Sunday, May 5, 2013

Simple Trick: Traveling with the Fam

We're baaaaccckkk (our dog missed us so much!)! And from our 5-week vacay, I have gained a few tips & tricks for traveling with the family.

1. Before you fly out, make sure you have travel insurance. I got ACE insurance and their family rate is super affordable. Good thing we did coz 1 of our bags was missing when we landed in LA. It took our airline 3 days to deliver the bag. Also, Isabella contracted a severe eye infection that the doctor at the Urgent Care Clinic we went to strongly recommended we bring her to a children's hospital ER. The ER fee alone was over $700! Add to that the cost of antibiotics ($300) and the Urgent Care Clinic's fee ($300)! I also got sick and needed antibiotics so it was really a blessing that we were insured. Just make sure you are O.C. about keeping receipts and other documents to file a claim.

2. Prepare for filling out those Arrival/Departure Cards. Most likely, Mommy will have to fill up the immigration cards for the whole family. Flipping through passports is a hassle (especially for a mommy like me with motion sickness, filling out 4 cards on a tray table of a moving plane). So every time I travel with the fam, I bring my piece of paper with everyone's passport details. Include the passport number, date of issue and expiry (this is tricky coz countries write their dates differently - DDMMYY or MMDDYY, so you need to be alert when filling out this part.), place of issue (mostly Manila, but with the satellite DFAs cropping up these days, you might have an occasional NCR East if you got yours from DFA Megamall) and birthdates (assuming you don't know these by heart). Aside from passport details, I also note down our flight details (dates and flight numbers) and the address of the hotel or house we are staying in at our destination (you also need your PH address, assuming you don't know this by heart). Oh, and of course, bring a pen! If you have travel agency connections, try getting the immigration cards in advance so you don't need to fill them out in the plane or immigration line.

3. Choose the right luggage to bring. You already know from here how I feel about hard-case vs. soft-case top-open luggage (but maybe it's because I don't travel often enough to not need to fill my bags to the brim). You also already know from here that I noticed airport personnel in US domestic terminals are less strict with duffel bags vs. trolleys for carry-on. If you are taking a US domestic flight and are bringing a standard trolley bag as carry-on, make sure you don't fill it to the brim. When asked to check if your bag can fit in the airport's standard steel frame, make sure to slip your trolley in with the back of your bag facing you so it's easier to push the bag towards the back of the steel frame. The front of a trolley bag is typically softer so the front should contract for your trolley to fit into the frame. If your trolley is a standard-sized carry-on, it should fit even if eyeballing the frame makes you doubt it. And if you expect your child to pull one of your trolley bags, make sure you give him the 4-to-6-wheeled one because his shorter height will make it hard for him to lug around a 2-wheeled trolley.

4. Plan your itinerary well. You already know from here that you should avoid planning trips to theme parks during long holidays at your destination. I think Hurricane Sandy took away too many school days so Spring Break was different for every school this year. Thankfully, the crowd was manageable during our recent trip. 

But brace yourself if you're planning to move around a lot like we did: we visited a total of 7 states...

... and slept in a total of 10 houses/hotels. I felt like I was constantly packing (and unpacking) overnight bags for us! So try to make sure you spend more than 1 to 3 nights in every house/hotel. We went back to NYC from New Jersey 3 times in 2 weeks and commuting with a trolley bag wasn't fun at all. Had I planned our IT better, we could have spent one straight week in NYC rather than shuttling back and forth.

5. Organize how you pack your bags. If you're also going on both West and East Coast legs of a US trip, I think it's still a good idea to segregate West-only, East-only and cross-country or East-&-West items, as I posted here. That way, you don't even need to open your East Coast bag in the West, and vice-versa. But I don't recommend combining your family's stuff in 1 bag like I did. I put all our West-Coast only things in one bag. Since our clothes were mixed up in that one bag, I needed to lay out the kids' clothes for the day everyday myself. It wore me out and didn't teach them to be more independent. It would be ideal if each family member had his own 3 bags of East, West and cross-country things. But since airlines typically allow only 2 check-in baggages per person, I suggest putting each family member's say, West-only stuff in a laundry bag (or even plastic/sando bag). This way, the clothes are still segregated per person even if they are together in one luggage. As long as the laundry/plastic bags are tied up, no amount of tossing and shaking will mix up the contents. 

Oh, and here's a list of things that you need to take with you during every leg of your trip (if you're like us who slept in 10 houses/hotels, you need to remember to pack these items at every leg): electronics' chargers, toiletries, slippers and emergency medicines. Click here for more tips on things to pack (including a bag of toys/books to keep your little one occupied in the plane).

Helps to have a small digital weighing scale. I got mine from Rustan's years ago. It's basically a 6in x 2.5in oblong handle with a tiny digital display and a short strap with clasps that go around the handle of your bag. I cannot travel without it!

6. Make copies of essential documents and cards. Thankfully, this didn't happen to us. But it is best to be prepared in case your purse or wallet gets stolen. Best to scan everyone's passports, visas, credit cards and ATM cards before printing. The printed copy should be packed in a separate bag from where the originals are. And on the off-chance that both bags get lost or stolen, you can request someone from home to email the scanned copies to you. So create a shortcut to these soft files on your desktop too before you leave.

7. Decide on your in-flight attire. You have to decide what's more important to you: comfort or minimizing baggage space. You can opt to wear slip-ons (for when you need to take off your shoes at the x-ray area) and comfortable clothes. Or you can choose to wear your bulkiest items - thickest jacket, knee-high boots. It all comes down to what's more important to you.

8. Shop online a week before your trip. If you're with your kids, chances are there will be limited shopping opportunities. So best to shop online and have it shipped to your first address at your destination. When you arrive, fit what you need to fit and schedule a return/exchange for those that don't cut it. The best part is there's a goodie package to greet you when you arrive!

9. When going out and about at your cold destination, bring a giant eco bag in your purse. It comes in handy it gets hot (say, in museums with heaters or at the theme park at noon) because you can dump all your jackets, scarves, hats and gloves in it. That way, you don't need to stuff them in your purse and carry multiple jackets on your arm. I got my giant Pockets eco bag from the St. James Bazaar years ago. It's about 24in x 18in. The first time I saw it, I remember exclaiming, "What would you need such a big bag for?!". The young woman selling it answered, "You'd be surprised!" And she was right! I use it to lug Christmas gifts, to carry shopping loot from a major shopping spree, even groceries and beach toys or winter wear during family trips. I actually used it as a carry-on going home to Manila for my 5 dozens of Porto's cheese rolls and guava & cheese strudels. :)

To be honest, I am still exhausted from our trip... So I hope these tips help minimize the exhaustion and stress during your family vacay! 

Hope all you're left with are the memorable, fun-filled family moments! Enjoy your family vacation!

Photos of the kids at the World War II Memorial in DC (edited via pixlrare my own. The other photos are from acupofjo, imjustsaying and annnniegirl.

Click here for previous posts from the Simple Trick series.


  1. Thanks for all the helpful and very practical tips Juni! And welcome back! I missed reading your entries! :)

    1. You're welcome Frances! :) Hope they help when you go on your vake!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.