I am sure most people will agree with me when I say that traveling with kids is not easy. It is especially more daunting for first-timers.
Truth is, traveling with your kids can be amazing but extremely overwhelming. This is because of the many things you have to remember to pack and plan for. However, a good traveling plan is bound to improve your experience in a big way.
I have had my own daunting experiences and I am happy to share tips I have picked up over time. In this article, I am going to give you 15 tips for traveling with your kids. Want a hassle-free trip next time you are traveling with those little darlings? Read on.
1. Make child-Friendly Flight Plans
Flying with kids and especially toddlers is not a so-very-fun experience for parents. Especially over very long flights. Kids can get fidgety and cranky not to mention how hard it can be to calm them in these situations. Below are a few tips for flying with your kids.
- Plan flight times strategically: when planning to travel with your children, it is key to look at their schedules and make travel plans accordingly. Most airlines have flights at different times of the day. Ensure that their sleeping time does not coincide with boarding and landing times.
- Long Layovers? Yes, please. I am in no rush thanks to this little brood: when traveling with children especially toddlers, book flights with long layover periods. This will give you plenty of time to take care of all the needs and leave you a little time for yourself.
Long layovers give you time to sit down to eat and the kids can go to the bathroom as many times as they want. Longer waiting periods means you will wait for your next flight longer but your family will board the next flight without any hassles and in no rush.
- Check-In Early: no one likes to line up for anything. Especially not with kids running around and getting impatient as you wait to board the plane. There are several ways to reduce the checking in and security clearance hassle. The most inexpensive is checking in early before other passengers start coming in.
This will leave you enough time to ensure the kids are well settled in as well as give them time to prepare for the flight. Other not-so-cheap ways of avoiding long waiting times include traveling premium class or sign up for TSA pre-check.
- Have kids carry their own bags: older children who can be able to carry or pull their own bags should do it. This is to reduce the hassle of you having to deal with both the children and the bags not to mention that it teaches them how to be responsible.
Additionally, having kids handle their own luggage prevents over packing and allows you to move through airports faster. If what you are carrying is heavy or sensitive, you can choose to carry it yourself to reduce the risk of causing injury to your child or destroying the item.
2. Pre-book, pre-book, pre-book!
When planning to travel with your children, pre-book everything beforehand. This includes flights, hotel, and even the activities that you intend to take part in. With kids, you do not have the luxury of gambling with situations.
If you do not pre-book for everything you might just find yourself struggling to amuse tired, hungry, and restless kids. Booking ahead gives you and your kids time to relax and enjoy the trip without having to wait for anything.
- Most vacation activities can be planned online: This makes the entire travel experience especially with kids easier. Imagine promising your kids an awesome afternoon at a trail only to get there and find that it is fully booked.
Reserving early prevents you from disappointing your kids and giving them a flawless vacation full of fun. It does not hurt to call and reserve even when reservations are not required. This is to be sure that there are slots available in addition to confirming that the place actually exists!
3. Children discounts? That’s a thing?
Travel companies, tour guides, hotels, and even airlines have discounts when you are traveling with children. However, some do not tell you this unless you ask. I have discovered that you can save a lot with these discounts.
If you are not sure whether the company you are dealing with offers a children’s discount, you can always ask when making bookings. It will not hurt to ask plus you get to save the extra money that you could have otherwise spent.
4. Practice a safety routine
Kids can get lost when traveling as has been seen in many airports and train stations. Before you leave home, ensure that you practice a safety routine with your kids in preparation for the occurrence of a safety scenario.
You can advise your children on what to do in case they get lost. However, to emphasize this, it is good to practice what they would do in such situations. For example, you can help them know how to identify security by their uniform in order to get help.
5. Know where your kids are always
It only takes a few seconds to lose a child. One minute you are looking at them, you turn around to buy candy and on turning back, they are gone. There are a few tips to this end that can come in quite handy when you are traveling with your children.
- Always have your eyes at them on all times: when traveling with kids, ensure that they are always in your field of sight. When traveling with another adult, one of you should have their eyes on the children at all times when the other is busy checking in.
Hold their hands to keep them close or have them sit in a specific position. Before you leave home make sure you give them a few tips on what to do in case they get lost. For example, you can ask them to talk to a cop to ask for help.
- Have a GPS tracker attached to them: you can tag your child with a GPS tracker to know when they wander off too far. It points to the exact location of your child so in case one gets lost, you can be able to track them.
