Ed note: It may just now be spring, but I’ve got summer vacation on the brain. If you’re traveling with kids – don’t limit yourself. Here are some stellar ideas for managing a successful family trip. You may even find some time for rest and relaxation!
Traveling as a family can be fun and educational. It can teach your family about other parts of the country or world and you’ll experience and see things you may never see otherwise. It can also seem daunting, especially if you’re traveling with young children. However, there are tips and tricks you can learn to help ease the stress of traveling with kids and make the experience one you won’t forget.
Consider all your options – not just the cheapest ones.
When you’re booking a trip for your family, it can be an expensive endeavor, but instead of looking at the cheapest options, consider extra fees or even just simple convenience.
For instance, booking a discount airline that charges for carry-ons and seat upgrades may not be worth the savings. Check out this full list of fees from all airlines to decide if that low fare is really saving you money. Another example, you may choose a hotel closer to where you’re visiting to make it easier to travel.
Look for amenities and activities that cater to kids.
When you’re considering locations to visit, look for activities for kids in your children’s age range. Often you can find a local parenting site dedicated to helping you find events and places to visit. When looking at hotels or resorts to stay at, ask for information when you book or research their kids’ activities online. You may be happily surprised to find family-friendly hotel suites with items like bunk beds in the kids’ room or cookies and milk at bedtime.
Pack everything but the kitchen sink.
It goes without saying that traveling with kids means a lot of extra baggage, literally. Just make sure you weigh them before you head to the airport.
Some must haves include:
- Extra clothes
- Small packages of laundry detergent in case you need to wash items
- A first aid kit including regular medications and anything you might need if someone gets ill
- Chargers for all your devices
- Mobile battery packs for charging on the go
- Favorite snacks
- Books for bedtime
- A few toys (especially for younger kids)
Have a plan.
When I travel solo or with my husband, we like to wander, but that doesn’t fly with kids. Even as kids get older, a family trip may mean they want to see and do different things than you would have considered. Take time to plan out a rough itinerary for each day to ensure you have something engaging to do and you check off everyone’s must-see lists. It’s also helpful to have a backup plan in case things don’t work out. Maybe a museum is packed or the kids are tired and hungry (or you are!), so have a plan to head somewhere quiet nearby to grab a snack before you get back to sightseeing.
Look for plans for specific places like Disney World plans which take into account park attendance. You can plan a trip yourself or use websites like Tripomatic or apps (see this list from Lifehacker) to help you plan your sightseeing.
Don’t be afraid to split your family into groups.
While it’s lovely to spend time all together, sometimes it’s necessary to create smaller groups. A tip we’ve learned through experience is to plan to split up the adults into two groups. With four kids of varying ranges it’s inevitable that not everyone will enjoy the same activities, so we’ve found it’s beneficial to everyone if we split up. We can always come back together for our next meal or the next stop on our agenda.
Ship items you need ahead of time.
Whenever possible ship items to your destination. Often hotels are happy to accept items in advance of your stay (check to see if they charge). It’s great to arrive to your destination and have a box full of diapers waiting for a baby or water bottles for your Florida vacation in the summer.
You can call the concierge at your hotel or resort to find out what local grocers deliver or do a quick Google search with your resort or city and grocery delivery. You can also use shipping services like Amazon to ship products directly.
Accept that some things will go wrong.
There are always things that go wrong when you travel, whether it’s the toddler that needs to use the bathroom as the plane is boarding or the teenager who forgot to bring their retainer. Plan ahead – including saving extra money in your budget and having a little extra patience – and you’ll have a great time despite any hiccups.
What advice do you have to make traveling with your family easier?