save over $200 I also got a free car rental!  I wanted to see if this was something specific to my dates and city pairs so I tried a few other searches and was able to find more flights combos that get a free car rental.

These all have the following dates: April 14-May 1
AAVactations – $1288.94 with car flight only – $1420 rental car – $128 with GoldCar (which requires $1000 deposit to rent without additional insurance payments)


AAVacations – $1174.30 with car flight only – $646 rental car – $231


AAVacations – $1087 with car
Google Flights – $810 on both AA and Delta Rental Car – $408 with Europcar

Washington DC-FRA

AAVacations – $1256 with car
Google Flights – $1448 (there were cheaper flights but on discount carriers (WOW and Iceland Air) which I can’t fly because of my oversized luggage. Rental Car – $444 with Thrifty (which requires you to purchase additional insurance)
On the average it seems save money depending on where you fly, it only takes a few minutes, and you can save quite a bit of money and get a free car rental!
Want more? Follow us on Twitter or Facebook and keep up to date on the latest and greatest!

Delta #100503A Error Workaround

The Delta #100503a workaround

So you finally saved the miles and found the perfect award booking with Delta Airlines.  You are most of the way through the booking process and BAM you get an error code #100503A from Delta saying the award space is no longer available.  You go back and search for the same itinerary and it still shows available online but you can not get the booking to go through.

You are now in the Delta #100503A error zone!  I recently found myself in the zone trying to book a one way from my home airport (BOI) to Barcelona (BCN).  I found great award space in Delta One (their first class offering) that was connecting through Paris, France (CDG).  In the booking process our flights were all on Delta planes (not a codeshare with another airline) except the last flight.  The CDG-BCN flight was on a code share with Air France.  I tried everything I could think of to get the transaction to go through.  I used different web browsers, different computers, different IP addresses, everything I could think of and finally gave up.

Next, I decided to try to book from BOI-CDG figuring that the codeshare portion of my journey was causing the problems with the actual booking.  Then I planned to purchase a cheap one way flight from CDG to BCN (which was around $60 per ticket).  With my new routing that was only on Delta planes I had no problem getting the booking to go through.  It costs 70k in Delta miles and around $7 in taxes per passenger.

However, before I went ahead and booked the separate ticket from CDG-BCN I had an idea.

First, I found the original itinerary that I wanted from BOI-BCN for 70k miles and around $56 in taxes per passenger.

Then because Delta allows free changes and cancellations within 24 hours of booking I contacted Delta on my new favorite platform; twitter.  I tweeted @delta in a direct message, told them I had mistakenly booked to CDG and wanted to fly instead to BCN.  I sent along the flight numbers and itinerary that I had looked up for 70k miles.

Within about 5 minutes I was contacted back by the social media team telling me that they could accommodate my change without problem and all I needed to do was pay the difference in taxes.  The social media team member then asked a contact number to call me to confirm my credit card info.  A minute later I head a pleasant conversation with a very helpful woman who made the change and got me booked on the itinerary I wanted from the beginning!

Ideally it would be easier to book a codeshare award with Delta but there is a work around that took me all of about 10 minutes to get done!

This blog post is based from my personal experience, your experience could be different. I am not guaranteeing any success with this method but it worked for me!  This is the second time for us that the Delta twitter team has saved the day! Checkout our other article on getting better award routing after a schedule change.

Find the Family Frequent Flyer on twitter!

Global Entry for families costs $100? Save money and time in the airports!

Over the years we have flown quite a bit with our brood of 3 kids.  We try to take them to as many different countries, cultures, and continents as we can before they shove off into the real world to lead their own lives.  Any parent who travels a lot with younger kids can likely agree the most stressful times during each trip boils down to one challening part – security.  The joys of trying to herd three little minions without shoes or jackets through a metal detector all the while making sure all laptops are out of bags, no liquids, no random metal object (typically, the most recent facination) is buried in one of the kids pockets, AND managing to not misplace passports, wallets, and purses can be quite a daunting task.  But there is a solution!
Global Entry for families / TSA Precheck

How do you get it?  Go to Canada!

Well technically you don’t have to go into Canada but you do sign up for the NEXUS program!  Nexus is a trusted traveler program that is a partnership between the USA and Canada.  Although it has great benefits for traveling between the US and Canada it also come with inclusion in the Global Entry and TSA PreCheck programs. After you join NEXUS you will have Global Entry for families and will be able to use the Global Entry kiosks whenever you arrive in the USA by plane.  You also will be able to utilize TSA PreCheck for a smoother experience through security in airports in the USA.

What is it?

Per the Canada Border Service Agency: NEXUS is a bi-national, Canada-United States program for pre-approved, low-risk travelers entering Canada or the United States (U.S.) at designated air, land and marine ports of entry.

For our use it gains us access to use Global Entry kiosks and TSA PreCheck when traveling into the USA on airlines!

What are the benefits?

  • Use of Global Entry kiosks when traveling into USA
  • Enrollment in TSA PreCheck
  • Simplified border crossing between US and Canada while on land
  • Access to Trusted Traveller CATSA Security Line in Canadian airports
  • Only parents have to pay registration fee KIDS ARE FREE!