A tracker can be disguised as a watch or can be pinned on the clothes so your child might not even know they are wearing a tracker. For older kids, you can agree on a location to meet in case anyone gets lost.
- Your kids should have your contact information: this will come in handy in case your child gets lost. People can contact you in case they find your lost child. Basic contact information to ensure your child has includes your name, local and email, address, and phone number.
For very young children who cannot memorize this information, you can write a small note with this information and put it in their pocket. Ensure that you tell your child how to find it to facilitate getting help in case anything goes wrong.
6. Car seats, baby monitors, and clothes for all occasions? Do we really need all that?
Parents most times end up overpacking when traveling with children. This makes it very hard to organize stuff around and makes items hard to find. Not to mention all the extra baggage and charges that might come with it. Below are a few tips to help you prevent overpacking.
- Essentials only: ensure that you have a bag for your essentials. These include medicines, clothes, snacks, and food. This bag needs to be with you at all places and should be kept within easy reach in case you need anything to go.
This will prevent overpacking since you only gather the most important things. Additionally, also consider packing clothes and shoes for the family that can be worn on different occasions. This is to avoid carrying a lot of luggage plus the kids.
- Can you get an app to do it? : Thanks to the continuous evolution of technology, apps are increasingly taking over functions of basic electronic devices like baby monitors and radio among others. If you can get an app that works similarly to a particular electronic, save the space for something else and leave the bulky gadget at home.
- Really? I can rent baby items over there?: To avoid the extra hassle of a lot of luggage especially when traveling with kids, you can rent baby items at the place you are traveling to if it is an option. Bulky baby items that are usually rented out include car seats, strollers, and bassinets.
7. I’m hungry. That is why I am cranky
A hungry child is an unhappy child. You do not want to deal with a hungry child when traveling so ensure that you carry snacks with you. Avoid packing sugary foods to avoid crashes.
Have a water bottle for everyone to keep the children hydrated during the entire trip. Do not assume that you will buy them on the way. Unexpected things happen such as getting stuck in traffic that can leave you stuck with a cranky hungry child.
8. Travel entertainment is a must
Keeping kids entertained is imperative. This adds to the thrill and memories of the trip. Several ways of keeping your children entertained on the road include:
- Bringing electronic devices: electronic devices have a range of applications and games that can keep children busy as they wait on queues or during rides. These will keep them entertained and busy with little time to bother you.
Ensure that you preload the devices with music and movies beforehand because you might not get access to more later. Additionally, ensure that you monitor and control device usage for your children.
- Toys and books, yes please: toys and books are bound to keep your kids entertained throughout the trip. To be able to associate specific toys and books with specific memories, you can always try and get them new books and toys. These will be able to grab their attention even more.
You can buy these from souvenir shops. What’s more, you do not have to worry about carrying paperback books since this only adds to the luggage. You can carry audiobooks for them and yourself too! Additionally, pack easy games for the trip. These can help you and the kids pass time as you wait in queues and during the entire trip.
- Get them a camera: if your kids are responsible and grown enough to handle a camera, it would be a great idea to hand them one. You can by a low-cost camera or a phone for them to be able to capture precious moments.
Taking pictures requires focus and this will allows your kid to be keener during the trip. What’s more, your kids get to focus more on their environment. They are able to appreciate more detail of whatever landscape, city, or beach you are visiting.
- Travel journals: to get older kids to be keener on the trip, you can get them a travel journal for them to be able to document their travel. They also get to open up about what they like and what they do not for better future planning in addition to improving their writing skills.
Moreover, children like collecting things. You can encourage them to collect pieces for a scrapbook. These pieces can include postcards, welcome messages, and tickets that remind the family of the thrill that they had during the trip.
9. Do not overload the itinerary
When traveling, avoid planning for too many activities. This is because everyone needs some bit of downtime and this is required even more when you are traveling with kids. The amount of downtime required will vary depending on the age of your kids. Always remember:
- Kids’ sleep schedules: when planning for activities to do on a trip, one might be tempted to book very many activities to take advantage of the short time. However, when traveling with kids, always schedule their sleep time.
Interrupting sleep schedules can lead to cranky kids who are not excited about doing the much you planned to do.
- Things take longer than planned on trips: trip activities can sometimes take more time than planned. This is especially for tourist activities since they are mostly exploratory and no one is in a hurry.
Having a congested itinerary might leave you in a big fix since you might not be able to make it to all planned activities. Especially with kids and all the bathroom breaks they require. Always leave your schedule open with large breaks between sessions.
