I want us to do something different today for a change. I’m not gonna do the talking. I hand you the mic. I want to hear your story. But! Not not your highlight real. I don’t hear another success story. I want the story that’s behind the curtains.
I want to hear your messy story. Drop it in the comments. Please!
What’s the point? To make you realize that YOU WON. Look at all the stuff that got in the way, and you’re still here. You survived. Whatever tried to knock you down. It lost.
Look at mess as your life data. And as a reminder that you my friend are a survivor and a thriver.
It’s no secret that I’m a hermit at heart, but when I do leave the house/office, I LOVE to explore the world + go on adventures with my family.
Recently I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how I survive bringing Olivia on board. It’s funny you ask because I’m still pleasantly surprise I’ve pulled it off without casualties.
Still, let me be the first to confess that I definitely don’t have all the answers when it comes to traveling smoothly with a 2 year old toddler. What I can provide is a little insight as to how we do it wing it, in case you’re curious + feel inspired to go on your own family outings.
I’ve rounded up a lot of answers to some of your most frequently asked questions below. Let’s call it A Messy Guide to Traveling with Kids, and living to tell the tale.
Is traveling with kids really worth it?
I know some people feel strongly that taking kids around the world when they won’t be able to remember it all perfectly is a total waste. I see your point. You might actually be right.
But! David + I truly believe exposing Olivia at a very young age to different cultures + smells + tastes + languages + people, really helps her grow – turn her into a less high maintenance little dictador and more into a mini warrior capable of adapting to any given situation or environment (except when not feed).
I always joke that our goal is to raise a wash n’ wear kid. Not a dry clean one. Can you imagine? It would make parenting so much harder than it already is.
I’ve also found that not many things top the memories our family has created while traveling, Of course, once you get over that first panic attack of “are we crazy, can we really do this?” It’s ALL worth it – the good (discovering an amazing gelato parlor) + the not so good (getting lost in an airport).
If anything, traveling together has helped build a special bond between us I am thankful for.
At home + the office everything is such a GO GO GO – emails + launches + live calls (and making sure the nanny distracts Olivia so she doesn’t interrupt the webinar) + to-do lists + groceries + client projects + passion projects + house chores, that we rarely have sacred time as a family of three, know what I mean?
Time stops the moment you’re on vacation. You forget the time. You don’t know if it’s Sunday or Monday. It’s pretty neat.
Additionally, as you can probably tell, I’m obsessed with documenting the journey with photos + videos + Insta Stories. Oli often asks me to watch our travel clips over and over again or look at pictures from past vacations.
Maybe she won’t remember any of it. But we sure will.
How do you manage sleeping during your trips?
We like to book a hotel with a king size bed so Olivia can sleep in the middle, just like we do at home. Yes, we co-sleep.
Some hotels, especially in Europe don’t offer this option (even if they say so in their website), so we have to settle for joined-twin beds. I let it slide, but not before whining to hubby + having a lil’ diva moment. Then I remember I’m on vacation, and I calm myself before I wreck myself. Whenever we get a joined bed arrangement, I grab the extra comforter in the room closet, lay it in the middle of the bed, and voila!
Olivia has never been the crib-lover type so she’s grown accustomed to sleeping anywhere as long as mom + dad are on the bed. I guess this has it’s pro’s + cons, doesn’t it? But during travels it’s definitively an advantage.
Oh! And I travel with my pillow, cause not all pillows are created equal. Makes anywhere feel like home.
Tip: Exhaust all your resources to tire out your child before arriving to your room, so when they land on that bed they pass out immediately. Those precious moments of utter silence to scroll your phone + edit photos + post Insta Stories are priceless.
It’s also worth noting that we go for hotels over airbnbs. We like the convenience of having our beds made + fresh towels everyday.
Another biggie is choosing a centric home base in case you have to catch your breath in the middle of the day. We don’t mind splurging a bit more on a hotel to make sure we’re close to everything, and we can easily go back, if needed.
How do you handle meals while traveling?
The biggest thing is to hit a grocery store as soon as we arrive to stock up on healthy snacks (fresh fruit + yogurt + granola + muesli + water), cause no one wants to pay for overcharged water at the hotel mini bar or deal with anyone that’s hangry, including mama when traveling. Game changer.
