Being on vacation with kids is fun, but traveling to and from your destination is sometimes another story. With the right gear, a little advanced planning, and the ability to stay flexible, family travel can be enjoyable from the moment you leave your front door.
Make Family Travel Better With These Tips
Don’t let the fear of traveling with kids keep you from booking that trip! Use our list of tips and tricks to make family travel easier.
1. Square Crayons Don’t Roll
Whether kids are coloring on an airplane’s tray table or at a booth in a restaurant, crayons always seem to roll away from little fingers onto the floor. Invest in square crayons. The purchase will likely save you from recurrently searching for round crayons on the ground.
2. Reusable Stickers Never Get Old
Stickers are worth their weight in gold. Reusable ones are even better. Some websites carry reusable stickers that arrive in a book. Kids can create their favorite scenes, then rip them all off and do it again. Placing stickers on cars, planes, or train windows is also a favorite family travel pastime.
3. Bring Duct Tape
This trip from travel host Samantha Brown is invaluable. Duct tape can fix everything from broken toys to suitcases. In a hotel, you can use duct tape to soften sharp edges on furniture. If your little ones love cars, you can even craft a duct tape road on the hotel floor for them to whiz their vehicles around.
4. Mess-Free Markers
Most kids love to color, and these markers are magic. The markers must be paired with Color Wonder Paper, but it’s worth the small extra expense. Little ones will love seeing the clear stick produce vibrant colors before their very eyes. Plus, the markers are nontoxic.
5. The Element of Surprise
Family travel days can be long, frustrating, and tedious. Surprises are exciting. If you have a bag of toys, books, and activities to entertain your kids, reveal one toy at a time. The delay gives them ample opportunity to play with each one. When children get bored, parents can surprise them with something new.
6. Rent Baby Gear
Lugging baby gear through airports and in and out of cars weighs you down. Big and bulky items, like cribs, highchairs, portable baths, toys, and more, are often necessary but awkward to carry. Consider renting baby gear online at places like BabyQuip.
7. Invest in a Doona
No need to carry a car seat and a stroller. The Doona quickly transforms from a car seat to a stroller and back again. It’s expensive ($550 as of this article’s publishing) but makes family travel with an infant much easier.
8. Board the Airplane Last
Most airlines let families board first. However, this means more time that kids must sit on the plane or be strapped into a car seat. If you already have assigned seats, let them burn off excess energy in the airport a little longer before boarding.
9. Snacks, Snacks, and More Snacks
This tip is for parents as well as their children. Eating gives travelers something to do, keeps moods and energy levels up, and provides necessary nutrition. Pack healthy snacks you know that you and your kids already like.
10. Pack Extra Wipes, Diapers, and Clothes in Your Carry-on
Kids are unpredictable. Whatever the mess, a freshly wiped face and new clothing will make everyone feel better. Parents, throw an extra shirt or pair of pants in there for you, too.
11. Bring a Sealable Bag
Following up on the high probability of accidents mentioned above, a sealable bag can save the day. When on the go, it’s nice to throw wet or tarnished items in something sealable so they can’t touch anything else in your bag.
12. Plan Downtime
Family vacations can be busy. There’s always plenty to do and so much to see in a limited timeframe. Even if your kids don’t nap, quiet time can go a long way. Downtime lets bodies and minds recharge so everyone is ready for the next adventure.
13. Get Global Entry for Each Family Travel Member
Global Entry can significantly reduce the time spent on lines when flying internationally. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler program lets travelers get through customs quicker. The saved time can be a lifesaver for those traveling with temperamental kids.
14. Download Entertainment at Home
While some argue that iPads or other electronic devices aren’t the best option to entertain young ones, they are useful when needed. When all else fails, or you just need a bit of peace and quiet, a new movie or favorite TV show might be just the trick. Your fellow passenger may thank you for it!
15. Kid-Friendly Cameras
Kids can capture beautiful family memories to last a lifetime from their very own kid-friendly cameras. Cameras help document a family trip, and kids will also feel proud of the photos they take. Plus, the activity is sure to occupy their time.
16. Air Tags
Air Tags are not just a tip for family travel; they benefit all travelers. Throw one in your suitcase or even your kids’ backpacks—really anything or anyone that might get lost.
17. Look For Special Kids’ Programs
Look for the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger program. It’s activity-based and fun, and kids learn about the importance of national parks. Ideal for ages 5-13, these programs are located across the country. Additionally, consider staying at a hotel with a kids’ club. They offer fun activities for little ones and give parents a much-needed break.
18. Consider Matching Clothes
Matching clothes makes it easier to find family members in a crowd. If matching isn’t for you, try easy-to-spot bright clothing.
19. Book Bulkhead Seats
Bulkhead seats help your child enjoy their flight. They’re often the best option for families with babies, as many airlines offer in-flight bassinets. For older kids, it gives them a little extra legroom.
20. Gate Check Strollers
Don’t check your stroller. You might need it at the airport. Instead, check it at the gate for free right before boarding the plane. It’ll be ready to pick up upon departing.
21. Reusable Water Bottles
Reusable water bottles, including kid-friendly sippy cups, are a general family travel tip that benefits everyone. They’re better for the environment; you can refill bottles at water fountains, and the sippy cups are familiar to little mouths.
22. Let Kids Carry a Backpack or Suitcase
When kids carry their own backpacks or suitcases, it encourages independence. They’ll likely be excited to be in control of all their stuff. As an added bonus, parents won’t have to carry extra gear, at least for a while.
23. Choose Hotel Rooms Wisely
If possible, upgrade to a suite. There’s more room for your belongings; everyone can spread out a bit. If a suite isn’t feasible, choose a room with a large square footage so kids have plenty of space to move around.
24. Be Flexible With Routine
Sure, kids thrive with routine, but this is vacation. Rules are meant to be broken. Nap times may not be perfect, meals might consist of more pizza and less broccoli. Family travel is for everyone; the entire family should enjoy it!