Planning has probably become second nature if you’ve navigated your way through pregnancy and infancy, but there are always new sets of tools to acquire at every stage of your family’s growth. Add into the mix trying to keep waste down and awareness up, and some of these tips might come in handy. Traveling with little ones isn’t as impossible as some will try to tell you - you just need to do a little research about what will work for your travel style and your family’s needs.
What to bring
One big source of waste is beverage- and food-related trash. The whole business is based around plastic and paper - but that can change! You probably already have a reusable water bottle, and food containers in all manner of materials, sizes and weights that will work for your travel/destination style. Napkins and utensils may not be front-of-mind, but purchasing fabric, bamboo or wood sets will make for much less waste later - and you’ll never be stuck at on-the-go mealtime without a spoon or straw when you need it. Disposables of all forms usually have a more eco-friendly analog - including snack bags made of silicone or waxed-fabric food wrap.
Since you’re travelling with the whole family, you most likely are already packing dish soap for baby bottles or other reusables. Complete your kit with a bottle brush and scrubbie and you’ll be able to keep everything clean for your kids and yourself. Pack it all in a packing cube, and your modular suitcase-stuffing adventure begins!
Depending on the age of your child, you may be sterilizing baby bottles - a cinch if you’re staying at a private residence, or even if your hotel room has a kitchenette or microwave. If your travel accommodations do not include any of these amenities, HaveBabyWillTravel has an in-depth explanation of how to sterilize in a hotel room sink. If your baby is breastfeeding exclusively, it can actually be the least complicated way to travel with a young child - no bottles, pumping/sterilizing gear, or baby food to pack.
Where to go
While popular family destinations often include camping, natural attractions and science museums - they’re perfect for kids. But not only are they fun and educational, they give kids a personal connection to the environment. Spending time in nature without electricity, seeing wondrous formations with their own eyes, and learning about climate change will instill the value of the untouched resources of the world. They’ll understand on a gut level the potential to wreak havoc that climate change has on the world they have witnessed firsthand.
How to get there
While your carbon footprint is smaller if travelling by car, you may choose to fly for some destinations. If you’ve got smaller kids and are travelling by plane, you can probably get by just bringing a baby carrier. Check ahead at your destination - you may be able to rent a stroller or other gear there. Save a little hassle and put the skipped extra baggage fees towards a local family that has what you need - for example with sharing economy site goBaby. However, you may want to bring a travel car seat - for rental cars or taxis, you don’t want to be stuck without one for any length of time. This list of travel gear recommends bringing quite a load, including a very lightweight car seat.
If you do choose to drive, a lengthy car ride could bring its own set of challenges. Toys, games and books are the way to go, but if you want to make the extra effort, EcoParent has a list of special environmentally-oriented activities that you can put together before you start out.
Where to stay
Private residence rental is definitely the greenest and usually the least expensive way to go over hotels - you can cook for yourself and family, and you’ll be using fewer disposable products like the soaps and other incidentals that get thrown away after you check out. But if hotels are more your style, try to find a green-certified one. This won’t likely affect your travel experience, but mostly means that the premises has committed to lower energy and water consumption through more sustainable laundry and fixture choices. If your destination has greenmarkets or farmer’s markets, that’s the best way to get seasonal, local produce and even fresh, ready-made meals.
Most of the tips we found around the blogosphere revolved around both bringing more stuff and packing light. While that could seem to be conflicting advice, it’s really about quality packing choices and your own travelling style. Many of the things you’ll end up needing are available most anywhere in the world you might end up - so be easy on yourself about bringing a tool for every conceivable outcome. But at the same time, if you’re the type that will stress out if you don’t have everything at hand (or in suitcase), then it’s important to respect that, pack it in, and write off the extra bulk as the cost for peace of mind. Bon voyage!
Cover image courtesy of Ashley Solberg Blog