Three-year old Kyra Waterman already is a seasoned globetrotter. She has traveled to Hawaii, Sri Lanka and South Africa with her parents, Brock and Becky. And she’s about to add another stamp to her passport.
The Dubuque family will be traveling to Belize this month, and Kyra will have a fellow traveling companion in 8-month-old Verity.
The Watermans often travel to developing countries, where a blue-eyed, blonde-haired child is considered good luck in some places.
“One of the problems we had in Sri Lanka was everyone wanting to touch and take pictures with Kyra,” Brock said. “At first it was novel, but she soon didn’t like her personal space being invaded.”
In such instances, the Watermans recommend being firm, but not hostile.
Becky advises not to skimp on price when it comes to connecting flights. Around two hours for a layover is about as much time as the family is willing to spend in an airport waiting for a connection.
“Saving $100 to sit in an airport with kids for 12 hours doesn’t make sense in our book,” she said.
Amber Meisenburg and Michael Feldman, of Dubuque, are the parents of six children — Landon, 12; Savana, 9; Aurora, 4; DavinaClaire, 2; Kal-El, 1; and newborn Lex.
The family usually travels by car, taking long weekend trips and short jaunts through the Midwest.
Meisenburg said she has learned through trial and error how to travel with enough children to field a hockey team in tow.
“One thing people don’t think about is the drive home,” she said. “The kids are all excited about getting there, but coming home is the worst part of the trip. So plenty of snacks and drinks is important both getting there and coming home.”
Jennifer and Alex Carrick, of East Dubuque, Ill., have been traveling together for many years, starting when son Drew, 18, was a baby. Ayden, 14, and Emma, 12, round out the family.
The Carricks have been to 31 states together, most of it by camper. Today, their wanderlust has them taking trips about six times a year.
“We are a Disney crew, so we try to get to Disney World whenever we can,” said Jennifer.
Jennifer recommends keeping small cases in the car and in carry-ons packed with items such as sick bags, anti-diarrheal medication, Benadryl, Tylenol, hand sanitizer and basic first aid items.
“Once you’ve had a child get sick in a car or on an airplane, you learn what nooks and crannies really means,” she said.
Traveling between Brussels, Belgium and their grandparents’ home in Dubuque, two-year-old Axel Seynaeva and his seven-month-old sister, Lucie, have logged a significant number of air miles in their young lives.
Their mother, Kara Seynaeva, is a Dubuque native, and their father, Greg, is Belgian.
“I’ve been living in Brussels for over twelve years,” said Kara Seynaeva, who is a teacher at the International School of Brussels. “We travel back to Dubuque once or twice a year, and have done a lot of traveling through Europe as well.”
Seynaeve recommends using every advantage available. Call ahead to your airline or cruise line and tell them you’re traveling with small children. They might offer accommodations you aren’t aware of.
“If you’re flying, you can bring your stroller right up to the gate and check it in there,” she said. “And requesting the middle three seats on an international flight will give your family the best amount of space.”
Once on the ground, Seynaeve said finding a taxi service that provides car seats can be a game-changer.
“Not having to lug car seats around while traveling is a big help,” she said.
Lyft and Uber both offer car seat options when you order your ride through their apps. Car seats can also be ordered through car rental agencies. There is usually a surcharge and the option isn’t available in all service areas, so check ahead of your trip to avoid any surprises.
Travel consultant Angie Harter, of Travel Headquarters in Dubuque, said the key to any successful travel experience, particularly one with small children, is planning ahead.
“Any child of any age is required to have a passport if they are traveling outside the U.S.,” she said. “And both parents must sign off on it. So in the case of divorce, for instance, the parent with physical custody needs to get the other parent’s permission.”
Harter also said to be sure to check regulations in the country where you will be visiting.
“Some countries require a notarized letter giving permission to travel, even if you have a passport in hand,” she said.
Harter said to keep in mind that while traveling by air, children under two years old travel free, but must sit in the lap of a parent. Lap travelers on international flights are usually charged 10% of a full price fare.
“You can purchase a seat for your child, but it will be at a full-price fare,” she said.
Harter also recommends medical travel insurance when traveling internationally, which offers coverage in case of a medical emergency.
“It’s easy to get in touch with your doctor or clinic when you’re in the States,” she said. “But that gets very tricky when you’re out of the country.”
The Brockmans said meltdowns will probably be inevitable.
“We find that hungry and angry go together, as does thirsty,” said Becky. “We’ve found that most trip meltdowns involve doing too much or not having them get food as soon as needed. So keeping the kiddos good there helps a lot.”
Meisenburg knows all about the usual suspects for making travel with kids easier — snacks, plenty of extra diapers and pacifiers, frequent stops to stretch the legs — but she might have the best secret weapon of all.
“We don’t travel anymore without my in-laws,” she said, referring to Michael’s parents, Phil and Deborah Feldman.
Having a good relationship with your in-laws is imperative if you plan on being in close quarters during a trip. For the Feldmans, it has become the only way they travel.
“The kids seem to behave better when they’re around, which is great,” said Meisenburg. “And it lets us enjoy the trip, too.”
Brock Waterman said he and Becky have never hesitated to take their small children traveling around the world.
“I’ve heard people say travel is lost on kids. This is one hundred percent wrong in my view,” he said. “Kyra remembers releasing three-day old sea turtles into the ocean when she was two as part of a program we participated in. The conversations we have are different than at home. Travel makes their world so much bigger.”
Michelle London writes for the Telegraph Herald.