How do you sign up?

If you are a US citizen you need to start your application in the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES).

Create a TTP account here.

Log into your account and complete the application for NEXUS (you have to make an account for each of your family members including the kids).

After you complete the application and pay the $50 USD fee for each adult, (you pay for only the adults) you make an appointment to be interviewed at a NEXUS Enrollment Center. This is the only place that can be inconvenient as most of the enrollment centers are near the Canadian border.  We live in Idaho and do not have an enrollment center, but Seattle does.  So we took an overnight trip to Seattle to visit the enrollment center.  The available enrollment appointments can be booked quite a ways out, so schedule your appointment and if you can not find a good appointment time, try looking at a different enrollment center.

The entire family gets interviewed at the same time, it took us about an hour and a half to get all our paperwork and interviews done.  Make sure all your kids get finger printed so they can also use the Global Entry.  We made the mistake of NOT getting our kids finger printed, so had to visit an enrollment center in DFW (we luckily had a long layover) to get the kiddos fingerprinted.  A week later our NEXUS cards came in the mail (used only for land crossing and Trusted Traveller CATSA Security Line in Canadian airports) and we now can use our NEXUS number in the Trusted Traveller Program for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry! Make sure you put your Nexus number in the Known Traveler Number field during your reservation process to ensure you get TSA PreCheck.

Now going through security is WAY easier, laptops stay in bags, shoes stay on feet, and we save a few more gray hairs from sprouting on my head.

Save some time, keep this in your bag!

Looking for more tips to travel with your kids? Check out our post on packing and preparing for air travel!

Packing and preparing to travel with kids

How to travel with kids

Travel with kids

So you have done it, booked that amazing trip, waited for travel day to come and now its time to head out and travel with kids!  What can you do to best prepare yourself, your luggage, and your kids for a successful journey?


Be rested!  There is always the flurry of last minute packing, things to buy, prescriptions to fill, house to clean, a long sundry lists of “to-dos”.  We are very strict with ourselves about having our TRIP COUNTDOWN

  • 14 DAYS OUT – Find your papers! Double check the location and expiration date of your passports, and any required documentation for travel with kids.  This is especially important if one parent is traveling alone. Many countries require notarized affidavits to allow one parent to take a child without the other parent.  This is a great time to double check your itinerary and make sure no flight changes have happened to your trip.  Also make 2 color copies of your passports if you are traveling outside of the country (each parent should have one set).
  • 7 DAYS OUT – go online and order electrical adapters if you are going out of the country.  These adapters will convert the wall plugs in your destination country to those of your home country.  If you’re heading to a new country make sure you are prepared!  Typically travel accessories are much cheaper online than at your local market.  We lay out all the electronics we plan to travel with and make sure we have enough chargers, cords, and adapters.  Next call whatever credit cards you plan to travel with and tell them your travel plans so they don’t ping your account for fraud protection.  You can do this online or by calling the number on the back of your credit card.
  • 4 DAYS OUT – today we do our first packing of bags.  This is when we do all the “big bags”.  Pay special attention to the weight of your luggage and try to keep it around 45 pounds.  The max for most airlines is 50 but a 5 pound buffer allows for a discrepancy between your scale and the one at the check in desk.  Make sure you know what the luggage allowance is on your flights! Most carriers allow 1 free checked bag if flying international and charge for the second. Some credit cards also can get you a free checked bag for yourself and others traveling on your reservation.
  • 3 DAYS OUT – now is the time to go out and find/buy all the stuff you realized you didn’t have when you packed.  This is especially important for personal amenities when you travel with kids.  The kids need diaper rash cream (if your going to the beach as they WILL get a sand rash), Tylenol, parents need ibuprofen or whatever your preferred pain reliever, allergy medication, and sunscreen.  We try to always buy medication in tablet form to ease the hassle of TSA with liquids.  If you’re going to the beach; swimmer ear solution.  All those things you realized you don’t have but will make the trip and travel with kids much more enjoyable.
  • 2 DAYS OUT – today you pack your carry on.  For us, each adult has a roller bag and a personal backpack.  Each roller bag gets a change of clothes for each kid, pain management for kids and adults and any of the lithium batteries we need to take with us (lithium batteries can not go in your checked luggage), and snacks.  Dried fruit, nuts, anything that is easy to eat that doesn’t melt is a good idea.  If your traveling internationally make sure all nuts/fruits are eaten or thrown away before customs.  Next goes in the family electronics.  We allow each kid to travel with 1 electronic device that is stored in the communal roller board.  Our personal backpacks have our computers, toiletries, a portable recharging battery bank for the electronics, and little else.  We learned quickly that letting the kids pack their own carry on eventually meant that we would be dragging an overstuffed heavy backpack around for the entire trip after they got bored of carrying it.  Since then during travel with kids we allow the kids each a small backpack with 1 book, one personal item, a pair of headphones (each kids has a pair of over the ear headphones), and a change of clothes that match the climate you are arriving in (if we are going from hot climate to cold climate or vice versa).  The last thing we do is put an empty water bottle in each carry on.  You can not carry water through security but you can take an empty water bottle, then fill it up after security.  Before the kids could read we would allow a coloring book with an 8 pack of crayons instead of a book.  When the kids were still in diapers we would pack a diaper kit in EVERY carry on! That way we could easily get to a diaper and wipes no matter where we were.   Once carry ons are packed we do a final cleaning of our house and prepare it for our absence.
  • 1 DAY OUT – nothing.  The goal here is to have everything packed, cleaned and ready.  If there are any chores left on the list the morning is the time to get it done.  Wake the kids up early and in the afternoon take them out for a physical activity. We always do dinner out the last meal so that the house stays clean and go to bed early!
  • TRAVEL DAY – Get there early! Standing with kids in line for an hour is way more difficult than sitting with kids for an hour.  Get there early before the lines and spend that extra time waiting by the gate instead of trying to corral a herd of your children in line.  For international flights we always arrive 2.5-3 hours before the flight time.  We happily travel with TSA PreCheck which helps with security lines because we travel with kids a lot, but if you do not travel a lot that may not be worth the expense.  Look for the kids/handicap/crew line if possible to get through a bit faster.  We frisk the kids before we get in the security line and make sure that everything is in their backpack with nothing in their pockets so there are no surprises.  Upon arrival (if in a foreign country) we always either convert $100USD to the local currency, or find an ATM to get out around the same amount in local cash.  You will likely pay a bit more in conversion fees by not using the ATM but either way getting local cash in your pocket is important as many smaller shops, taxi, food, and tips don’t accept USD.

