Thursday, March 27, 2014

Learnings From Our First International Trip with Kids

Following our first international trip with the kids, I wanted to jot down a few things we learned along the way. Andi and I traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for eight days with Tory (2 1/2 years), Aden (4 months old) and Andi's mom, Janie (age: classified). For the record, Cabo is very Americanized, so we truly weren't removed from any modern-day convenience; compared to say, a stay in the Amazon jungle.

I know vacationing with small children isn't for everyone, but for us it wasn't a daunting task or any less fun. It's true I've had more relaxing vacations, but with Aden being so young and still nursing exclusively, bringing him along was the only way this mama was going someplace warm. That decided the "are we bringing kids with us?" decision pretty quickly! Our big dream is to travel the world as a family one day, so this vacation was a great way to "test the waters" and see what it would actually be like to do so.

Pre-kids, Andi and I touted our ability to travel lightly. We'd each bring a backpack (with room to spare!) including a few shirts, shorts/skirts, a swimming suit and one pair of shoes. Andi has this thing about being the first person in line at Customs, so we'd grab our packs and book it through the airport like we were on an episode of The Amazing Race.


The "old" us would fall down laughing at the "new" us because traveling with kids is a whole new ballgame. We traveled for eight days and brought two big suitcases, two car seats / carriers, two strollers and a carry-on diaper bag. Nothing changed in the way Andi and I pack for ourselves but the kids required so much stuff. I knew there was a Wal-Mart in Cabo San Lucas so truthfully I wouldn't have been without anything, but last minute I opted to bring all toiletries, diapers, baby wipes, etc. along with us ... just in case. Inside our luggage, specific to kid stuff:

  • 10 outfits for each child (figuring Tory and Aden would each dirty one outfit per day, leaving two back-up outfits), of which included -
  • 1 sweatshirt for each child
  • 2 pairs of pants for each child
  • 2 swimming suits (though Aden never wore his) and swim shirts for each child
  • Sun hats for both kids
  • Aden's favorite blanket, plus two light-weight cotton blankets for him
  • 2 pairs of socks, each 
  • 1 pair of tennis shoes, 1 pair of flip flops, 1 pair of sandals, and 1 pair of water shoes for Tory
  • An 8-day supply of diapers and baby wipes for each child
  • Baby soap and lotions (two kinds, because Aden has his own sensitive skin version)
  • 1 bottle of sunscreen for each child
  • 1 bottle of Infant Tylenol and one bottle of Children's Tylenol
  • Video baby monitor
  • Breast pump
Andi bought me this suitcase which I love and use every single weekend when we go to the cabin. I also brought it along on this trip. This bag has individual compartments that zip close. I use the big section for me, the middle section for Tory and the two smaller-sized sections for Aden. All of our stuff fits in one bag and keeps things separate and organized.

We brought my suitcase and one similar as our luggage. Andi used the second bag as his own (though he only a handful of t-shirts, shorts and swim trunks in there) which left plenty of room for all the "other stuff" we brought along for the kids.

Kid's Gear

Items We Elected Not to Bring
  • Beach towels
  • Baby bouncy seat 
  • Toys 

Items We Brought But Didn't Use
  • Baby sun tent
  • Beach blanket
  • Breast pump
  • Video baby monitor

