So I wanted to pop in and tell y’all about our recent trip to Colorado Springs for Mr.Hungry’s cousin’s weddingI’m so glad we could make this trip as a couple with being baby girls’ Godparents, so I thought it was important she was there.
But, traveling with three kids, four and under, as a family that doesn’t travel all that often, well, that was an experience. I find so many blog posts about traveling with small children are written by professional travelers, like literal travel bloggers. They have children used to traveling and have the process down to a science. While there is a lot to get from their blog posts, the fact is my kids are not as used to traveling, so they aren’t going to behave the same way, and the same things won’t work.
I mean, we do go to Flagstaff to see my Aunt a few times a year, but that’s a 2-hour drive with no flight time involved. I wouldn’t really call it “traveling.” So, today I thought I’d share a realistic view of traveling with 3 kids under four and under.
Getting From the Car to Ticketing
Sure, Southwest lets you travel with two bags per person, and everyone had tickets except the baby because KK was like two weeks over two. He had to have his own seat. But that doesn’t mean two adults can transport that much luggage, car seats, strollers, and beds.
The plan we devised involved using luggage straps to strap the two car seats (not the most travel-friendly car seats, but we weren’t about to buy new car seats just for this trip) to the two large suitcases. (PS We have five sets of packing cubes, a different color/pattern for each person. I don’t know how people travel without packing cubes. Mine/Mr. Hungry’s| Kids) We had a backpack for each boy that we planned for them to wear, but ultimately got stuck on the umbrella stroller KK was in. The bags were full of their tablets, headphones, snacks, water bottles, and a toy. My four-year-old pushed the baby in the Doona. (The one new purchase I bought for this baby, which proved its worth over a million times while traveling.) And Mr. Hungry and I each had our own pack backs (mine was the baby bag.) I also carried a portable bassinet over my shoulder (until ticketing, where we put it in a car seat bag and checked it. We also put the Nuna’s in bags as well.) As well as one small suitcase, balanced on one of the large suitcases with a car seat strapped to it. Mr. Hungry’s parents brought the playpen for KK to sleep in on a later flight. Thank goodness for grandparents!
Unfortunatley…. one of the car seat straps didn’t work as well as the other (yes, we tested them at home.) For some reason, one of the car seat straps just kept coming off every time Mr. Hungry set it upright – which was every time we were in an elevator, waiting for the tram, etc. So many, many, many times. The concept was great, but for some reason, it didn’t work with one of the suitcases. This issue alone is why it took us one hour to get from the parking garage to the ticketing booth. We ended up at our gate 20 minutes before boarding time.
Through Security And On
Once we had checked our package, life got significantly easier. I pushed the baby in the Doona, and Mr. Hungry pushed KK in the umbrella stroller. We have TSA precheck, so that wasn’t too bad. I got randomly flagged both on the way there and on the way home, which was annoying. We also forgot a few liquids here and there, such as hand sanitizer, and failed to dump the kid’s water, but again, nothing catastrophic. No one ever asked me for the baby’s birth certificate, but we had it just in case.
We checked the umbrella stroller and Doona at the gate (using a car seat bag for the Doona). Our flight was scheduled for take-off right around nap time, so the kids were not overly tired. We boarded during Southwest’s family boarding.
On the Plane
Mr. Hungry sat with the boys, and I sat across the aisle seat. It was off a bit, so I actually ended up sitting a little in front of them. On the way back, I learned to pick the seat slightly behind so I wasn’t cranking my neck talking to the boys. I brought my nursing pillow, which made the flight much more enjoyable. She’s so little and nursed for most of the flight on and off. It was a must. (I had just hooked it over the handle of the Doona to carry it.)
The boys were happily watching their Amazon Kids Fire Tablets with headphones the entire flight. They weren’t even into looking at take-off and landing. (PS After seeing how well my SIL’s Android tablet functions, I’m ditching the Fire Tablets as soon as possible.) The flight there was pretty easy. The only mishave we had was that I forgot to tell Mr. Hungry to open the kid’s water bottles to release the pressure on take off, so when KK opened his water, it squirted all over him. He was significantly wet but was unbothered by it.
