How we managed the many forms of transportation with kids.
As a parent you know that moving your kids from one place to another can be a tough task. I am here to tell you how we survived domestic and international transportation with the princesses.
We Survived a Transportation Strike! Planes, Trains, and Cars with Kids
It is important to note that our kids know how to travel. They understand how to navigate airports, lines, and ticketing counters. I do feel like this experience set us up for success in attempting our first big multi-city, multi-country trip with 2 kiddos.
On this particular trip we traveled by:
- Shuttle Van
- Airplane Small
- Airplane Large
- Subway Train
- Small World Boat
- Doom Buggy
Do your research on transportation with kids
We were able to plan ahead for almost all of our travel. We had prepaid the airport parking. We knew the approximate rates for taxis to and from the hotel in NYC. We also knew the best rail passes to suit our needs in Paris that would cover the days we needed and the zones we planned to travel to.
A quick google can answer so many questions. We were able to preload our phones with apps to make real-time travel a bit less confusing as well. We still went the wrong way several times.
Car transportation with kids
As I have mentioned, we prepay our parking at the airport. We prefer whenever possible to travel in and out of the smaller of the 2 Houston airports. We love Southwest and have their rewards card. We try to always use the same parking vendor and accumulate points to use toward future parking. We prefer the ease of having our car available right at the airport versus using a car or shuttle service. This is a premium we feel outweighs any $ savings.
Shuttle Van transportation with kids
Using a parking garage right across a busy road from the airport means we need to use their shuttle van. I prefer to book the first or last flights of the day. We can easily get our few bags onto and off the shuttle. Pack light! Our girls also know to go in and sit at the back if empty. We usually get to talk with pilots and flight attendants coming in for their workday. Be sure to tip these drivers! Just a couple ones per bag is plenty.
Domestic Flights with Southwest
I can just never rave enough about southwest. I would exclusively fly them if they went everywhere I want to go. We are Rapid Rewards Members with their reward credit card. I feel like we rarely pay for flights for our family of 4. They frequently run amazing sales, normally Tuesday- Thursday weekly. The staff is always accommodating, kind, and patient. I love knowing exactly what to expect from them. There is no bigger perk for a traveling family than $0, YES ZERO, bag fees. You also get to board after group A if traveling with a kiddo under 6. The open seating is also a favorite. My girls know to board the plane, walk all the way to the Heart Southwest Logo on the back wall and enter the last available row. They sit, they buckle, and they get out their entertainment for the flight. Being in the last row allows us to easily ask for anything we may need and to know when the restroom is available if needed. Most Southwest planes are 3 seats on one side and 3 seats on the other. We will fill a row with girls and myself and dad sits across the aisle ready to help as needed.
International Flights with Delta, Air France, KLM
These are all partner companies somehow. I don’t understand and honestly don’t need to know the minutia of how it works. This was our first international flights with kids, and the longest in about 10 years. This was a much much larger plane. The amenities for entertainment and meals were not something I anticipated. We had entire backpacks full of things for our girls to keep busy with on the 8-hour flight. When we found our seats and sat down, we immediately realized we had overpacked. We did scale down for the return flight. Each seat had a pillow, eye mask, and blanket, as well as, earphones for the individual screens. There was no way these gals would be sleeping. Since we were flying with kids, they also had activity packs for our girls brought over. On our outbound flight, we were informed that we could have special ordered kids meals. We had dropped the ball but they had extras and our girls received them. The scolding from the flight attendant ensured we did not repeat the mistake on the way home. Looking at the seating map, we had decided to select a center row of 4 seats allowing us to bookend the girls. The plane was a 3-4-3 across set up. We also chose a row immediately in front of the center restrooms, again allowing easy access but also keeping us from having people behind us. We changed it up on the way home since Paul looked at the available seats the day before our flight and realized the back half of the plane was virtually empty. We sat back there instead. All of these little things added up to some great flights. Minus the girls who didn’t sleep!
Find out how we saved money on flights here
Taxi transportation with kids
Traveling by Taxi is just not a thing I love. It always seems like more hassle than it is worth. With that being said, before we left we discussed it. I knew that I did not want to try to take 2 kids, all our stuff and a stroller on mass transit in unfamiliar cities, one of which has a language barrier. I made Paul agree that the cost far far outweighed the stress of not doing it. This was proven by watching the rest of our travel party check-in 5 hours after we did. We had managed to get arriving flights that had them landing 38 minutes after we did. They took 5 adults, 1 princess and 16 bags through the streets of Paris during the transportation strike! Just pay the money. Ride in mostly awkward silence or with screaming, crying, sleep-deprived kids. Hold up an incredibly inconvenienced driver while you quickly install your folding car seat. Cost is worth it, you wouldn’t think so, but it definitely is. Trust me. Be sure to ask if the driver accepts credit card payments before getting in the cab.
Subway Train transportation with kids
Once we were in the destination cities and had dropped off our luggage, we were free to use mass transit. We never officially rode a city bus, but we did take many subways and metros. Once you figure out how they work, when they are scheduled, and how to find them they are by far the most inexpensive and efficient means of travel. Yes, subway stations are dirty and smell like urine but put this in the life experience column and go home to hug your minivan! We managed to take over packed rush-hour trains in both cities. I am certain by the parting of the human seas at our stops that the locals were glad to have our melting children off their trains.
