Traveling with Kids

In Our Life, We Heart Travel by Courtney14 Comments


We love to travel. And we have 2 small children. Travel and children generally do not go hand in hand and we get a lot of shocked expressions when we tell people how much we travel with our kids. By the time Joelle was 6 months old she had been on 28 planes and qualified to go through the “Expert Traveler” TSA line.

The shocked expressions do not come from people thinking that we shouldn’t travel with our kids, the shock comes from the fact that many people think that you CAN’T. As though you and/or your child(ren) will actually implode after a certain number of hours in the air/car or days on the road. FACT: you won’t actually implode. FACT: you will most likely feel like you might at one point or another.

Bottom line: you CAN travel with children. It’s not easy. It makes every trip about 400% more difficult. But it also makes every trip about 400% more fun which is why we do it.

This year we have road tripped up to Paso Robles to see our friends Randy and Erin of He&She Photography, took the family to Maui, Colorado and the Pacific Northwest and next month we’re taking them to Cabo San Lucas for their first international trip.

The most recent trip we brought the kids on was to the Pacific Northwest to shoot Courtney & Jay’s wedding in Portland before heading up to Seattle for a little reunion with Gary’s family. We decided to document this trip and share it will you all so you could get a glimpse into both the FUN and the “fun” parts of traveling with kids and hopefully inspire you to take your family on the road to make some memories together. We also want to share some of our tips/tricks for making flights and car rides less hellish and more fun.

Traveling brings our family together, bring us all so much joy and we hope will make us a super tight knit family unit for the rest of our lives. We hope it does the same for yours! Happy travels!

A couple of disclaimers:

*We don’t bring our kids on every trip we take. The majority of our destination weddings are quick and are just the two of us. When we do bring the kids, we extend our trip (at our expense) and we typically either fly out one of our moms or meet one of our moms in the places we go. Or we bring the kids to places where we have friends who are willing to watch our kids or know great and dependable sitters to watch our kids which makes shooting a wedding possible. This is also often allows us to travel without carseats and pack n’ plays. We have rented carseats, and we have brought them on several occasions, but on this particular trip we were meeting Gary’s mom (Laloni) in Portland with carseats and a pack n’ play so that we could travel super light.

**Our kids are terrible sleepers/nappers, so we don’t wanna hear any of this “but my kids would never ______” stuff ;) If we can do it with kids who never sleep, you can do it with yours :) Here’s the behind the scenes images from “traveling with [crazy] kids to the Pacific Northwest. Enjoy:

(all images were taken with either our fancy pants iPhones or our trusty Canon s95)

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We have a couple of trusty tricks for the airplane:

1. Take a trip to the Dollar Store before the trip, spend $5-$10 and pack a bag of “surprises” for the plane and pull one out every hour or so. Some of my favs: Mini coloring books with markers included, playdough (we bring stamps for them to stamp the dough with), new books, ColorWonder stuff for Charlie so she doesn’t destroy the plane, stickers, etc. Just be sure to hide them once you get to your destination so they are still fairly new on the trip home.

2. Snacks. Snacks. More snacks. We don’t eat a lot of junk food or real snacky type foods so when I buy lollipops, cheez-its, fruit snacks, etc it’s like the most exciting thing ever and can entertain them for a long time. Also…when flying with babies or toddlers, swallowing and chewing can help their ears equalize on the way up and down so I always bring something chewy for them during that time.

3. Make everything a big deal. The drink service is the main event on our flights and we turn it into a 30 minute ordeal deciding what kind of drink to order, whether or not we want ice and practicing how to ask the flight attendant for it. Going to the bathroom can also be a 20 minute process, getting there, looking at all the cool stuff in the back of the plane, etc.

4. Media is a fail-safe. As tempting as it is to just whip out the iphone/ipad/dvd, I really recommend holding out on that as long as possible because I promise you’ll want to use it at the end of the flight and if they’ve already used it for an hour or two they’re going to be over it, whiny and bored. So save it for the end when you REALLY need it.

5. Be flexible. On the road with kids is not the time to stand your ground on what they can eat/drink, when they should nap, how messy they can get, etc. It’s also not the time to stick to a plan regardless of what’s happening around you. Go with the flow, understand that everything takes FOREVER and be ok with it. I realize this is easier for some of us than others. But attempt it. You’ll all be happier. I promise. ;)

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Above: Joelle is hiding [curbside] in the luggage to surprise Grandma Laloni, who picked us up at PDX. Then we went straight to Mt Tabor for a picnic and some play time (below).

