Taking your kids to see the grandparents on a train is one thing, but heading out on safari by way of multiple international flights is another! No matter which travel feat is before you this season, we’ve got tips and ideas from a pro jet-setting family of four. Sean MacLean and Amanda Wagner are founders of the Alignmode App and between meditation sessions, the couple loves to tote their kids along for trips across the globe.
The foursome recently trekked to the Serengeti and back with their two little girls in tow and we asked Amanda how they made it look so easy! Here are their best tricks and tips for keeping everyone safe, healthy, happy and sane!
10 Essential Tips For Traveling With Children
01 Pack Carry-On Only | We always choose to pack only what we can carry on. This avoids potential lost luggage, makes checking in and arrivals so much faster, eliminates extra fees, and encourages us to bring only what we need.
02 layer up | On travel day we all wear our heaviest layers: long comfortable pants, t-shirt or tank, a light coat or sweater tied around our waist, the bulkiest shoes we are bringing.
03 cross body essentials | I (Amanda) wear a cross body pouch—hands free—with the family essentials: passports, cash, car keys, my phone, earphones, gum, throat lozenges, lip balm, hair elastics, bandaids, a couple essential oils, and individual electrolyte powder packets to add to water. I will also have my carry-on-sized bag filled with my clothes, travel size toiletries, supplements/meds, and any of the kids clothes that fit.
04 kids backpack essentials | The kids wear a small backpack filled with items of their choosing like small toys, coloring pages, a travel journal, a card game, and Ziplock bag of travel-friendly snacks such as granola bars, trail mix, dried mango, crackers, pepperoni sticks, etc.
Dad will be responsible for two carry-on-sized bags. One with his items in it (including tech equipment such as laptop, hard drive, cameras, and chargers) and one with the kids combined clothing in it.
In total we travel with three carry-on-sized bags, my personal item cross body bag, and the kids’ two small backpacks. Arrival is typically very efficient and we are exiting the airport within 20 minutes total from landing—thank you carry-on luggage!
05 Our Long-Haul Flight Strategy | We aim to choose evening/overnight flights when it’s a long-haul flight with a time change. That way we can tire the kids out all day long, and by the time we board they are ready to get comfy and settle down to sleep. Our next best option would be the first flight of the day around 6am. This flight time would require us to leave our house in the middle of the night to arrive at least three hours before departure, disrupting everyone’s sleep and by the time we are in-flight everyone is tired and ready to catch up on the missed sleep.
06 Plan layovers | When we have travel days with multiple long flights, we look to break it up with a layover of three to six hours. This allows everyone to stretch, move their body, get some sillies out, use a real bathroom, possibly change their clothes, grab more nourishing food options, and stimulate their brain by exploring the airport shops and activities.
07 The Packing Approach | Our Tanzania Safari trip also had luggage weight restrictions due to the small bush plane we are required to take in and out of the Serengeti. So our usual carry on only style of travel was even more refined. Here’s what we took:
+ Layers. It’s cool in the morning and evening and can get really warm during the day. Long pants, t-shirts or tanks, sweaters or light coats.
+ Natural earthy colors are best. Neutrals, greens, browns, whites, etc. wearing dark colors like black could attract mosquitos and wearing bright loud colors like hot pink can be distracting to animals.
+ A hat option is a great idea to keep the sun off of you when you are in the trucks midday. Comfortable closed-toe footwear is the best choice so if that’s a running shoe, a casual slip on or a light boot you should be good.
08 Bring a bag of snacks if you’ll be traveling in an exotic place like our game drives. You never know how long you will be out there depending on what animals you come across so having snack options especially for kiddos is a huge win. We brought fruit pouches, beef jerky, pepperoni sticks, crackers, dried fruit, mixed nuts, protein bars, and granola bars.
09 bundle travel | The travel company we partnered with, Roane Travel, had arranged all ground transportation, hotel reservations and domestic flights, so it’s seamless to exit the airport and find your guide waiting to take you to the first accommodation. We stayed two nights at The Gran Melia before heading to Arusha Airport for our prop plane ride direct to Lobo Airstrip located within Serengeti National Park. We landed directly on the grass where our Lodge staff is waiting to greet us with beverages, snacks, and big hugs.
10 The SafarI Experience | Our Safari began the moment we landed in the Serengeti. I always find it hard to articulate in words the magic of this experience. The energetic impact of this trip needs to be felt with the senses, it can’t be fully described. I think safari allows humans to return to our primal roots in a way that we likely have never really understood before journeying to the vast sights, sounds and smells of the open savannah. It’s you, your family, and your guides alone with no internet service and nothing but the wild surrounding you. It’s like being transported directly into a nature channel documentary.
Being in an open-air vehicle a few feet from a pride of lions with a fresh kill, or trotting zebra, baby elephants next to their giant mothers is surreal. I’ve never felt so alive in all my life. Sleeping in canvas tents, with no fences or gates meaning you are fully immersed in the wild life around you, waking before dawn and climbing into a truck that takes off into the first morning light… there is no way to put that into words.
Crisp morning breeze in your hair and on your skin, views as far as you can see, unmistakable “Serengeti” scents of trees, wild mint, citrusy grasses and wild animals, no other people around. Every day is a new adventure, no moment is the same. To give this type of heart-expanding experience not only for ourselves but also to see it through our children’s eyes is likely what we will remember and cherish for the rest of our lives.
Anyone who travels knows people and food can make or break an experience. The people in Tanzania are kind and eager to help or learn about you. The overall vibe of the food is locally grown with flavor influences from all over Africa and Europe. Expect everything from humble comfort food options to fine French-inspired breads and pastries. Our 5-year-old was the first to the dinner table every night after game drives, excitedly looking forward to the fresh soup of the day.
The people we met at our lodge, TAASA Lodge, were otherworldly. They instantly became family. Never have we traveled anywhere before where we immediately felt such close connections. My children and I cried when leaving them, a big part of us just wanted to stay there at the lodge forever, the energy is so special and sacred. The guides and trackers are experts. They know the land and the animals on an intuitive level and they educated us on every drive. Without a doubt, this is our happy place. Our very favorite place on earth.
This trip is the absolute adventure of a lifetime, and experiencing it with your children takes it to another level.