We do a couple of these market runs during the trip. Personally, I really enjoy seeing all the foreign/local food offered. You can tell so much about a place from what they eat, can’t you? And I love to bring home some staples, like a really nice truffle oil or decadent chocolates.
When it comes to dinning out we typically don’t make restaurant reservations. We either ask the concierge at the hotel + friends who’ve been there recently or clients who live there for recommendations. As much as we love an amazing foodie experience (have your seen Chef’s Table? Our fave show EVER!), we rarely go for the trendy Michelin-star rated spots. We opt for the local laid back favorites.
If I was traveling alone with David, we wouldn’t mind the pretentiousness + the dressing up for the occasion + the long lines + the doll-size food + the bill. We would actually dig the theatricality, and talk about it for ages. But with a kid, heck to the no. Simple, is better.
Also, let me say, we’ve been surprised to find out that eating out with Olivia (and my nice + nephew on our most recently trip) is far more enjoyable than expected. Watching the kids eat an authentic paella or ask to dip their fries in a special aioli sure warms our hearts.
A few more tips when it comes to eating out:
Ask for a booth or corner table.
Order right when you sit down.
Ask for the check when your food comes.
Wine always makes you a more tolerant parent.
Let your kid sprinkle gummy bears on top of her croissant if she so desperately wants to.
Bring a bag of small toys + sticker books for entertainment (I’m an absolute tyrant when it comes to allowing iPads/phones at the table. Don’t like it. Won’t tolerate it in my regime. Any other time yes, but not here!)
Order something safe from the menu.
Order something audacious to try something new.
Always order dessert. No one wants to be related to that person who’s counting calories on vacay.
Do a restroom run first thing, and last before leaving the restaurant.
Do you travel with a stroller?
I bring our stroller along all the time. We rarely use it at home, but we swear by it when traveling abroad.
We enjoy wandering by foot. We like to get to know a place by walking, several miles if we need to. Having the stroller to rely on is wonderful.
Also, it truly helps in the airport! We don’t even check ours with our luggage. We use it throughout the airport + check it at the plane doors or fit it into the overhead compartment (one of the nice perks of the model we purchased).
In case you’re interested we have the BabyZen YOYO+. What we love about this particular stroller is that it folds and unfolds + can be carried like a bag + can be driven with one hand (the suspension is SICK) + fits just about anywhere + it’s easily stored + can be taken as cabin luggage. Sure makes life easier when you want to grab a bite + catch an Uber + hop on the subway or fly to the other end of the world. After doing my research, it seems like the best fit for our family.
What I love about bringing a stroller along is that it serves as a home base during our days of exploring, where Oli can sit + relax or nap when needed. Oh! And if mama ever feels like shopping, guess what carries all the bags? Wink wink.
I think we’re blessed thou with a child that has no problem taking stroller naps, since her earliest days. And we don’t take that for granted.
How to you survive airports + lengthy flights with kids?
Here are my top tricks to surviving airports + long flights:
Wear comfy matching outfits. Bonus if you look like an Olympic ping pong team.
If you’re traveling with a stroller, don’t check it with your bags. Once you get to the gate, be sure to go up + check in straight away. They will give you a tag for your stroller + also help you board the plane first, which is nice so you can get situated before all hell breaks loose (just kidding). But seriously, probably the best perk to flying with kids is getting to board early!
If you’re traveling with a baby, nurse or give them a pacifier during take-off + landing. That constant sucking + swallowing motion can help with the plane changing pressure considerably. For toddlers, you can give them something to eat during this time so they are also chewing.
The iPad is my best friend during long flights. Something I never thought I’d say a few years ago. We didn’t expose Olivia to a screen until she turned 1, and we allow minimal screen time at home, so Oli is always elated to get a free pass to watch all the movies she wants on the plane, and we happily oblige. Her all-time-favorite is The Sound of Music + her current obsession is a tie between Ferdinand + Coco.
Get on-ear headphones. Airplane ones suck. We got some pretty cheap ones for $17 that were comfortably padded, but you can go nuts if you can and get fancy noise-blocking ones.
