Traveling with kids can be challenging. So it's important to know what to pack, how to make traveling more manageable, and how to avoid disappointments. With these top ten tips, traveling with your children will be a breeze.
1. Planning the Trip
When traveling with kids, you need to take a bit more time planning each trip detail. Plan your trips differently than you do when traveling without them. It may sound like a simple suggestion, but in reality, it is one of the most important parts of planning to travel with kids.
Depending on the age of your children, you will need to consider their nap schedules, meal times, bedtimes, and how active you think you can be each day. In addition, you will need to consider if you want to keep a similar routine that you have at home or be more flexible when it comes to naps and mealtimes.
Consider spending more on accommodation when traveling with kids as you are more likely to spend the bulk of your time there. Try finding a hotel that is a destination in itself, so you are not disappointed that you can't spend all day on adventures and activities.
When you plan the trip, make sure to leave room for spontaneity and a change of plans along the way. It's always better to be prepared, but travel is all about being adaptable too. Build downtime into your itinerary so that you have some lazy mornings to sleep in or afternoons where you can spend poolside.
Take advantage of traveling via train or bus if possible, so you have more room to maneuver around and stretch out when traveling with kids.
2. Take Extra Time To Pack
Try not to pack at the last minute when traveling with kids! It is a good idea to pull out your luggage at least a week before departure and do an initial pack of everything you think you will need. Make sure to check the weather of your destination so that you are packing appropriate items.
Over the next few days, add or subtract items when you think of them. Packing in this way gives you a buffer to avoid those last-minute forgotten items, giving you a chance to see what works, but most importantly, what doesn't work for traveling with kids.
Beginning the packing process early also allows you plenty of time to purchase any travel gifts or travel gear that you may not own. Take stock of the essentials and decide if you want to buy any new travel items to make traveling with kids more manageable.
Take the time to pack your carry-on bag so that you are prepared for any situation. Be sure to pack toys, books, snacks, coloring supplies, and anything else that will keep your children entertained on the plane or in lineups. If your child is old enough, allow them to have their suitcase with wheels and give them a small backpack.
Perhaps the most crucial tip for packing is always having an extra outfit on hand in case of accidents while traveling!
3. Pack Snacks
If traveling long distances, it's important to pack enough snacks for children for those times when you are not able to purchase food. Remember that traveling with kids requires time and patience, so you will not want to stop for food every few hours.
Pack snacks such as granola bars, snack chips, crackers, and dried fruits in your carry-on bag just before departure. If traveling abroad, make sure also to pack some familiar treats like chocolate or gummy bears for those times when traveling is just too hard.
Pack snacks for children that are easy to transport to avoid messing or create a massive mess in your carry-on bag. Be sure to pack plenty of refillable water bottles as well for extra hydration during long flights and drives.
Make traveling with kids easier by packing lots of snacks and water.
4. Download Entertainment on Devices Before You Leave
If you are bringing any devices to use during your travels, be sure to download any movies or tv shows before you leave and make sure to charge them fully. Many different entertainment apps now have options for downloading like Netflix, Prime, and Disney+, so take advantage of them and be sure you have enough space available.
Do not rely on WIFI during your vacation. Shared WIFI at hotels tends to download much slower, and depending on where you are traveling, you may not even have WIFI.
You can also download a new game that your child has been asking about playing, which will help keep them entertained. It will also get excited about the trip and help them endure the long travel days.
Another tip is to download the app for any airlines you may be flying with. Those apps offer many entertainment options, so it is handy to take advantage of them, especially when traveling with kids.
5. Bring Coloring Books, Crayons, and Puzzles
If traveling with kids, be sure to bring coloring books and crayons. There are many different travel-friendly options now that do not take up too much space in your luggage. These can help keep children busy during long flights or car rides which is always a bonus when traveling with kids.
You can also consider bringing a small puzzle along for the ride as well. Most travel puzzles come in travel-friendly boxes that are magnetic, and they are great to pull out when you want to help pass the time. You can also download puzzle apps on your devices if you wish to minimize items to pack.
