How to Travel with Kids (and Still Get the Most Out of Your Vacation)

Master tips from a traveling mom of twins.
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All images courtesy of Kelly Zajfen, La Chassagnette

All images courtesy of Kelly Zajfen, La Chassagnette

I met my friend, Kelly Zajfen, under rather emotional circumstances. G and I had just dropped Sloan off for her first day of preschool last summer and I could barely walk down the street I was crying so hard. It was there that I met Kelly, who was gorgeous and sweet and immediately made me feel better. She exudes warmth and also happens to be one of those women who's always wearing at least something—an earring, a cool boot—that makes you want to know where it's from. She's the owner of a cute line of kids' clothes, but could also teach a master class in traveling with kids. She brought her twins, George and Lily, to France for two weeks when they were just nine-months-old, and has since taken them on countless trips including to Montreal, Whistler, Hawaii, Tuscany, and San Francisco. Since the furthest I've traveled with Sloan was to Hawaii—with my parents just a hotel room away—I asked Kelly if she'd share some of tips for traveling with kids (from navigating long plane rides, to choosing the destination!). She explained, "With my business, I look for inspiration in the colors, the cultures, the stories, the images, and taking my daughter (who models for my brand) makes it that much more beautiful in all of these places and the dresses really come to life." Read on for how she remains a globe-trotter, even with two kindergarteners. - Emily 

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It sounds cliché but anywhere with them is so fun—I don’t have a favorite because they have all been really enjoyable in their own ways. I don’t have a 'do not' travel list yet for the kiddos. I think maybe a place where you needed a million shots and couldn’t have access to basic healthcare might be a no-go for me because of my Super Lily, but we are pretty much up for the adventure and showing them culture and adventures. My husband and I went to the Maldives and I would love for them to experience it but I know 24 hours and planes, trains, boats, might be too much for them at this age. I may wait a little longer for that one!

St. Remy, France

St. Remy, France

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I am a big believer in renting houses over renting hotels. My kids are not quiet children and allowing them the space and room to run around and make noise makes the trip that much nicer for everyone. I have a few places I like to look for houses. One is KidandCoe. They are so well curated and have really specific houses that cater to kids. We have had the best experiences with them! I always look for homes that have laundry available, a pool if it’s a long stay, and plenty of space for us all to sleep! It's also key that we're close enough to town that it's easy to get food (read on for details!).

Les Baux-de Provence

Les Baux-de Provence

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I keep things really simple and relaxed but I’m such a girly-girl so I love dresses—I can dress them up or down and don’t have to over-pack. Sandals are my obsession as well because they are so easy to pack. Otherwise, in the winter months It’s sweaters and boots for cozy times!

I don’t think it has changed all that much since becoming a mom. If anything I think I am a bit more “boho” because I just throw things on for ease. I will say when I take girls trips, I pack WAY differently and dress up. But with my kiddos I pack lighter, I am way more simple. I bring a lot of vintage. I also look at vintage stores in the cities I go to, and always pick a few dresses along the way leaving room in my bag for my treasures I find. But I have my favorite go-to brands that I always pack with me: Doen, Christy Dawn, Ganni, Spell, Ulla Johnson, Love Shack Fancy, Mes Demoiselles, and Rachel Pally.

Paris

Paris

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I think the biggest challenge is their food schedule! My husband and I can have a coffee and small breakfast and head into the day, then wait for a lunch and dinner, but these nuggets are hungry and often! It took me a few times to figure out exactly how to manage it but I realized taking small breaks, getting snacks, having snacks on hand, stopping for ice cream, and early dinners were key to their happiness! Another reason to rent a house! I can always have snacks on hand, make snack plates throughout the day, and breakfast can be ready in the early morning without worrying about a restaurant. Georgie is also, for whatever reason, so hungry in the middle of the night the first few days of international travels so he wakes for a snack. It’s actually pretty sweet. We have a snack together in the kitchen and I snuggle him back to bed.

