We Snuck Off On Vacation

Now that we’re back and our house hasn’t been broken into and all seems well, I can tell you that we snuck away on vacation!

Honestly, I was very apprehensive about flying during a pandemic. But we did it, and it was TOTALLY worth it!

Buying the Flights

Chico is the family travel agent. He does all the booking of flights, paying for checked bags and choosing seats. I have had plenty of experience doing these things, but because this is an area of interest of his, I let him handle it.

The prices were good. We were lucky in that we booked early enough, before prices skyrocketed. Chico did have to sleuth around a bit, but he found us transatlantic flights for a reasonable price.

Our flights were with multiple Star Alliance airlines, and we had difference stopover cities for the flight there and the return. If you see this kind of booking, just be aware that it can complicate things a bit, just in terms of airline health requirements, local Covid-19 restrictions in your stopover countries, etc.

Check for Checked Bags

Beware, though! We were always used to getting one checked back per traveler included in our international air fare, but it would seem that in a post-pandemic world that is not necessarily the norm.

We had to pay for one checked bag on our way to Europe. On the way back, we remembered we had a Star Alliance gold card, and called the airline ahead of our flight to ask about checked bags. We were told that we were allowed ONE checked bag (we had purchased four tickets), but we would have to pay for a second checked suitcase. BUT we couldn’t do it over the phone or online (confusing!) and would have to do it at the check-in desk upon arrival at the airport for our flight.

In the end, we just went to the check-in desk on the morning of our flight and presented two suitcases to check-in. The airline employee didn’t bat an eyelash and did not charge us for either bag. Go figure!

To Pay for Seats or Not

If you’ve booked a flight for your whole family, you will automatically be seated together (or at least close together). This is especially true if you’re traveling with underage kids.

You will have the option to pay to secure your preferred seats (this was true before Covid, too). I would only suggest you do this if you have strong feelings about where you sit on the plane (forward or aft, close to the toilets or not, aisle seat or window, etc.).

The major difference since Covid is that flight attendants will not let you change seats once you’re on the flight. Even if your flight isn’t full, they may not let you relocate. It’s because they want to be able to do accurate contact tracing should anyone on the flight later test positive for Covid-19.

Knowing that, you can decide whether or not you want to fork out for your seats ahead of time.

Pre-Travel Covid Tests

Whether you have to take a Covid test before you travel will depend on several things:

  1. Your airline–or airlines if your trip is with multiple carriers
  2. The country where you’re stopping over (if applicable)
  3. Your final destination

A couple of weeks before you fly, you’ll want to get onto the airline’s website and read up on their requirements. You’ll also want to check requirements at your destination and in your stopover countries.

We actually got emails from the airlines ahead of our trip, which was very helpful. However, one of the airline’s information was confusing so we ended up giving them a call.

On our way to Europe, we did not have to have Covid tests. Tests were not required for those who are vaccinated, and they were not required for children under age 12. We just made sure we had printed out our vaccination certification from the CDC.

On the way back, the United States requires Covid tests for all travellers over the age of 2, regardless of whether you’re vaccinated or not. The good news was that both the United States and Germany (our stopover country on the way home) allowed the rapid antigen tests.

Was it Worth it, Though?


We desperately needed to see our family. And they were desperate for us to come. (Since the US is still not allowing travellers from Europe, that was the only option.)

Also, Chico hadn’t had a proper vacation since we moved to the States. We were away for 2.5 weeks, and for one week Chico was actually on vacation (the rest of the time he worked remotely). He turned off his phone for several days, and we loved every minute of it.

We spent quality time with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. In Spain, people do not consider wearing a mask to be a political issue, and everyone wore masks everywhere (other than in the home). It was remarkable and very comforting.

We may not be able to travel internationally as much as we used to in the future, but that will make each visit all the more special.

Despite the stress of international travel, despite the anxiety about Covid, the Delta variant, etc., we would absolutely do this again.

It was absolutely, totally worth it.

Top Five Tips for Traveling with Kids

A girlfriend texted me in panic: “JANE! I’m flying from Canada to New Zealand tomorrow! QUICK! TOP TRAVEL TIPS WITH KIDS!”

Then she admonished me for not having a handy blog article about this for her to refer to. So Tash, this one is for you.

Just a little background, in case you’re wondering what qualifies me to give such advice. Before my oldest son was one year old, he had been on 19 flights (meaning, I had been on 19 flights with him). My second son is now nearly 10 months old, and he has already been on 8 flights.

Trust me. I know a thing or two about this.

Top Travel Tip #1: Stick to a Schedule

As a traveling adult, I usually recommend you set your watch to the local time at your destination and then try to go by that schedule.

When traveling with kids, though, that doesn’t work. They can’t understand time differences, and they need to listen to their body clocks.

Plan your carry-on gear and activities to go along with your home time zone. If you’re going to be on a plane at bedtime, take pyjamas, toothbrushes and toothpaste, bedtime story books, etc.

Have meals ready for your home time zone mealtimes (if kid-friendly meals aren’t offered on the flight, or if you have picky eaters, pack your own). Gather the kids together for meals at the time their body clocks expect them, and try to maintain something like your home mealtime routine. Get to the bathroom, wash hands, sit down, etc., for example.

If your kids nap, try and get them to settle for at least a rest when they would normally nap. It may or may not work (usually doesn’t), but they might agree to have some “quiet time”.

Yeah, you’re going to have to adjust to a new time zone when you get to your destination, but you can cross that bridge when you get to it.

Top Travel Tip #2: Rules go out the Window

No TV at home? FORGET IT!

Limited screen time? FORGET IT!

Sweets and snacks are verboten? FORGET IT!

Okay, you don’t have to go nuts, but you get the picture. Traveling with kids is HARD, and you’re going to need all the help you can get, even if that means letting them watch hours of cartoons and movies.

If your kid is getting antsy and wanting to watch more TV or eat some of the snacks being passed around by the flight attendants, let them! It makes traveling seem special.

And honestly? Whatever works.

Top Travel Tip #3: Snacks, Snacks, Snacks!

Do you know what your kid’s favorite snack is? PACK TONS OF IT.

In moments of boredom or desperation, a well-timed snack is always handy. You can try to keep it healthy, of course, or increase the sense of occasion by providing snacks you normally wouldn’t at home.

Top Travel Tip #4: Entertainment

My attitude when traveling with kids is that I will not rest until we reach our destination (if then…). For that reason, I arm myself with scads of entertainment options.

Books, coloring, games… you name it. Old favorites work, but nothing beats breaking out something new for keeping attention for longer than a few seconds.

Entertainment includes screen time. Take along some kid-friendly headphones, and take a look through the in-flight entertainment system. There are also games and puzzles we do together.

And don’t forget the iPad! We have a collection of “airplane games” as we call them. My son is only allowed to play these when we’re traveling, which makes them special.

Our games include Oceanhouse Media Dr Seuss books (you have to pay for these), and a few free games, including a Thomas and Friends game, and others.

Entertainment also means moving around. Yes, you don’t want to bother other travellers, but at the same time your kid has got to move.

Don’t let them run wild by any means, but taking walks up and down the aisles, exploring the galleys, and “exciting” bathroom trips are always options. Flight attendants are super nice, and often have games and things available for kids (especially Lufthansa!). The best way to keep your kid from crawling up the walls or kicking the back of the seat in front of her is to let her move as much as possible during flight.

No, not everyone is going to love it, but neither is everyone going to be happy if your kid is staying still in one place, screaming.

Top Travel Tip #5: Nurse & Baby Wearing

This only applies for nursing moms traveling with babies. My oldest boy nursed for 10 months, and my second is nearly 10 months and is still going strong.

Nothing beats nursing for comforting, calming, and otherwise keeping your baby in one place. Nursing during take off and landing can help avoid ear popping.

During flight, if you haven’t managed to snag a bulkhead row with a bassinet (I HIGHLY recommend you try to!), baby wearing can be a life saver. I always used a soft wrap (we had the Moby wrap) for flying, as I find them more comfortable to sit in than the structured carriers. The most comfortable carrier we found is the ErgoBaby.

Go With the Flow

The most important tip is to remember that your kids are not adults. Meaning, they cannot reason away the fatigue or understand the impact jet lag has on their bodies.

Be patient with them, and try to keep your sense of humor.

I do not think that parents need to hand out “goodie bags” to travellers sitting around them. You don’t have to feel guilty for traveling with your kids, or try to placate fellow travellers with treats.

The best way to keep your seat neighbors happy is to dedicate your energy to your kids. Keep them entertained, have patience, and show kindness and empathy when they are having a hard time.

And have a stiff drink, or a well-deserved cup of tea when you get to your destination.

Happy summer travels!