Family trips are a great way to make lasting memories while spending quality time together. It takes a lot of planning to make family travel a success, and many parents aren’t sure where to begin. If you’re one of those parents, keep reading to learn the best tips for family traveling with kids.
Parents often leave their kids out of the planning process when planning family travel. One of the best tips for family traveling with kids is to involve the whole family in the vacation planning process. From toddlers to teenagers, allowing your children to be part of the process is a great way to make sure the whole family gets the most from their family trips. Not only is this one of the best tips for family traveling with kids, but it’s also the easiest.
Allowing your children to help in the planning can be as simple as asking for their thoughts, opinions, and feedback on options under consideration. Whether you’re looking at destination ideas, searching for things to do, evaluating where to stay, or choosing what restaurants to visit, involve your children in the decision-making.
By bringing your children into the planning process, you’ll help them develop confidence and build their enthusiasm for the upcoming travel. Older kids are an excellent resource for planning and are often eager to help with online research of attractions, activities, and restaurants—making them part of the process will help them feel like valued and important members of the family.
As parents, we often think we know what our kids want in a family vacation–by involving them, we can make sure of it!
Vacation should be fun for all—keep it that way by taking every necessary safety measure. Another of our best tips for family traveling with kids is to prepare for a safe and secure trip. Whether you’re embarking on a family road trip or boarding a flight to paradise, remember that safety and security should always come first.
It’s easy for parents to remember sunscreen and bathing suits for family vacations, but it’s important to consider other ways to be prepared while traveling. Stay well while traveling by packing hand sanitizer to keep germs away while kids play. If you’re traveling by air, TSA now allows one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags until further notice.
If a 12-ounce container of sanitizer is too bulky, disinfecting wipes are also allowed and are a great alternative. These wipes are a fantastic way to keep surfaces germ-free–whether it’s a rest area picnic table or a fold-down tray on a flight. And, as always, regular baby wipes make cleaning up little faces and hands a breeze while on the go.
Another best tip for family traveling with kids: If your child must be seated in a car seat or booster seat while in a vehicle, these seats should also be used while seated on aircraft. Not only is it safer, but it keeps the car seat with you, preventing the lost or delayed arrival of your child’s car seat. These seats can (and should) be fastened into airplane seats, just like in a vehicle.
While most airlines will allow you to check the seats into the baggage area, it’s not uncommon for the seats to be lost this way. Due to their unusual shape, car seats often get caught up in the luggage area and don’t make it off the plane when passengers disembark. There’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination to find your child’s car seat has been left on the plane.
If your car seat is lost in transit, most airlines will issue a loaner, but waiting in long lines at customer service to retrieve and return a loaner is not the best use of your travel time. Keeping your child’s car seat in the cabin of the plane means a secure flight for your child and guarantees the seat will be with you on the other end of your trip.
Another best tip for a family traveling with kids is to consider purchasing identification bracelets to be worn while on vacation. If they become separated or lost in a busy area or amusement park, the bracelet will make it easy for helpers to contact you. These waterproof, lightweight bracelets are inexpensive and come in many styles.
And remember, if you become separated from your child while on your family trips, make sure to keep your phone’s ringer on and the volume up, so you don’t miss the call.
Often overlooked, another of our best tips for family traveling with kids is always to make sure you have what you need to keep your phones and devices fully charged. Packing a charging block can be a life-saver and ensures all devices remain charged, regardless of your environment.
Fully charged phones ensure you are reachable in case of a lost child but will also be a lifesaver in case of a lost phone (this happens more often than you’d think).
In the hectic shuffle of travel, phones are easily separated from their owners. They fall out of pockets, get left in restaurants, or are forgotten on shop counters. On a recent trip, we had this very scenario take place. Thankfully, the phone was equipped with a tracking app, and we were able to recover the device within 24 hours after tracking its location.
A dead battery would have prevented the phone from being tracked and, ultimately, recovered if we had not charged the phone.