Pack a carry on full of surprises! A new coloring book + little animals + reusable stickers + play dough + a toy doctor kit + gel markers.
Also, pack snacks in your carry on that are easy to eat + keep their blood sugar up. We take grapes + blueberries (careful, they stain) + pretzels with chocolate hazelnut butter + empanadas + raisins + granola bars. I also bring her favorite treats – chocolate covered goji berries + gummies, for manipulation purposes only.
When the seatbelt sign is turned off and it’s okay to move around, take a walk up + down the aisles. It’s hard enough for me as an adult to sit still for an hour or two, so I can’t imagine forcing a child to. Plus! It helps to break up the trip, especially if it’s hours upon hours to let them get a bit of exercise.
Be nice to the people around you. I remember I made homemade granola favors for Olivia’s first trip (she was 6-months old and we we’re flying to a wedding in Vieques, Puerto Rico) to apologize in advance to my fellow passengers for what they were about to experience. I was always that person who hated seating close to a crying baby, and now I was about to become that mom. Oh God! Oli was still breastfeeding at the time + she ended up sleeping the entire plane ride, but the point is: be a nice and considerate human being. Doesn’t hurt to say hello when you sit down + apologize up front for any crying + spilling or chaos that may break loose at some point during the flight. And let them know you will do your best to keep it to a minimum.
Not gonna lie. So far, we’ve been really really lucky in our flights. Great people around us, as well as great flight attendants. And when we travel with other family members, everyone help us + we take sleeping shifts. It makes such a big difference.
Very occasionally you may see an eye roll, but for the most part, people are awesome, which makes me regain my faith in humanity. Several folks have actually offered help when they see you could use a hand. They understand you’re just trying to get somewhere too.
How do you decide what activities to do + where to go to keep both the adults + kid(s) happy?
Everyone does as I say. Period.
What happens is Oli is still small. It’s kind of a breeze, because she just cruises in her little stroller vehicle as we wander around museums or shops.
I know my days are counted thou. Soon enough, Olivia will have a say in the activity planning. And my life will be over.
Obviously we enjoy wine tours + majestic cathedral strolls + shopping sprees, but nothing beats a stop at a carrusel + bookshop + outdoor playground + pasticceria or children’s section at any department store, and seeing Olivia’s eye light up. And so do ours.
We love seeing her so happy, and I think that’s what ends up happening to all us parents. We soften up in our knees. It’s pretty pathetic. And beautiful.
You know what else? Something we have found to work really well is to show Olivia pictures + maps + YouTube videos + books of the places we are headed, and talk about our trip far in advance. The anticipation of a trip can be as exciting as the trip itself.
If I missed anything you are curious about, feel free to ask in the comments and I will do my best to respond!
And if you have any tips of your own that you don’t mind sharing, I would really appreciate it. We have a big trip coming up – the farthest destination yet, and we’re a bit nervous, and could use a hand.
If you only remember one thing from this article please let it be this: Don’t stress yourself out too much about traveling with little ones. You got this! You are a super mom! You were showered with invisible mom superpower confetti capable of achieving the impossible in extraordinary circumstances.
I promise it’s much easier than it looks. Let me even dare say it’s much more straightforward + intuitive + simple than parenting from home. I swear! Or else I wouldn’t keep doing it, do you think I’m a masochist?
Eight years ago I lost my hand wrestling battle to perfectionism and embarked on a quest to trust the mess. I’m still learning to love the part of myself that no one claps for, but this is what I know to be true:
Mess is in our DNA.
Embracing our imperfections is scary, but not nearly as terrifying as giving up on who we are for fear of “what will they think?”.
Whether you’ve hit a plateau, you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the incompletes in your checklist, you’re looking for a smarter way to get where you want to go or you’re simply in need of a friend who gets it, I VOLUNTEER, I volunteer as tribute to be your personal pocket-size cheerleader + help you transform your hiccups into a story of triumph.
I created Life is Messy Bootcamp® for recovering perfectionist like me. And today I’m reopening the doors for members-only. Stay tuned for the grand relaunch to the public. It’s gonna be AWESOME!!!
Here’s a lil’ sneak peek of our latest photo shoot: