This article was originally published on Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career at Traveling with Young Children.My wife and I just returned from an out of state vacation, our first with both of our children, ages 1.5 an...
This article was originally published on Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career at Traveling with Young Children.My wife and I just returned from an out of state vacation, our first with both of our children, ages 1.5 and four. Two years ago we traveled with our oldest daughter who was two at the time, and we stayed with my parents. That was a relatively easy trip, and we didn’t need to book a hotel, rent a car, or worry about too much. But this was our first overnight trip traveling with both of our daughters. We weren’t sure exactly what to expect, but in the end, the trip went surprisingly well. Traveling with young children can be an adventure. Hopefully these tips can help make your next trip a little easier!
Flying vs. Driving
We would have had a 20+ hour drive, which would have meant a two-day road trip down there and another two-day trip on the return leg. Or, we could drive an hour and a half to the airport, spend a couple hours in the terminal, and take a two and a half hour flight. Then of course, rent a car and drive to the hotel. Altogether, we were looking at two twelve hour days, or one seven hour day for each leg of the trip. We chose the latter, which cost more, but saved us an enormous amount of time and emotional energy. When are children are older, we may consider driving as we can take our time and turn the trip into part of the vacation. But when our children are both under age four, time and convenience are the most important factors for us!
Flying with a Lap Child
If you have a child under the age of two, you may be able to take your child on your lap during the flight. Airline travel is safer than driving, and easier than most people think. We decided to take our youngest on board as a lap child. There are pros and cons to this, but some of the deciding factors came down to traveling as a family, and saving money. We flew on Southwest Airlines, so we had three seats in row. If we had bought four seats, we would have had to split up (which we will likely need to do in the future).
When flying with a lap child, you need to make sure you inform the airline in advance. For Southwest Airlines, you need to call and have the child’s name and DOB added to your itinerary. You also need to bring proper identification for your child, which includes a copy of a birth certificate, passport, or shot records. You also can’t print a lap child’s boarding pass from home, so you will need to check in at the airport to get a boarding pass for the child so he or she can get through security, and onto the plane.
A bonus for traveling with Southwest Airlines is that they don’t charge you for up to two checked bags per person and you can check a car seat free, and it doesn’t count against your bag limit. We packed everything into two small suitcases. Hauling two suitcases, a full-size car seat and a booster seat, in addition to carry-on bags and two small children was an interesting experience!
Renting a Car – and a Car Seat?
When you are renting a car, be sure to get one that will meet all your size and safety needs, and be large enough to accommodate car seats if they are needed. We rented a small SUV, which was only a few dollars a day more expensive than an economy car. It didn’t get as good of gas mileage, but we were all more comfortable in the larger vehicle, and there was room to spare for the car seats.
Speaking of car seats, many car rental agencies will rent car seats to you if you don’t want to take your when you travel. This can be a great convenience, but it comes at a cost. The company we used charges $15 per day to rent a car seat. We needed a car for 5 days, so that came out to $75, plus taxes and fees (and if you know anything about car rental taxes, they can approach 20% in some localities because cities *love* to tax hotels and car rentals!). We opted to travel with our own car seat to save the extra dough. The good news is most a