When Sean Russell isn't staying busy as Time Out's Director of Travel, he's traveling the world with his wife, Lyndsay, and 2-year-old daughter Penelope. Follow along with his adventures on Instagram at DadBodTravel, and read our Q&A with Mr. Dad Bod himself right here.
Parennial Travel: What was the first major trip you took with your daughter, and how did it go?
Sean Russell: We took our daughter on a few short flights to visit family early on, but the first long flight as a family was to San Fran when she was almost 6 months old. She did great, but enduring a six-hour flight with an infant in your arms is not easy. Our daughter wasn't a fan of the carrier (live and learn) so that's something we would change if flying with an infant again. Also, we brought our full-size Uppababy Vista stroller because we didn't yet have a travel stroller. Thankfully, we got wiser along the way and now we bring either the G-Pockit or Uppababy Minu with us on flights.
PT: What's your favorite type of destination when traveling with your family, and why?
SR: My wife is a big fan of destinations that offer a bit of it all. We try to visit the coast at least once during any trip, if possible. We like a mix of city refinery and natural beauty, exploring local food and wine along the way.
PT: Have you had any disasters while traveling with your daughter? How did you deal with it?
SR: My wife had the unfortunate experience of riding in the back of a 7-seat puddle jumper from Boston to Bar Harbor, Maine with our daughter when she was one. The crew placed them in the last seat — teachable moment: request seats near the front if you or your companions get airsick on tiny planes — and our daughter did not take well to the turbulent flight. Thankfully, everyone on board was understanding and my wife remained calm to reassure our daughter that she would be okay. My wife earned her adult beverage that day, as did the airline clean-up crew. ;-)
PT: Why do you think it's important to travel with your kid?
SR: To your point, we loved to travel before having kids and we didn't want to miss out on that huge part of our lives post-baby. It turns out that our daughter is an upbeat, relatively easy-going soul and thus it's not a hassle to continue doing the things we love while exploring. It's important to us that she experience other cultures and learns alongside us. We value acceptance and inclusivity — there is no better way to experience this than to travel. Endless educational opportunities abound when traveling.
PT: Any gear you always travel with?
SR: We did a lot of research and here are the MVPs:
- Headphones that limit the volume for your child. We have these from Kidz Gear.
- Activity books, stickers, mess-less coloring books (i.e., Water Wow). We also love the MagnaTab.
- SNACKS! — Store in separate snack bags and break them out at different times throughout the flight. Without fail, we end up eating all the snacks we pack.
- iPad/Kindle or other devices with movies/shows downloaded in case your in-flight entertainment isn't working (or if the screen is too high up for your child to view easily)
- If swimming in your destination, a Coast Guard-approved life vest. Our daughter has done great with this one.
- Umbrella stroller. We love our new Uppababy Minu as it folds to fit in an overhead bin, has great recline for naps and a large sunshade.
- We're in the process of searching for a lightweight car seat for travel as we lug our convertible car seat and it's a beast ... will have to report back later.
PT: What tips do you have for parents who are worried about taking their first big trip with their kid?
SR: This really comes down to expectations. Kids (especially young ones) thrive on routine. It is almost impossible to keep the same exact routine you have at home when you travel, but you can keep certain routines exactly the same. Kids are far more resilient than we give them credit for if you do some small things the same, like bring their favorite stuffed animal, sing the same song you always sing when they brush teeth, etc. they will adapt to the new location and be as close to "normal" as possible very quickly.
PT: What are some mistakes you see parents making when it comes to traveling with kids?
SR: Packing too much and stressing. This comes back to the previous response: Expectations. It will not be a perfect experience, they may not eat as well as when home, they may not sleep as well, etc. and it's all about being OK with it. Heck, we barely give our daughter sugar, we try not to in fact, but when we were in Spain the staff at our hotel gave her a chocolate every day. You learn to roll with it. Also, people are more understanding when your kid has a meltdown than you realize.