As fun as it is for us to experience a new eatery (which we LOVE doing), it’s often not so much fun for the kids (or with small children for the other people dining), so we often get our food to go and have a picnic at a park with a playground. Yelp has an option to search for playgrounds and is a super useful app when traveling and looking for a kid-friendly play spot.

09 Traveling with Kids 10 Traveling with Kids 11 Traveling with Kids After checking in and partying at the hotel (and after some swimming), we hit the hay early. The next morning (since we’re [always] up early) we headed out to grab some breakfast at Tin Shed (delish!!!) and ran around Portland.

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Above: Post naps, pool and dinner, we hunkered down in the hotel closet (out of the way while Laloni attempted put Joelle to bed) waiting for the kids to FINALLY fall asleep, then off for a date night! Met up with the totally awesome Jim & Ravyn for some brewskis. Love them!

The next day was our work day. So Gary’s mom partied with the kids downtown Portland and we went and photographed the awesome story of Courtney & Jay’s wedding day.

Below: Early the next morning, we fueled up with some local coffee/pastries for our drive from Portland to Seattle. While trying to get something for one of the kids in the car Courtney totally spilled her whole cup of coffee in her crotch. Flexibility = KEY when traveling with kids :) ‘Cause sometimes your coffee ends up in your crotch.

19 Traveling with Kids 20 Traveling with Kids We arrived AT THE LAKE (Lake Tapps, WA), for several days of max chilling and family hangin’ with Gary’s family.

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Above: Again with flexibility… our kids were sick the majority of the trip and I finally broke down and took them to the Doctor. Turns out they DID need some meds. Poor babies. :( But they were such troopers the whole trip for being sick!

Below: date night, downtown Seattle!!! Caught the sunset on the wharf (overlooking the Puget Sound), Hit up Odd Fellows for dinner (legit), and Molly Moon ice cream for dessert (too legit… fair trade chocolate FTW!).

32 Traveling with Kids Travel day home from Seattle to San Diego! PAAAAAARTY!!! Warning: The flight home is never as fun as the flight there.

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Above: This is pretty much what it feels like corralling kids through airports ;) Chaotic, fast and over burdened with STUFF.

Below: Prying open Charlie’s mouth and discovering she had eaten half of some random dude’s luggage tag she had found on the floor. :/ Seriously.

35 Traveling with Kids 36 Traveling with Kids 37 Traveling with Kids Always filling up water bottles everywhere we go… always. Such a thirsty little family.

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Above: Pre-flight dog piles on the airport floor and making new friends on the plane.

Below: Moral of the story… even though at times you will feel like this:

40 Traveling with Kids … it’s all 3,000% completely worth it to travel and create awesome memories with our kiddos because of moments like THIS:

28 Traveling with Kids

*Happy adventuring and enjoy the journey* – Team Christenson


  1. Carly Kolbo

    You two amaze me! I’d say your girls are mighty blessed!

  2. Jmewolff

    I love you guys and the amazing parents that you are… thank you for sharing all of your life, the ups and the downs…

  3. Wildeyedphotography

    you guys make me excited when that time comes for me!!!!  what a fun little family :)

  4. Jennastrubhar

    I freaking love this. Some awesome laughing out loud-ness and the last photo totally made me cry! You guys are such amazing parents and your girls will always cherish these memories! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!

  5. e to the claire

    TONS of awesome moments, but the pics of Charles on the back of the stroller, plus the last shot, melt my heart! Way to go team Christenson ;) Keep on keepin’ on.

  6. Erin (

    Beautiful photos guys. We also travel with our kids and would love to connect with you. 

  7. Lisa Montgomery Lomicka

    Great tips and tricks! Emma had been on over 30 flights by the time she was 2 so we totally relate :) Sadly we also relate to the no naps portion of it all. It makes for lots of fun memories and conversations down the road when you can turn to each other and say “Remember that time in _________ when the kids ________? Wasn’t that awesome!”

  8. Kelly

    Lots of great, honest info here! We’re in the same stage of life, full-time wedding photographers, with two littles. We’ve held back on the travel a bit in the past few years, but we’re re-inspired again. :)

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