10. Do not forget the first aid kit
When traveling with children, remember to carry a basic first aid kit or items. Do not strain to carry much as you cannot carry all of it. Remember to carry essential drugs, like allergy and pain relieving medication. Bandages and medicated spirit is also important in case of small accidents.
Before you travel, check for local hospitals around the area you will be traveling to. This is especially important if you are traveling with a child with a special condition or illness that requires special care.
11. Traveling with babies
Traveling with small babies and toddlers is even more hectic and requires a little more packing. Babies require special attention and are quite messy so you have to be prepared for the rough experience. Below are some tips on how to prepare to travel with a baby or toddler.
- More diapers and wipes: when on a trip with a baby, carry diapers and wipes in excess. After all more is always better than less. This is because babies have to go lots of times even over small journeys.
- Carry extra clothes both for the baby and you: babies are messy and they can end up ruining their and your clothes too. They can spill food on you, puke on your dress, and diapers can leak onto your outfit. This is why you need extra clothes for both of you.
Carry an entire set of clothes as opposed to specific ones. This is because you do not know the level of damage that the baby can cause to your outfit. This applies to the baby’s clothes too.
- Carry gum and a feeding bottle to help equalize air pressure: popping ears is important when a plane is taking off or landing. This is because of the unequal air pressure that can be very uncomfortable. Compared to adults who can equalize theirs easily, toddlers and babies cannot.
To help them equalize the pressure, you can have the toddlers chew gum. This pops their ears which levels the pressure outside and inside. You can feed smaller babies at this time because the sucking motion helps their ears pop naturally.
12. Kids, would you like to plan the trip activities with me?
Engaging your kids in the planning of the trip will get them more excited and interested in things that they come up with. You do not want to impose activities on them without being sure that they like them. Give them the available options and let them choose their favorites.
Select tour activities that are in line with their interests for more fun. Let them plan what day and what time to do what. Do not forget about yourself as you indulge your little brood, however. It is easy to forget about yourself when you are engrossed watching kids have fun.
13. Know when to be flexible and when to be rigid
When you get to your destination, it is key to be able to know when to adapt and when to juggle. Below we look at how to enjoy your vacay when you get to your destination.
- Do not move from hotel to hotel: when traveling with children, avoid changing hotels more than required. Constant moving brings the stress of constant packing and unpacking especially knowing how messy kids can be.
Staying at one location also gives your children some level of comfort. They sleep better and are more relaxed. Avoid changing hotels unless it is extremely necessary to avoid destabilizing your kids.
- Be flexible: you should above all strive to give your kids a smooth trip with minimal hassle. But sometimes, things might not go as planned. You should anticipate that things might not go as planned and you should be able to be flexible in case something does not go as planned.
Avoid getting stressed when things do not work out and have a list of miscellaneous activities that the family can take part in when they have free time on their hands. This will also keep the kids distracted they will not even notice the canceled activity.
- Break from routine: A vacation is all about having fun. Being free without having to be tied to routines. Let the kids have special moments like staying up with you guys. They can have regular extended bedtime to indulge a little bit more. Your kids will most definitely appreciate this small yet very important gesture to them.
Furthermore, let them eat whatever they like. Allow them to indulge their ice cream taste buds with lunch every day to be able to have a different feel away from home. A little allowance to spend about town on a little junk will not hurt anyone as well.
Some countries require additional paperwork when traveling with your kids while others only require your passport. Before traveling with your kids, ensure that you know the travel identification requirements in the country that you are traveling to.
To avoid embarrassing situations when traveling especially with children who are not yours, ensure you have carried all the required identification information. You would not want to be arrested and separated from your child even for a few minutes due to an avoidable misunderstanding.
15. Try out public transport
Public transport gives you a deeper insight into the culture of the people of the region you are visiting. Children get to see what other cultures are all about and take pictures of beautiful cities and architecture.
Traveling with kids is a total hassle. When traveling with kids, you can almost be sure that something will go wrong. Worry not, however. The experience does get better with time.
Similarly, we hope that after reading this the hassle of traveling with children has been lessened for you.
We have looked at quite a detailed list on how to plan to travel with your kids which will come in handy for anyone traveling with kids, whether toddlers or older children. You do not have to get it all the first time, I mean no one is a super parent. You can always come back to refer before your next trip.
You can watch a video by Virgin Atlantic on how to travel with kids here:
Virgin Atlantic is a long standing airline that has earned accolades over the years. This video is a compilation of their tested tricks to keep your kids entertained and calm throughout the flight.