The first week we arrive is also always a little tough with the sleep schedule. But I dive right into whatever the time is where I am and not think about what time it is at home. I know if they wake I can be there to ease them back to sleep.

St Remy, France 

St Remy, France 

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Seeing everything in their eyes for the first time. For instance, we just took the twins on the TGV train. They had never been to a train station or on a train before. It was so fun to see their excitement! Every new city feels bigger, brighter, and way more fun than we ever could have imagined it to be. I find that my husband and I are often looking over at each other, laughing at all of the little moments we are seeing because it’s just so cute to see them and all their excitement.

Gorde 

Gorde 

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A really simple night gown. I love my vintage silk one!
A handful of dresses
Sandals
One pair of walking shoes
A good pair of earrings to dress up any outfit
My Canon Camera
A good lip gloss
A really good hat! I have been collecting anything from Janessa Leon

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1. A really good sunscreen: I’m obsessed with SuperGoop's Glow Stick Sunscreen
2. A really good tinted lip gloss: Sara Happ
3. Mascara: I won't go anywhere without Kevyn Aucoin’s
4. Dry Shampoo: Drybar
5. My all time favorite Oil: Nuxe makes me smell yummy and glow

Home

Home

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Yes! I think the most important thing is keeping them entertained right? So every since I can remember I get a backpack and I FILL it with things they can do and things they haven’t seen before. I tell them they can’t look inside until the plane is in the air. This always builds a sense of surprise and excitement. I also make sure to pack a few of their favorite snacks and also a few treats that they don’t really get at home. Lollies and gummies are always a hit for them. For activites, I always pack coloring books, markers, and crayons for each. Now that they are learning letters and spelling I pack a ton of workbooks and mazes for them. Anything they can use with their hands that can keep them busy. We don’t own iPads for them so I always pack a really awesome pair of headphones so they can watch the movies onboard and don’t have to use what in-flight gives them.

Home

Home

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I think that catering to each individual personality is my biggest challenge. One is super easy-breezy and one is talkative, and always on the go. I think we, as parents, manage it when we are together quite well. One takes the talkative one one way, the other gets the mellow one (and vice versa). I just did the France trip back solo which was very challenging to be alone on two flights and making sure everyone had food and was entertained on both flights and in-between. I did break out in a sweat as I stormed through customs with both kids hand in hand making sure I didn’t lose anyone. I did loose my favorite Janessa Leone Hat and I’m sure I forgot a few things on the plane but I didn’t lose my kids ;) And I think, all in all, it was a trip we will never forget. So every moment was worth it.

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Always be willing to slow down. We have really learned the art of not rushing through vacations. I think oftentimes you have this list of must-dos and they can become really overwhelming. We have our “wishlists” of places and we definitely see some of them, but understand that to really enjoy where we are and have them enjoy it as well, we have to have days where we have nothing planned and can just be.

St. Remy, France, 

St. Remy, France, 

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Can I give a couple??? First is: It’s going to be totally okay! Don’t stress and overthink it. They will adjust to the time and adding more days to your trip will allow everyone more time to adjust and enjoy. Also, invest in the Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check. It’s a little bit of work to get it done but it saves you so much time in lines and it’s so nice when you are coming home from a long trips. We all have it and it’s been such a life-saver!

And I’m going to be the annoying mom here, make sure you always know where the local hospital, and local urgent care is. Keep your language translation apps and books near you, and know your travel insurance information! We have had some emergencies that haven’t been the best and wish I would of had more info on hand.

Finally: DO IT! Have the best time and take SO many photos! 

Montmatre, Sacre Coeur

Montmatre, Sacre Coeur

Image by Erin from Hello Pinecone

Image by Erin from Hello Pinecone

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

St. Remy

St. Remy

Paris

Paris

Thank you, Kelly! You can follow her travels here, and shop her line of kids clothing here.