Landing in Colorado
I thought it was so nice that they unfolded our strollers and had them ready at the gate as we got off the plane. Sadly, they did not do that in AZ on the return trip though, so don’t count on it. The bride and groom met us at the gate to help us down to the luggage, which, thank goodness, because there was a car seat missing. They ran around with the boys while I nursed the baby, and Mr. Hungry dealt with the car seat issue. It turns out they didn’t put it on the belt in Phoenix, along with two other couples’ luggage. Southwest gave us a loaner, which after taking 30 minutes to install in the rain, I realized was too small for either boy. Mr. Hungry exchanged it for the only other option: a flimsy booster. Technically KJ is three pounds shy of the requirement for a booster, but he’s plenty tall enough, so we opted for that. Luckily, at 4 pm, they called us to say our car seat had arrived. We received a $100 voucher for our “trouble,” which, as you know, traveling with kids, $100 is hardly enough to make up for the inconvenience and lack of safety, but whatever.
We rented a minivan from Alamo, but they had none available, so we ended up with a Chevy Tahoe, which, funny enough, is my dream car. So that was fun! KK sat in the back row rear-facing, KJ in one bucket seat and baby girl in the other. The Doona has a baseless installation method that we used while there, which was great.
We headed to the Vrbo to drop stuff off and survey the scene. We opted for a Vrbo so that multiple families could stay under one roof. We had all the cousins together, which was a lot of fun! Since we were the first to arrive, we headed to the local Target for supplies and back to the airport to get the car seat. Unfortunately, KK fell asleep in the car at 5 pm, which means he was still up at 11 pm when Mr. Hungry’s parents arrived with his pack-n-play. But that kind of stuff just happens when traveling, and luckily he was in good spirits, and we didn’t pay for that for days on end.
There are pros and cons to staying at a Vrbo vs. a hotel. However, this Vrbo was a gem, so I’m happy with the decision (plus we saved a significant amount of money compared to Townhouse suites)! The kids had so much fun constantly playing outside in the nice weather. There were two rooms upstairs and a basement with two more rooms and a living room. Our family took the bottom floor. After the first night, we moved the boys in together. That definitely had pros and cons to it, but by the end, they were used to having each other in the room, it wasn’t perfect, but we made it work. We figured in a couple of short months, the boys will be sharing a room anyways, so might as well start working out the kinks now. (I’ll take all the advice for moving a 2-year-old in with a 4-year-old that you have!) KJ did fall asleep on the stairs a couple of nights, though. Said he wanted to listen to everyone talking. He does this at home too, so not exactly vacation specific.
Although we had initially planned some kid-centered activities like the zoo, we ended up mostly staying at the Vrbo, enjoying the weather. The family came to meet us at the Vrbo since we had little kids, and there were 10 of us, making it harder to travel. And we only ventured out for weddings or family events. A big get-together for a birthday in a separate room at Black Bear Diner, Father’s Day at a park in the woods, the rehearsal, and the actual wedding.
However, that didn’t matter because the kids were obsessed with the Vrbo. It had a huge lawn filled with luxurious thick green grass and lots of worms for KJ to catch. All the kids loved running around and playing outside when it wasn’t raining. And when it was raining, they gathered for movies or played with toys.