Ferry transportation with kids
This was by far our least crazy mode of transport. There were even concession stands. We traveled with Statue Cruises to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty up close. We of course had to buy tickets and go through security before boarding the boat. However, we arrived later in the day and our departing ferry was virtually empty. Keep in mind we traveled at an off-peak time.
5 Bonus tips for successful travel with kids
have a plan and then share it with your kids. Let them know how many stops, how much time it will take, and tell them exactly what you expect of them. I found this makes it easier later they need a discussion about appropriate behavior. Allowing them to know the plan helps them to feel secure in what can be a very overwhelming environment.
2) Be prepared parents
I always have a bag of supplies. A few meds like Tylenol and nausea things can save the day and have a pretty amazing placebo effect when needed. I always have wipes and hand sanitizer. I keep a water bottle and a few snacks on me at all times. Life with kids is literally like a Hangry Snickers commercial, save the day with snacks!!
Take only what you need and minimize the amount of things as much as you possibly can! You have 2 hands and so does your spouse, keep that in mind when deciding what to pack. Be realistic with what you are packing and whether you will really use it. I always seem to overpack despite my best efforts. We keep our baggage count down to ensure we can manage the bags, the stroller, and both kids through airports and on and off the various transportation services.
4) Something to do
I am not always prepared with a coloring book or actual activity. I am however, the master of making up things to do on the spot. This is so handy when waiting in lines: security, customs, or Disney!
Suggestions: I Spy, Guess the Disney character, Say the Missing Number, Tell a story, Name Game, Whatever that game is called where you say A=Apple and continue on from there, Simon says, What would this famous person say, Fun Facts
It can be really hard when you are stressed, tired, or rushed to remember that the little people with you feel all of those things bigger than you do. Both you and your kids need a minute to make it better and hugs can do that. Stop, squat down, and hug those babies! I promise everyone will feel better. I do recommend pulling to the side of walkways to do this, DONT BE THOSE PEOPLE WHO SUDDENLY STOP AND DESERVE TO BE RUN OVER!
Transportation with Kids Gear I Highly Recommend
- Mi fold Car seat (link coming soon) This thing folds tiny and is so quick to use, giving me peace of mind in random taxis
- Stroller We have one that is from Babies R Us, it folds easily and stands when folded. It is light, has great kiddo support, reclines for naps and allows us easier travel with our little one. It did make the Louvre harder but got us into shorter Customs and airport lines. Not to mention having a place to contain her in high traffic areas!
- Stroller Bag This is required on international flights. It makes it easier to keep all the accessories together and gives your stroller a layer of protection from the rough under plane experience.
- Backpack Easy to carry, we all had one for flights but only traveled around with 1 for the family
Don’t be a sucker!
You look like a tourist. I don’t know how people can tell, but they can. Be smart when you travel and plan to be a target. Keep cash in front pockets, split it up into smaller amounts so you don’t pull it all out. Use a credit card whenever possible for added protection. Prearrange Ubers or taxis and avoid taking them randomly. Have more than 1 form of ID and keep them separated.
Despite the many signs near Clinton Castle urging you to only use Statue Cruises for Liberty Island access, there are many people there wearing vests labeled “official.” We were nearly taken advantage of by a different ticket seller for far over double the price with no island access. They tell you that same-day tickets are unavailable and that you will have hours-long waits in security lines. While you can not go inside the Statue of Liberty without previously arranged tickets, you can go to the island and the museum with same-day tickets. We also walked right into the security tent and right through security screenings. We had another experience in Paris. As we were walking out of CDG, a nice police officer warned us of fake taxis. We walked out of the doors and there is a taxi line. The airport has stickers on the floor to guide you to the correct place. I had even read about this beforehand. We approached the line and an official-looking man was standing there telling you which way to go based on your destination. I noticed he had an earbud in. He directed us to a place further up. Once there, in a not marked lot another man with an earbud came up to us and quoted 200 euros based on distance, travel time, and the current strike. We trusted our gut and turned him away. As we walked back to the official taxi stand, we realized that the men were working together to divert people from the official line to their unlicensed taxis. We walked back into the right line and were able to get a taxi from the attendant to our location. It was good knowing that we had avoided any potential price gouging or issues. The trip was much less than 200 euros!
Trust your gut, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to make people wait on your decision if you are unsure.
We were aware of the ongoing strike by transportation workers. We did expect some of our travels to be disrupted. What we found during this time was that services were reduced and suspended. This did lead to more traffic and heavier crowds. Thankfully we did travel in the offseason so I believe it was as good as could be expected. Some bus and train schedules were reduced in frequency or stops. Google maps had not caught up to this and that did make traveling a bit harder. The Arc De Triomphe was closed on the weekend, not the weekdays so we missed our chance to see it. Several times we waited very long for trains or buses, we never actually made it on a bus. Some stations were closed due to construction, which made our walks to stations from the hotel a it longer. More than once we watched the station we needed whisk by at full speed.