And finally ...
What I Learned
  • After the sun goes down in the evenings, it gets chilly in Cabo and I wish I would've realized this before selecting our clothing options. We each wore our one sweatshirt nearly every night. The kids had plenty of pants to wear, but maybe I would've thrown in another long-sleeve shirt for myself. 
  • The number of outfits per child (10 each) was the perfect amount. Tory and Aden wore everything at least once. (There was a washer/dryer in our condo so I did laundry once, but I could have made it all week without doing so).
  • I neglected to remember Mexican sidewalks aren't the cleanest places for children (i.e.: broken glass, dirt and holes everywhere). Flip flops and sandals weren't very easy (or safe) for Tory to walk in, so she wore tennis shoes everywhere. Therefore, I didn't need several pairs of sandals for Tory, and I wish I would've packed more socks for her. She ended up wearing the same pair of socks a few times - no biggie. She also wore her water shoes to the pool and the beach everyday and the sand and cement were hot, so I'm glad I brought those for her.
  • The sun hats and sun shirts were a big hit. Glad I brought those along. Aden didn't end up wearing his because he was never was exposed to the sun, but that's okay.
  • Never used the video baby monitor, so that was excess.
  • I was never away from Aden more than two hours at a time, so I never pumped breast milk more than once. Likely didn't need to bring my breast pump along.
  • We bought a sun tent for Tory (similar here) when she was a baby and never used it. So, we brought it along on this trip thinking surely Aden would lay in it while we were at the beach or outside by the pool. Nope. Definitely didn't need to bring the tent. Probably a waste of money purchase to begin with.
  • We use this beach blanket at the cabin all the time, so I brought it along on this trip thinking we might use it at the beach. We did use it once, but it wasn't necessary to bring.
  • Beach towels - I took a gamble that our condo would have some available for us to use, and they did. 
  • Bouncy seat for Aden - seriously considered bringing one with us, or buying a new one at Wal-Mart upon arrival. We ended up using Aden's car seat to sit him in when we didn't want to hold him and it worked fine
  • We brought Tory's car seat onto the airplane which is not something we usually do when flying with her. We just thought she might be more comfortable sitting in her own car seat for 4+ hours and this proved to be a brilliant idea because she actually slept for half the flight on the way to Mexico. The car seat we use for travel (linked above) only weighs 13 lbs. so it's easy to carry on our backs using the car seat carrier (also linked above) and to buckle in/out of a seat belt. We also used her car seat in the taxi rides to/from the airport. I was really glad we brought a car seat for Tory.
  • Same with Aden's car seat - in addition to using it like a bouncy seat at the condo, his car seat fits in the stroller and we used it in taxis. Often times, Aden would fall asleep while we walked to a restaurant and slept snugly in his car seat throughout meals. 
  • Andi and I went back and forth whether we needed a stroller for Tory and ultimately, I'm glad we brought one for her. It would've been too much walking during our daily excursions and it kept Tory safe and secure while walking along busy streets and sidewalks.
  • Toys for Tory - really glad I didn't bring any along with us. She was fine playing in her new environment (swimming at the pool, feeding bread to birds, etc.). Bonus that we met a little girl staying on the condo property that brought tons of toys with her, so we just mooched!
  • Next time, I'll definitely bring more children's medicine. Aden came down with a mild fever during our trip and also developed a rash on his neck, arms and torso. I brought Infant and Children's Tylenol but I wish I would've had a thermometer and Children's Benedryl, too. We ended up buying a digital thermometer (which was broken straight out of the package) and a bottle of Children's Benedryl with dosing information written in Spanish. It worked, but I had to guess on the dosage. Eeee. Definitely learned my lesson about this one and in the future, I think I will make a special medicine kit to bring along with us.
  • Finally, I don't think I'd ever take the kids on vacation without another person to help (specifically, Janie). I'm not saying everyone should vacation with their mother-in-law, but I happen to love mine and she was such a big help with the kids. Because of Janie, Andi and I were able to sneak away for some couple time alone. Andi and I also spent quite a bit of time with Tory while Janie watched Aden. If Janie wouldn't have been there, I wouldn't have had one break from the kids and it would've basically been my daily job in a tropical location. Which wouldn't have sucked, but it wouldn't have been a vacation either.

We choked our vacation with the kids up as a success, and are already planning another one. Tory's favorite game these days is "beach party" and she can't stop talking about the whales we saw in the Pacific Ocean during our whale watching tour. We made some great memories as a family, and I can't wait to do it all over again. 


  1. We never travel with our children without an extra adult or two (usually my parents). Even when we just had two. It's just sooo much more enjoyable with an extra set of hands.
    And when traveling with kids, I figure it's always better to overpack than to under pack and be wishing you had something. I do always tend to go overboard with my travel medicine kit, but I swear that the day I get lax on that is the day the whole gang gets sick. That's the way it always works, no?! Sounds like you did a great job preparing for this trip and it paid off!

  2. You always have such great travel advice! I always send people to your blog when they are looking for travel advice with little kids. :)

    We aren't going international, but we are taking a vacation that we aren't driving to for the first time with Charley this summer and so I learned a few tips myself. :)