Brittany Affronti of Tiny Independent People, shares her stories on traveling in Sayulita, Mexico with her 6 year-old son and twin baby boys. Brittany is an expert when it comes to giving other parents confidence when traveling with children, especially internationally. Below, she shares her tips + tricks!
Can you share what inspired you to travel across borders with your 3 kids + how did you navigate through such a big decision?
Traveling has been a major part of my life. Pre-pandemic we were big travelers! I took my eldest Julien to France for the first time at 7 months old and he’s been on the go ever since. Covid brought our travels to a halt.
I firmly believe in having children travel from a super young age. Traveling is a skill that needs to be practiced. If you get a child on a plane at an early age it becomes second nature to them and you lessen those crazy mid-flight tantrums and miserable trips with children because they aren’t used to being in new surroundings. If they grow up traveling it’s just a part of life.
With our twin’s Crosby and Nico’s first birthday fast approaching we knew we needed to get them on a plane but weren’t ready to make the Europe flight just yet. Sayulita is fast becoming a second home for our family and the 3.5 hour flight felt manageable for a first trip with our whole crew.
What was the most memorable moment that you shared with your family in Sayulita?
There is this amazing turtle rescue in Sayulita and during the hatching season they collect all of the turtle eggs off the beach and keep them protected in a little sandy hut. Every evening at sunset people gather on the beach to release the baby turtles. One night we were out there helping to release 400 babies. There was this stunning cotton candy sunset and Julien had the widest eyes as he carried bowls of turtles with my mom to the water's edge to watch them scurry into the ocean.
For a brief moment I didn’t feel the weight of the past 21 months, as I looked at Julien and realized despite the whirlwind of COVID that this is going to be okay.
What advice would you give other parents when it comes to having confidence in traveling with their kids?
Honestly, you just have to go for it! It’s not going to be perfect, and you may at times feel like you are just living your life in another location without all of your conveniences… but you are building the foundation for a lifetime of curiosity, adventure, and openness in your children.
Certainly if you have the means, bring help! Or utilize help websites to hire a sitter while at your destination. Being able to step away even if it's just during naptime allows you to have downtime and a moment to fill your own cup.
As we all know, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Also… baby gear rental companies are GAME CHANGERS! No need to schlepp a pack n play when you can have one waiting for you when you arrive.
Routine, routine, routine! This is something that is so important to the day-to-day lives of many families -- how did you decide to keep certain routines + let others go?
Sleep routines are a big part of what I do with Tiny Independent People. For the first 2 years I’m a pretty big stickler about making sure naps and sleep times remain the same. After age 2 I find children are able to be more flexible with naps and bedtimes. I will fully admit to letting my eldest stay up until nearly midnight when he was 3 years old to watch Bastille day fireworks in Paris.
Also meal times, sleep+food are two of the most basic needs that need to be met in order for everything else to flow well.
Those two things structure most of our days while we travel.
Everything else is less important.
Best airplane hack?
For kids old enough to carry a small backpack I pack the Melissa and Doug water wow! Art kits, snacks (granola bar, applesauce pouch, Annie’s gummies, and a few dumdum lollipops for take-off and landing) these are snacks they can eat at their leisure. I also pack a few small toys that don’t make noise, and a book.
In my bag I have small little ziploc bags with snacks and a quick activity (crayons, stickers, small manipulatives) that I will pull out every hour to provide something fresh and interesting.
For extra long flights I keep an ipad that has a few episodes of Maurice Sendak’s Little Bear, and 3 or 4 audiobooks with child sized headphones.
Car seats on planes are such a gift! It keeps little ones contained and saves your arms (11.5 hours on a plane with a chunky 7 month old in my arms and no baby carrier taught me that lesson).
I also keep a spare change of clothes for myself and the kids, swimsuits if we are going to a swimming destination and a toothbrush (If our luggage gets lost at least we can go swimming and have a change upon arrival). Lastly chewable dramamine, and disposable emesis bags (myself and the boys are all prone to motion sickness) just in case it gets extra bumpy.
I prefer overnight flights for trips to Europe and adhere to a strict lights out schedule. I will turn off the overhead, turn off the TV screen and pretend to be asleep myself until the little one I am with is so bored they too fall asleep (I used to travel as a nanny), it works like a charm every time.
Do you have other adventures planned? How do your travels connect to Tiny Independent People?
We are hoping to get back to Europe this coming summer. Julien recently became obsessed with this documentary about big wave surfer Garrett Mcnamara called 100ft Wave. It’s all about these crazy big waves off the coast of Portugal in this town called Nazare. He really wants to go check out the waves. We are in no way shape or form surfers (though I will happily stand up paddle board on calm waters) but he loves all things nature… so Portugal and Spain may be on the agenda.
Tiny Independent People is all about empowering families with young children to thrive. Part of that is supporting them to feel confident to embrace new experiences with their children and that includes travel. I’ve spent years traveling with children both professionally as a nanny and with my own family. I’ve perfected my packing technique, combating jet lag, and creating sleep routines when changing time zones. I want to be able to provide families with tried and true tips on how to travel successfully.
Where can we find you?
You can find me on:
Instagram @tinyindependentpeople where I share my tips+tricks on all things parenthood, baby, sleep training, toddler life, travel, and much more!
And online in January 2022: www.tinyindependentpeople.com where you can book sleep training consultations, in-home new parent education classes (think of those hospital “how to care for your newborn” classes but better, and in your home!), as well as subscription based parent coaching sessions to help with all of those random questions that pop-up while raising your Tiny Independent People.