The logistics of having THREE kids at these events was a new challenge. Not only three kids, but since the baby was only 5.5 weeks old, she needed to nurse frequently, which left Mr. Hungry to wrangle the boys. And by struggle, I mean that in the literal sense of the word when it comes to KK, who never stops moving. While KJ was happy to play and hang out with family, KK took any opportunity to BOLT dead sprint anywhere. That often left me nursing the baby, keeping one eye on KJ while Mr. Hungry ran after KK, pretty much at any event. Each age has pros and cons, but having a newborn in the mix definitely made it more of a divide-and-conquer parenting approach. And, of course, there were lots of extra hands around to help. But I’m also very aware that if everyone is watching a kid, then no one is watching a kid. So, Mr. Hungry and I have always, but even more so in this type of situation, made it a point to look family members in the eye and say, “Do you have x child, or can you watch x child?” That way, they know without a doubt they are responsible for that child. We do that with each other, too, so that there are no accidents.
No matter what we were doing, the kids seemed to light up around the family, and it warms my heart to the core to see their joy. As an only child with an incredibly small family, I always longed to have what the kids got to experience over the trip. Much of their family cousins, second cousins, grandparents, and great Aunt all gathered together, showering them with love and attention. They dressed up on their (second) cousins’ wedding day and didn’t complain. The two oldest cousins were so cute walking down the aisle as ring bearer and flower boy.
They ate their fill of wedding food and cake.
(Nursing the baby and wrangling a toddler at Pike’s Peak while KJ took pictures with the wedding party. I know you can’t see my dress, but it was a Stitchfix win (41 Hawthorn Annora Faux Wrap Knit Dress) I was really surprised to find something I felt comfortable in 5 weeks postpartum. Also, love these Amazon earrings | KKs outfit.|KK Shoes)
They napped in the car, they whirled around the dance floor with family, dancing until they almost dropped, took car naps, and slept like a ton of bricks that night. The wedding venue had a bridal suite with a comfy couch upstairs which the couple offered to me for nursing, which was so sweet and came in handy since the baby girl, of course, had several blowouts. I know the kids likely won’t remember the trip, but I’ll remember their happy faces through the whole thing. And when they are older, they will see the pictures and see how much family they had and how surrounded they were with love.
It’s also worth noting that the bride and groom and immediate family thanked us for being there and for traveling with small children about a hundred times. I think it’s so sweet that they acknowledged that it’s hard to travel with children, and they appreciated the effort. It wasn’t necessary for them to thank us, but their heartfelt words meant a lot. I think my SIL, who traveled on her own with her kids (7 and 2.5), thought so too.
We spent a bit of time in the colorado springs airport, and shout out to one of the nicest nursing rooms I’ve ever seen. I didn’t take a photo of it, but if you are headed through there, definitely check it out. It really should be the gold standard, comfy chairs, sink, changing table, mirror, and supplies. It was really great!
We traveled home on the day after the wedding. This time we had my MIL help us into ticketing. And once we got through security, I wore the baby in the airport. Which is where I discovered I finally have a baby that doesn’t hate the carrier. (Heads up, while I love the look and feel of that carrier, if you tend to have tall babies, I wouldn’t recommend it. Mine outgrow it fast, and I have to switch to the 360.) The boys always got in the carrier and screamed, trying to look for the breast, even when they had been fed. If they were near, they wanted to be latched on, haha. But the baby girl seems content just hanging out and not having to be latched on if she isn’t actually hungry. Wearing her on the plane was significantly easier as Mr. Hungry could pre-break down the Doona for gate check, and I had my hands free to wrangle the backpack or grab a kid if Mr. Hungry loses a kid for a second.
We were slightly delayed, about an hour but nothing too bad. We ended up leaving at 1:30, past KK’s nap. So, KK had an epic meltdown on the plane and fell asleep 3 minutes before we landed, which Mr. Hungry handled like a champ. But, I find in my limited experience traveling that kids are always overstimulated and tired on the way home. Meltdowns are expected, but we got home in the early afternoon with lots of time to unwind and reset.
This time Mr. Hungry took the boys to the truck while I waited at pick up with the luggage, so it did not take an hour to commute between the airport and the truck again. Ha ha, live and learn.
So, that’s it! That’s our big trip traveling experience. I think it went okay, and we are certainly glad we went! What tips do you have? Do you have any crazy traveling with kids experiences? Comment below!