Founder of LA-based baby planning and baby gear service Bump Bestie, Molly Pross knows the one stressor that strikes fear in the heart of every parent, and that’s travel. Whether it’s a first flight with a newborn or a weekend camping trip with toddlers, new and seasoned moms can get easily overwhelmed with the process of packing (and fretting) about gear, childcare options, and generally staying sane. Luckily, she has some great tips for traveling with littles with style and grace.
Essential Travel Gear
“My business is all about mindful product curation and education, with a focus on identifying products that fit with your unique lifestyle. What works for someone living in an apartment in a big city may not work for someone in a single family home in the suburbs. The same goes for travel. Before you start going travel gear crazy down the Google rabbit hole, think about the type of travel you’re doing, the age of your child (or children), and the type of experience you want to create during the trip process and after you arrive.”
For air travel with newborns and very small babies, Molly recommends a suite of must-have products that include a lightweight stroller (one-handed fold that ideally can fit in the overhead bin) and a car seat that can be installed without a base in order to get around easily in airports, cabs, and car rentals. “Your destination is really going to dictate whether or not you need to haul a car seat along. Some car rental companies can provide a car seat for your trip, or if you’re planning on using public transportation at your destination, you may not even need one.” She also recommends a wrap or carrier to be hands-free. Nowadays there are carriers that function as a seat on your hip to take the weight off your back and arms. “I also especially love an inflatable travel nursing pillow if you have a newborn because you aren’t stuck carrying a heavy pillow around, and it allows you to rest the baby somewhere other than your arms or chest without taking up a ton of space.” She admits that she’s forgotten an extra change of clothes on occasion, “But that’s definitely an essential on a long flight--especially since the temperatures are always so extreme on planes!”
For toddlers, Molly suggests that you bring a bag with activities such as books, stickers, activity sets, etc. “The dollar store or dollar aisle at your favorite super store is an incredible place to find a bunch of little cheap toys and activities.” And when it comes to using iPads as inflight entertainment, she insists it comes with the travel territory. “I know a lot of parents feel guilty about screen time, but just remember you’re trying to get through the flight. Think of it as a treat like candy or sugar cereal--all the rules fly out the window when you are stuck on the plane with a toddler! You need less gear but more activities.”
When it comes to long road trips, Molly urges parents to resist the temptation to rush through the trip. “I know everyone just wants to get to wherever they are going, but if you plan your trip around naps--and for an older child with a few destinations thrown in along the way--the trip will go more smoothly and the transition will be a lot easier.” She recalls a recent road trip to Cambria, California that she took with her 2 and ½ year-old son. “I planned out where we were going to stop before getting in the car. We found a cute park in Carpenteria, got smoothies at a health food store, and checked out a colony of elephant seals on the side of the road. It’s all about slowing down and appreciating the journey. Don’t be in a rush if you want to keep your sanity!”
One of her biggest tips for both air and car travel is to time it around children’s sleep schedules and remembering to always have something from home to keep them grounded in a new place. “Whether it’s a twelve hour flight or a three hour road trip, be mindful of what your child is attached to in order to help [him or her] better transition. Even if it’s just a lovey blanket, a stuffed animal, or even a candle with a familiar smell--having those items around could be the difference between an easy trip or not.”
Staying Stylish (and Sane)
When it comes to travel, moms are often so focused on making sure they have the proper items and activities for their children, that they forget to focus on themselves. “There are so many things that we neglect to do for ourselves when we travel, but they can make a huge difference - remember the vacation is also for you, mama! My big thing right now is to get a blowout before you leave--your hair will last, you don’t have to think about it, and most importantly you look put together and feel good.” She also suggests renting your wardrobe. “Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a new wardrobe for a vacation, use an app or service that lets you borrow clothes and return them.” This tip is especially useful for new mothers in between sizes.
“Either in your hotel or elsewhere, book a massage or mani-pedi and coordinate with your partner, a relative, friend, or even the hotel childcare (if available) so that you can take that time for yourself at some point during the trip.” Speaking of childcare, Molly recommends that if your hotel has a kids club, take advantage even if your child is younger than the specified age (which is usually children over four). “Almost always, you can hire a caregiver with the hotel or through an app who can watch your child in a third space while you spend quality time with yourself or your partner.
Having some personal space is key when traveling with small children, but Molly insists you have to plan for it. “I’ll never forget our very first trip to San Francisco that I took with my husband and son, shortly after he was born. We booked this cute, tiny AirBnB, which was great--until my son went to sleep. We ended up eating takeout on the bathroom floor and watching Netflix on a laptop because we had nowhere to go!” Now when she travels, she tries to make sure that there is a door to a separate room. “I cannot stress the importance of having a door--whether it’s a hotel suite, connecting rooms, a home rental, whatever--just the ability to close a door and have your own space does wonders for the overall experience and for peace of mind.”
Finally, Molly recognizes that no matter how much you prepare, “Travel is stressful. There are always delays and situations that arise. Half the stress of traveling with children is simply getting there. Once you’re at your final destination, it all seems to fall into place. ” As her business has evolved and expanded (Bump Bestie is now offered as an employee benefit with several companies in Los Angeles), Molly emphasizes that she’s learned how important it is for moms to take as much time preparing for their own needs as they do their children’s. “It is so easy to get burnt out. You have to honor who you are as a woman just as much as you love and care for your children.”
Special thanks to Aldea Home & Baby
Our top travel picks