Our first big trip as a family of five was a return to my husband’s childhood home in Guatemala. Guatemala is an amazing country with wonderful people, culture, history, and nature. We spent most of our time on this trip in Antigua, Guatemala. Antigua, a World Heritage UNESCO Center, is a Spanish colonial town founded in the 1500s. The town is surrounded by three volcanoes (one, Volcan Fuego, is currently active) and the area experiences frequent earthquakes thanks to the country’s position on the Pacific Ring of Fire. This has caused significant damage to Guatemala on several occasions over the centuries but much of the colonial architecture has been preserved or restored. It has been so much fun to share all that there is to see and do with our kids!

People frequently comment that we must be brave to travel somewhere so different from home with young children but it’s just part of life for us. At this point, our older two children have been on about three dozen flights! We’ve learned a lot about how to make our trips with children go as smoothly as possible. Here are some of the things that I have found to be most helpful:

1) Baggage
Traveling is expensive so we try to limit the amount of baggage we bring. We typically check at least one bag and then try to make the most of our personal items. Backpacks are most convenient – we keep a child in a Kinderpack on our front, a backpack on our backs and still have our hands free to manage getting through ticketing and security. Most airports allow you to leave your baby in the Kinderpack through security, but not all – Guatemala, for example, does not allow it. Also, most (if not all) airlines don’t count a diaper bag as a personal item so we often take advantage of that. It’s great to have that extra free bag to pack lighter items like jackets or a stash of diapers.

2) Borrow what you can locally
If you have friends or family at your destination, ask them if they are able to lend you any of the bigger items that you may need. On this recent trip to Guatemala, my mother-in-law borrowed a crib and a stroller from a local friend so we didn’t need to bring anything big. If we travel with a stroller, we use it to carry our car seats through the airport and check it at the gate. When we needed to bring a travel crib, I found it easier to put it in our largest rolling suitcase and checked it that way.

3) Health, Safety, and Vaccinations
Be sure to discuss your international travel plans with your doctors well in advance. Some vaccinations require multiple doses spaced out over several months so you can’t wait until the last minute. Talk to your doctor as soon as you start to make plans so that you can decide if any extra precautions or vaccinations are right for your family’s circumstances. Bring a small first aid kit. Not all countries have 24-hour pharmacies like we have in the US so it’s good to have a few basic supplies in case of emergencies. When your kids are old enough, I recommend packing chewable medications. It’s more convenient than packing liquids and you don’t have to worry about having clean water to wash a syringe!

4) Food and Drink
It’s a good idea to pack a small stash of snacks for the kids, both for the plane/car ride and the duration of the trip. Like many toddlers, my kids can be picky eaters so I like to bring some fruit and veggie or yogurt pouches in case we’re struggling to find local foods they will eat. Freeze-dried fruits and cereal or protein bars are easy too. International travel can sometimes cause an upset stomach so I also like to have a small stash of mild crackers or pretzels (thank you, Goldfish).

5) Gear
Do a little research to decide what type of baby gear will be needed at your destination. The streets in Antigua are cobblestone and the sidewalks are tight and bumpy. It’s really not practical to use a stroller so we didn’t bother bringing it on this trip. It was much more convenient to use our Kinderpacks in Guatemala. High chairs aren’t always as widely available as they are here in the US. If we’re going on a long trip, I prefer bringing a small travel booster that folds up. For a short trip, the SSC trick works really well to turn any seat into a baby seat. My mother-in-law has a rustic high chair without any safety straps so using our infant carrier worked well to secure my daughter in that. It also worked to help her sit on my lap facing away from me. She was secured to my lap and able to look around and I got to keep my hands free to enjoy my fresh Guatemalan iced coffee!

6) Check your expectations at the baggage counter!
Traveling with little kids isn’t always fun and it isn’t always easy but we try to make the best of it. Travel is unpredictable and kids are even more so. We always approach our trips with very low expectations. We assume that it’s going to be total madness! Sometimes it is and we’re prepared for it. Sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised and relieved. In my opinion, the best thing that you can do is try to maintain a ‘whatever it takes’ mentality. Power up the tablets, crack open the bag of Goldfish and enjoy the ride!

Annie is a member of our online Kinderpack community. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Kindercarry.

June 07, 2019 — Kristina Pulistar