As we plan our annual summer vacation later in June, I can’t help but recall all the travel tips and tricks that have helped us make road trips and flights easy and stress-free with our daughter in tow. Whether she was a baby or a toddler, schlepping her around was easy-peasy because we devoured books and blogs that helped us plan for a hassle-free journey.
After 4 years of traveling as a family, here are 10 of our top “travel with kids” tips to make journeys easy for everyone, you included:
1. Travel with Kids Means Planning, Planning, Planning
Yes, even before you book the tickets, I’d recommend planning everything in great detail. My home management binder has a travel checklist (actually 3!) that includes packing lists for all 3 of us, before-we-book and before-we-leave lists. I’ll share the downloads soon, as soon as I finish making them pretty! Promise!
Planning means reviewing hotels that are child-friendly, choosing a departure and arrival time that will be easiest for kids to deal with and ensuring that you have everything you need to make your holiday fun for everyone. Planning also means factoring in delays at the airport or traffic snarls. It means accounting for extra rest stops or a sudden bout of motion sickness.
Whether it is making lists and crossing them off or simply, packing everything you need well in advance, plan to have a good, happy holiday and you will.
2. Always Have a Kid-Friendly Menu at Hand
Whether you travel by air or by train or road, make sure you have a good stock of travel-friendly, child-friendly snacks and drinks to keep little tummies full and tiny travelers in a happy mood. If you’re taking a flight, check with the airlines to find out if they have a child-friendly menu. Else, pack snacks that are allowed on flights or I’d even recommend, looking for a different flight option. British Airways Australia, for instance, offers a special child-friendly menu for long haul flights that parents can book free of charge in advance.
3. Travel Toys make Journeys Fun and Easy
While you must carry old favorites to comfort and soothe a distressed child, I also strongly recommend carrying a stash of ‘new’ toys and activity books to amp up the fun factor. We have a simple travel toy kit that includes a few musical or activity based toys, a coloring book, a pack of crayons, and of course, old favorites. Need some ideas? Check out this big list of travel toys and activities for kids of all ages.
4. Ease the Stress of Traveling by Preparing Kids for It
Regardless of how many trips they’ve been on, when traveling with young kids, always prepare them for it. Talk to them about what would happen during security checks, in-flight or even, during a road trip. Let them know where you’re going. Point it out and mark it on a map for a long journey. For first-time travelers, reading about flying or train travel will help them get ready for the crowd, the strange environment and of course, the journey itself.
5. Choose Child-Friendly Modes of Travel, If Possible
When our daughter was a baby, we preferred traveling by road and by air, for the simple reason that these modes of travel were more comfortable than a train or bus ride. Road trips were our preferred mode of travel for shorter distances since we could plan rest stops, take bathroom or diaper change breaks and also, keep her entertained in her car seat easily.
While it may not always be possible to choose a mode of transport that suits your child, you can always scout around for the best option available. For instance, if a flight is all that you can take, look around for an option that is child-friendly and offers special facilities, such as easy check-ins to parents with young kids.
6. Get All the Help You Can
When I say, ‘help’, I don’t mean hire a nanny for the trip. Though that would be nice, wouldn’t it? Anyway, what I do mean is get help from your spouse or other adult traveling partners. Take turns to keep the kids busy, the baby soothed and fed or simply, rest.
If you’re traveling alone by air, say a heartfelt prayer, call the airlines and ask about their Meet and Assist programs. My sister-in-law, Prachi, traveled alone by train with two kids, under 5 years of age and her greatest tips were to keep the kids fed, take them with you when you go to the restrooms and carry enough toys to keep them busy and out of each other’s hair.
7. Dress for Comfort to Make Travel Easy
I can vouch for easy dressing to be a travel sanity saver. Try changing a shrieking baby in a cramped restroom that stinks to high heavens and you’ll know what I mean. When Manini was a baby and we’d go on road trips, simple dresses that allowed easy access for changes were our preferred travel attire.
Even now, that she is toilet-trained, I prefer making her wear slacks, shorts or dresses to make trips to the restrooms easy-peasy and mess-free.
Also, you should make sure you dress comfortably, wear comfy shoes and carry a change of clothes in your hand bag so that should a sick child throw up on you, you can continue the rest of your journey in a clean shirt easily.
8. Make Good Health and Safety a Priority
Always, always travel with a well-stocked first aid kit as well as common pediatric medicines for cold, cough and fever, and stomach upsets. This Kiss It Better bag in wallet size seems perfect for families on the go. Even if you start the journey with a perfectly healthy kid, there is no guarantee that he would arrive at the destination without a fever or a sniffling nose. However, never administer any medication without checking with your child’s paediatrician first which is why your first aid and medicine kit should include the necessary phone numbers as well.
9. Pack Two Nights Before and Pack Less
Want to be all organized and ready to board the train, plane or car? Pack less.
Yes, you don’t need to carry 10 outfits for your child unless you’ll be gone a month. Even then, you can manage with less. We have. Kids clothes, fortunately are small and easy to wash in the bathroom sink and dry in the hotel room. And if you’ll be staying at a friend or relative’s house, then that chore is taken care of by using your host’s washing machine. So, make things easy for yourself by packing less and packing well in advance.
If two days ahead is a bit much, go with at least one day in advance but never, ever leave it for the last minute. It is a surefire way to get all stressed out, forget important things, like a favorite toy and feel all wound up all the time. Ask me how I know!
10. Plan a Family Trip as a Family
Finally, when you’re traveling as a family, make it a group decision. If your co-traveler is a baby, then consider her feeding and sleeping schedules to plan flights, rest stops, arrival and departure times. When you’re traveling with toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarteners or older kids, have them join in the planning of the travel schedule and the itinerary thereafter.
By including a few activities or suggestions that each makes, you’re headed for a more enjoyable time than when you do all the planning on your own. Our daughter, for instance, loves splashing in a pool during the hot summer days and one of her main requests is that the hotel we stay at has a pool. So, we try to accommodate that as much as possible. If that isn’t possible, we ask her what else would she like to do, see or eat and then, make that happen for her.
Also, remember that what worked last time may not work this time or again, it may. The secret is to be prepared, plan and make the most of your time together. Sleep when the kids are napping. Stay hydrated. Laugh a lot. It works.
It makes our family holiday feel like a family holiday.
More Tips on Traveling with Kids
- How to Travel Long Distance With Little Ones (and not go insane) by Simple Mom
- Flying with Babies, Toddlers and Kids by Delicious Baby
- 50 Top Tips for Traveling with Kids by the Guardian UK
- Top 5 Family Travel Tips by Travel with Your Kids.com
- Eating Healthy When Traveling on this site
How will you make traveling with the kids easy, fun and stress-free this year? What are your fave travel tips? Let’s add to the list and talk about it in the comments.
Photo Credit 2: Carlos Felipe Pardo