Last month our family made a last minute decision to take a family vacation to Disney World. Because of Nickel & Suede, over the holidays we didn’t get any down time, nor did we get much family time. By the time January rolled around we were all exhausted and burned out, so a getaway was definitely what we needed. We spur of the moment hopped in on our friend’s vacation plans and bought tickets to Orlando. I like to think of myself as a planner, but this trip was kind of an impulse decision and that didn’t leave a whole lot of time for preparing.
But with four kids in tow, we had to be smart about our travel preparations. I think we did a few things right and learned a few things too. I thought I’d share our travel tips and what worked for us as far as flying, lodging and dining. (I’ll also share about our trip and our Disney tips too in another post!) Keep in mind I was flying with my spouse, with four kids plus my 13 year old brother, and we were gone for six days total. Every trip has different factors and strategies required, but these all worked well for this trip for our family.
I have flown with kids many times, but I have never flown with four kids and only once have I flown with three. It’s a rare sight to see a family of six flying together and its no wonder! It’s a lot of people and luggage to keep track of! But we managed and despite all of the stares we got as our little flock moved through the airport, I think we were successful. No one cried or got lost or had a tantrum. I daresay everyone was well behaved! Below I’ve listed many of the things we considered and did to make flying with four kids under seven a little easier.
– Have the kids wear slip on shoes if you can. Wear slip-on’s yourself as well. I wore Birkenstocks both ways because of the ease of getting through security.
– Have everyone carry their own backpack/carry on items.
– Pack each child’s bag full of a few new surprises and snacks. Ideas include a new coloring book, headphones, new markers, stickers, notepad, candy, new-to-them snacks. The Target dollar section really helped with this.
– Take your stroller through the airport and check it at the gate. Use that stroller to carry kids and bags as far as you can take it. We always gate check our stroller and we never regret it.
– Check all of the bags that you can. With so many kids with tickets we were allowed quite a few checked bags and I think we ended up using all of them. Don’t carry more weight through the airport than you have too.
– Check all of your car seats. We actually put all of our car seats in a giant, thick trash bag and checked them all together. It was enormous, but it worked!
– Download movies onto your iPads before you leave your wifi signal. Get a splicer for the ipad connector so that two headphones can plug into one iPad at a time.
– Pack yourself the diaper bag of all diapers bags- preferably in a backpack style bag. Put extra snacks, paperwork, tickets, diapers, wipes, medicine, extra binkies and all that in your own bag.
– Pack an extra portable phone charger for you. You’ll want the extra battery power if if comes down to it!
– Do family boarding if you fly Southwest or check in as early as possible to make sure you get seats together.
– Bring empty water bottles through security so that you can fill them up once you get to your gate.
Meals are something that can cost a ton of money on vacation and the cost really adds up when you have four kids. We tried to be careful about how we spent money on food during our trip, but also to have fun and enjoy the good food we found while on vacation. Our tips for meals while traveling with kids are below.
– Like I said, find lodging with a kitchen of some kind. Our lodging allowed us to eat cereal, fruit or eggs every morning for breakfast. We also made a Target run for peanut butter and bread and jelly and other snacks so that we could pack lunches everyday. Having a fridge allowed us to keep all of that good for the whole week we were there.
– Pack food to take with you on your daily outings. Lunch and snacks came with us in backpacks everyday and then we bought other treats and dinner while we were out. We tried to make it a point to try foods at Disney and to get some treats, but bringing some of our own food meant we weren’t constantly starving and spending way too much on the extra food.
– Look for kids eat free options for dinner. On Monday night we ate at Joe’s Crab Shack which had kids eat free and then on Tuesday we found a Japanese steakhouse that offered free kids meals. We saved money and were also able to try restaurants that were out of our norm. It turns out our kids loved the Japanese steakhouse- the food and the little show. It was a great memory for us all!
I’m sure I’m leaving out all kinds of great tips and tricks, but you’ll just have to remind me of more of them in the comments. I’d love to hear your best advice for traveling with young kids. It’s hard, but its so worth it! Stay tuned for more posts about our trip and more advice on Orlando and Disney World with little kids!