Traveling with kids doesn’t have to be anxiety inducing and overwhelming. Traveling has always been one of my biggest passions in life. My children, Ella (age 8) and Logan (age 6) really thrive when we travel. They are very interested in learning about the places we visit and excited to experience whatever adventure awaits them. After traveling with Ella and Logan numerous times domestically and internationally, I’ve come up with some tips for families that might help when organizing your next trip. Happy Traveling!
1. Start traveling with your children early in their life
Getting your children used to traveling in cars, airplanes, and new situations and places early in their lives will make travel easier and much more enjoyable for the whole family in the future.
2. Set simple and realistic expectations
Travel is a luxury and you want to get the most out of your trip, but be realistic and understand that kids (and parents) have limits. Create a modest itinerary to follow, but also plan some down time for the kids to swim in the pool, read book, draw or color or even watch a show. Travel is highly stimulating for everyone and it’s really nice to have an hour or two in the day to recharge batteries.
3. Empower Your Children by including them in the planning process
Giving your children a voice during the travel process allows them to feel empowered and included. This often fosters vivid and positive memories of their trip. Show them pictures, read them books and websites and ask them to pick out the things they most want to see or do. You can also give them the responsibility of packing, carrying and checking in their own bags, if they’re 5 or older. These tasks will give them the opportunity to strengthen their social and reasoning abilities, all while also feeling a little bit more like a “grown up” by doing things like mommy and daddy.
4. Pack Small and Pack Light
Try to pack only the basics, especially for the kids. As a general rule, I typically pack one outfit per day and only one extra outfit for myself and my kids. If you run out of clean clothes, you can always use your hotel laundromat or buy new clothes. And this may sound like a weird rule of thumb, but I pack play clothes that are on their “last legs” for my kids. They still feel good on the kids and look great in pictures, but maybe they’re just a little snug on the kids and are ready for the donation pile. I pack them for our trip and donate the clothes to a local charity at the end of the trip. We can use the extra suitcase space to pack souvenirs from the trip.
5. Pack Simple Snacks
No one wants a gooey layer of gummy bears, fruit snacks or moist cereal bars all over their car seats or the floor of the airplane. Think about packing a healthy picnic snack pack in a large Ziploc bag. I typically pack apples, string cheese, pretzel pieces, apple sauce pouches, baby carrots, sliced celery and hummus along with disposable bottles of water.
6. Pack Entertainment
Long flights and road trips are tedious, especially for children. Avoid the “Are we there yet” question by packing some well planned educational material. Our kids have the original tablet, an Etch-a-Sketch. Doodleboards are also ideal for kids ages 1-8. If you have an Apple or Android tablet such as an Ipod Touch, Ipad or Samsung Galaxy, download a combination of education apps and children’s movies or television shows.
7. Pack a First Aid Kit
A thermometer, Infant or Junior Strength Fever and Pain Reducer, Band-Aids, Neosporin and any other medications that your children may take regularly. Don’t forget to pack adult pain reliever for those occasional headaches. And pack tissues and paper towels.
8. Spend time together as a family
Being able to travel with my kids is a huge privilege and is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. After checking into the hotel, take your kids on a tour or scavenger hunt of the hotel. Then, take them to the swimming pool. As we all know, the kids don’t really care where you are once you arrive at your destination—as long they have a swimming pool at the hotel. Get the pool time out of the way early in the trip before exploring your new destination.
9. Schedule just the right amount of site seeing
Choose a handful of the best attractions for the duration of the trip. Find local playgrounds and parks. Take lots of breaks, including a long, leisurely lunch or dinner.
10. Don’t worry about packing your best camera
Most of us have smartphones that take great pictures and great video. Just make sure to back up your photos on your laptop or cloud once you return to your vacation home or your hotel.
Bonus Tip: Pack your sense of humor
Definitely bring a playful attitude. Traveling is supposed to be FUN! Do you remember what it was like when you were a kid or a teenager? You laughed at just about everything! Don’t stress the small stuff! If you forget to pack your underwear or your toothbrush, instead of crying and groaning, just start laughing. Your children will thank-you for all the laughs and the fun! Those little goof ups will be part of a great memory. A few bumps are going to happen, unless you’re the luckiest parent on the planet—so try to fret less and laugh a little more!
Do you have any travel tips that make your life easier? Please share in the comments!