Of all the best tips for family traveling with kids, this is the one you should most consider. After two decades of family travel around the globe, the best family travel hack we’ve found is preceding checked bags when traveling by air. You’ll save time, money, and frustration by using carry-on only for your luggage—once you try this tip, you’ll never check another bag.
At a minimum, airlines usually allow each traveler one carry-on and one personal item. You might be skeptical about fitting everything into such limited space, but there is more than enough room. We no longer use wheeled suitcases and have never run out of space for our packed items.
Instead of wheeled carry-on suitcases, we purchased medium-sized lightweight travel backpacks, which serve as our carry-on bag; we each carry a regular-sized backpack as our item, maximizing the allowable packing space.
In addition to our clothing, shoes, and toiletries, we’ve easily fit beach towels, snorkel gear, and camera equipment in this same baggage—all with room to spare! We used this method on a recent two-week trip to Europe and had no problem bringing everything we needed.
This method’s ease, convenience, and portability cannot be beaten. Consider this: telescoping handles and wheels built into typical carry-on luggage takes up valuable packing space. By using travel backpacks, you’ll gain this space back for your items (and these backpacks come in various sizes and price points).
Your carry-on backpack and a personal item can be worn together, so your hands remain free (which is especially helpful if you’re also pushing a stroller). Plus, there are no wheels or handles on your luggage to break. This method makes navigating busy airports a breeze, as you can carry everything without dragging anything behind you through the terminal.
Whether traveling by plane, train, or automobile, keeping your family comfortable in confined spaces is one of the best tips for family traveling with kids. After all, the comfort of your travel companions can make or break the success of your journey.
For travel wear, we recommend layered, stretchy clothing. Leggings or athletic pants, t-shirts layered with a sweatshirt, warm socks, and easy-to-remove shoes are highly recommended. These items allow for ease of movement and can be removed as needed.
We also recommend a small blanket and a travel pillow to help keep cozy along the way. Earplugs and a travel mask are essential for soothing fussy sleepers for long journeys. Regardless of your mode of travel, hours in a cramped space creates challenges for all ages. But a little planning for comfort will go a long way to make the trip as pleasant and comfortable as possible.
Once your family is on the move for some vacation trips, boredom can set in quickly. Another one of our best tips for family traveling with kids is anticipating this challenge and preparing ahead of time. Occupying young travelers with entertainment is your best bet for dealing with this journey element.
We recommend packing appropriate entertainment items to distract young travelers along the way. Crayons and coloring books, playing cards, books, travel-sized games, and small toys are all great ways to keep kids busy while in transit. If you’re traveling by air, remember to double-check your child’s toys for items that resemble prohibited items. Nerf guns and water pistols may appear as dangerous items through the X-ray and shut down security checkpoints.
Electronic devices (phones, tablets, etc.) are great travel accessories when choosing entertainment items, but remember to be considerate of fellow travelers. All too often, parents forget that other travelers don’t appreciate the sound of children’s electronics or digital games.
While you may be used to hearing these devices, disrupting the peace of your fellow travelers is never okay. Age-appropriate earphones should always be used with your child’s devices in restaurants, public spaces, and while using transportation.
While we’re on the topic of electronic devices, additional best tips for family traveling with kids is to download viewable content before you embark on your trip. Download apps for your streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video onto your devices.
These apps allow programs and movies to be downloaded onto the device, allowing users to watch the content without a Wi-Fi connection, which may not be reliable (or available at all) while you’re traveling.
Another one of our best tips for family traveling with kids is recognizing that traveling to your destination can be a stressful time for young and old alike. New environments can be overwhelming for children, especially when paired with sleep and meal schedules disruptions. This, combined with overstimulation, often results in tired, cranky little travelers.
Children are more likely to act out and push boundaries to cope with family travel’s stress and fast pace in these scenarios. There’s nothing worse than being in a crowded plane or restaurant while your child has a meltdown. This is not the time for parents to stage a showdown with their children. For your sanity (and for the sake of others), it’s best to pacify your child and save the battle-of-the wills for another time.