Get a good night sleep the night before so you are rested and ready to go! To travel with kids can try your patience but if you approach it correctly it can be great.  Prepare yourself to do what we call “tending the flock”.  As soon as we start our traveling we realize for the kids its a new environment and things that they normally proficient at can be challenging (like tying their shoes, going to the bathroom, remembering their backpack, ect.) so we pay extra attention to make sure they have their stuff, are not hungry or thirsty, and don’t need to go to the bathroom!  Cause if you don’t all three things somehow simultaneously become an issue moments into boarding your flight.

Your luggage

For a very long time we found ourselves dreading the airport as we had to drag around nine 50 pound bags (and often a 12 foot kayak).  Since then we have honed our packing skills to try to make our travels easier.  Don’t take too much with you.  If you are taking an extended trip and have laundry service, plan on less clothes for yourselves and your kids and do laundry while abroad.  We pack shoes and let the kids travel in flip flops as they are infinitely easier to slip on and off.

Your kids

Be prepared and plan.

Who is ready to board a 17 hour flight?

When they were infants/toddlers we would take shifts tending to the child/ren (our kids are all 2 years apart in age).  So if we had 2 flights in a trip, we would have the parent in charge for each of the flights while the other was able to try to relax.  Obviously if needed the other parent would come in to help but we both realized how important the relaxing time was so we would do our best to leave the other parent alone.  When they are toddlers the center seats become your friend! If there are three seats across the middle putting your child in the center allows them to stand and move around with out getting ran over by other passengers or the beverage cart.  If you can get the front row (on the bulkhead) you will have way more room for the kiddos to stand and move.  Most airlines now up-charge you for the premium seats at the bulkhead, but they can be worth while to have the space for your child.  If you are traveling with an infant some bulkhead seats have a bassinet that actually affixes to the bulkhead itself and your infant can sleep away on their back.  If you’re taking an overnight flight and can get the bassinet seats your life will be drastically improved by allowing your baby to sleep comfortably all night!  When the kids were toddlers we would go to the dollar store and buy a few new toys that we would let them play with for the first time on the plane. But still, less is more, if you take 20 tiny toys in your carry on, you will likely lose half of them and your child will only play with one!  For the infants and toddlers be certain to have plenty of sippy cups with water or juice as the drinking motion can help them clear their ears during takeoff and landing.

Once they are about 5 travel with kids become much easier.  For our brood we try to find a balance of screen time vs book time vs sit in your seat without bothering everyone time.  We are pretty strict on them NOT kicking the seat, yelling, standing and generally making themselves be heard.  We try to be as courteous to other passengers as possible.  We allow them to watch screens or play with their electronic device after take off, but they must pause or put down their device (including taking out headphones) ANY time the flight attendants are providing service (lunch, dinner, beverage).  Most long haul flights have in seat entertainment systems, in those systems there are kids movie and TV sections which allow the kids to choose movies and TV shows that are age appropriate.  On shorter flights where there are no inflight entertainment options the personal electronic device or book comes into play.  If we are taking an overnight flight then screens are off after dinner until the breakfast cart comes around. DO NOT LET YOUR KIDS WATCH MOVIES ALL NIGHT!  They can and will do it, then proceed to fall dead asleep while you are standing in the long slow moving lines to immigration or customs!  We make each child try to use the restroom right before we board and right after the inflight service to avoid the rush on the restroom that happens an hour or two after the food cart comes around.  When they make the call for prep for landing we send the kids for one last try before landing.

This is by no means an end all guide to travel with kids but these guidelines have gotten us to be able to travel pretty happily with our kiddos!