6. Avoid Packing Too Many Toys
While it may seem tempting to pack many toys to keep your kids entertained while traveling, you should avoid doing this. Often, kids get bored of toys, and you will end up just lugging them around from place to place. It is essential to pack just a few durable and travel-friendly toys, so you don't lose any pieces during traveling.
If traveling abroad, try to pack items that will be familiar and easy for kids to understand so they feel comfortable while traveling. For instance, if your child loves dolls, consider packing one along and a book about the destination, which is more interactive and will get them excited about where they are going.
You will be amazed at the number of travel-friendly toy options available at your local toy store. Consider buying a couple of new toys and surprise them on the airplane or during a long car ride.
You can also pack new toys in their carry-on so that they discover them on their own during travel. The surprise will delight them and keep them distracted for a while.
7. Get Your Child Excited About the Trip Ahead of Time
In advance of your trip, consider watching movies or reading books about your destination, which will help get your child excited about your trip. By reading travel-related books or watching a film set in the destination country, you can familiarize them with the surroundings to feel comfortable while traveling.
Finding travel books with lots of photos and maps of your destination are a great way to get your kids excited. Pack a map and talk about your itinerary with your child, showing them pictures of any attractions or adventures you have planned.
If you are going on a long road trip, consider letting your child help decide where to stop and let them follow along on a map. The more you can include them in the traveling process, the more excited they will be, and it can help them feel a part of an adventure.
You can also ask your child to pack their suitcase so that they have a sense of ownership over traveling with you. In addition, traveling abroad is an excellent chance to learn about packing light, which is very useful for traveling.
8. Take the Stroller but Don't Overpack It
If traveling with a small child, be sure to bring the stroller for those adventures when they can't walk for long distances. However, don't overpack it so that you have to carry a heavy stroller.
Instead of packing lots of toys and things in your child's carry-on or suitcase, consider making them their own backpack, which can be easily attached to the stroller when traveling. It is an excellent way for kids to feel independent while traveling and know that they have everything they need.
If you are traveling abroad to Europe, avoid bringing an umbrella stroller which is challenging to maneuver on cobblestone roads. A stroller with more durable wheels will have an easier time navigating the cobblestone but are often bulkier than umbrella strollers, so it is a bit of a tradeoff.
Consider traveling by train if possible where there is more space to pack strollers.
9. Bring an Emergency Kit
Before traveling with kids, consider making an emergency kit for your child containing anything you may need during travel.
An emergency kit should include all essentials like bandaids, allergy medications, sunscreen, antibacterial wipes, etc. This kit should be stored in your carry-on so that you can easily access it during traveling.
A great tip for traveling abroad is to label each of these items with your child's name if they get lost. Labeling items can help you get them back to them if they drop the container during traveling.
You may also consider making one for yourself, including remedies for headaches, prescriptions, lotions, extra sunscreen, etc. An emergency kit is a must if traveling with a baby to keep them safe and comfortable.
10. Set Realistic Expectations
While traveling with kids, you should always set realistic expectations for your trip. If they are tired or hungry, don't push it and make traveling more complicated than needed. Don't expect to be exploring from morning until night. Kids need some downtime, so they don't get overtired.
Don't get frustrated if you don't make it to all of the attractions on your list or if they want to go back and play in the pool for a day. That's all part of traveling with kids. Of course, you will likely spend more time at your hotel or accommodation than exploring, but that is okay. Kids need downtime, and you may as well enjoy it too.
Being flexible while traveling with kids can be difficult but remember to have fun with them, not to get stressed out about making it everywhere on your list. Not every day needs to be jam-packed full of sightseeing if your kids are tired.
Schedule some time for just you and your significant other as well. For example, go out for a nice meal or go on a date night if traveling with friends where the parents can take turns watching all of the kids so that everyone gets a little downtime away from parenting responsibilities.
There are many things to consider when traveling with children. The experience can be wonderful but also challenging and frustrating at times. If you want your family's journey to go smoothly, you must have an idea of what to expect in advance so that you can prepare for the challenges ahead or avoid them altogether.
These top ten tips for traveling with kids will prepare you mentally before heading out on the road – whatever stage in life your child may be currently experiencing!
Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and the co-owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more.