Forethought is one of the best tips for family traveling with kids. In fact, one of the worst pitfalls in family trips is the failure to craft your itinerary for success. For example, when planning departure and arrival times, look for options that best align with your family’s current schedule. If your travel spans a typical mealtime, pack a hearty snack, or build time into the itinerary for a meal break.
If you’re traveling by air, book with an airline that allows you to pre-select your seats. While the cost for doing so may be slightly higher, you guarantee that your family members are seated together. If this isn’t possible, you can always ask other passengers to switch seats to accommodate your family. However, please know that other passengers are not obligated (and maybe unwilling) to give up their seats when asked.
It is also wise to research cafes and restaurants near your destination before you depart for your trip. Google maps and Yelp! are fantastic resources for this research. Read reviews and scan menus ahead of time, so you have an idea of available dining options that fit your family’s needs.
Pay special note to days and hours of operations. By researching ahead of time, you reduce the last-minute scramble to find a suitable restaurant that is open and appropriate for your family’s needs.
If you’ve selected a hotel or resort for your stay, don’t rely on the property’s website to inform you of construction projects, limited services, or unavailable amenities. Call ahead to ask about current projects that will impact the availability of onsite pools, closed areas, or limited services during your stay.
There’s nothing more disappointing than arriving in your hotel, only to find that the amazing pool is closed for construction or that the kids club activities have been discontinued. Many hotels charge resort fees of up to $50 per night regardless of closures or service limitations, so it’s best to be aware of these disruptions to services before you arrive.
Another one of our best tips for family traveling with kids is to check (and double-check) every aspect of your travel itinerary before you depart. Walk through every step of your family trips to eliminate surprises along the way. Unexpected hiccups occur from time to time—be prepared to pivot your plans if needed.
Map your routes ahead of time to check for road closures or detours impacting travel times. If you’re traveling by bus, train, or air, check the location of your terminal (and gate) ahead of time to locate the correct departure point—check-in to your flights the day before departure and double-check your seat assignments.
If adjustments are needed, plan to arrive extra early so you have time to work with gate agents who can sometimes make seating modifications. If possible, use your device to download carrier applications using the Apple App Store or Google Play and have electronic copies of all boarding passes and tickets downloaded to your device.
If you are renting a vehicle, check the rental agency’s location ahead of time. Many car rental agencies are listed as airport locations, but they are not in-terminal and require a shuttle ride to their location.
If this is the case, research where to catch the shuttle, how frequently they arrive, and how the shuttle will be identifiable. If your hotel offers an airport shuttle, these may be on-demand and require you to call ahead to request a pick-up.
Finally, one of the best tips for family traveling with kids is to reconfirm your reservations. If you have booked activities or excursions, reconfirm dates and times the day before your reservation. Weather, staffing challenges, or other unforeseen circumstances may cause disruptions to tour operations.
Most companies will contact customers to communicate such interruptions, but don’t rely on this to happen. Mistakes and surprises can happen when having family trips, and being proactive and double-checking your reservation is highly recommended.
Finally, one of the best tips for family travel is planning for downtime and leaving room for spontaneity. Overscheduling your family during your vacation can make your trip exhausting rather than relaxing. If possible, leave a few days open during your trip to allow time to explore the area and take in sights and scenery you discover along the way.
We hope you’ll agree these are the best tips for family traveling for kids. A little planning and forethought will help make your family’s next vacation full of cherished memories. Parents who plan ahead, keep safety in mind, and take steps for the comfort and entertainment of their family will be rewarded with positive travel experiences.
By following these best tips for family traveling with kids, your next adventure together will be as much about the journey as the destination!
4kids.com is your online resource guide for families with kids. Check out our list of resources, or browse through our things to do with kids near me. Still looking for more activities for kids in your area? No problem! We have our comprehensive listing of featured events in the region and our highly recommended things to do blog posts.
And if you’re in for some great savings, such as coupon codes or any special offers and promotions for your kids in your area, you can easily navigate our Deals button!
Just enter your email address below and you’ll get an email every time we publish a new post!