Travel with kids is something many people deem impossible or unnecessary, but taking your kids along on your adventures can be very rewarding for you and them. Traveling with children, especially younger kids doesn’t come without its challenges, but the payoff and satisfaction are well worth the effort. Learning about new cultures, understanding history, and developing an open mind are just a few of the benefits your children can reap from traveling with you. If you want to travel with kids, here’s everything you need to know to have an awesome adventure every time.
The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Kids
Whether you are hopping on a plane and flying halfway around the world or your destination is only a few hours away, many of your trips can be planned using the following steps and tips. Preparedness is the key to traveling with kids. Use this guide as a checklist before each trip so you and your family can have a stress-free journey.
Plan and Book Ahead
Planning ahead is important in order to get the most out of your trip. When you have the basics covered ahead of time, you won’t have to spend valuable time at your destination deciding where to stay, where to eat, and which attractions to explore. When you are booking ahead of time, choose foods and activities based on the interests of you and your kids. If you are traveling to Orlando, but none of your children like Disney, then don’t feel obligated to pay a visit to the famed theme park. Most places offer so much more than meets the eye, so follow your heart instead of the trends.
Food is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of travel. Long days and lots of walking will leave you and your kids famished and ready to eat at the first restaurant that pops up on Trip Advisor. While you don’t have to have every meal planned, be sure to book a couple of mealtimes at local eateries to get a taste of the local culture and support the local businesses. If you are worried you won’t find kid-friendly options, just keep in mind that there are children living in the place you are going to, and the restaurants will likely have options to accommodate small customers.
If you are looking to save money and want to avoid dragging your kids to a restaurant when they aren’t in the best mood, it is recommended to book a room with a kitchenette. This will allow you to buy a few groceries and cook food for the whole family. Kids can be picky and may not be able to handle unfamiliar foods during the entire trip. Having a backup plan and a way to prepare their favorites can save a lot of stress and tears.
Hotels and Airbnb are the most common types of accommodations. Depending on your destination, you may find that it’s easier and more cost-efficient to rent an entire home on Airbnb for you and your kids. This will allow everyone to have their own space during your stay. Living with your children in a hotel room for a week may prove to be stressful and may damper the trip. Renting out a home will allow you to have separate bedrooms, a kitchen, bathrooms, and a common area to spend time together in. The earlier you book your accommodations, the easier it is to get an ideal price. Spend time searching for the best value for you and your family rather than waiting until the last minute.
If you are going on a cruise or are staying at an all-inclusive resort, you’re in luck. You don’t have to worry about booking separate accommodations, and pre-planning for mealtimes isn’t a worry either. The best part about booking these types of trips is that they typically include kid-friendly activities, so you won’t have to worry about keeping the little ones from boredom while you enjoy the sunshine and salty air.
Getting your kids involved with the planning process can help them enjoy the trip even more. Older children can pick out which activities they want to do and which sites they want to see. Getting them involved will get them excited for the trip rather than feeling like they are being dragged far away from the comforts of home on a trip they don’t find very fun.
The next few tips will cover flying and traveling internationally. Taking your kids out of the country may seem intimidating and some people even frown upon it. However, there is no better learning opportunity for children than experiencing cultures that aren’t their own.
First and foremost, be sure to check the validity of each passport. Most countries require that your passport be valid at least six months beyond your return date. Be sure to closely examine each of your children’s passports for errors and expiration dates that occur too soon. Failure to renew outdated passports will result in the expired passport holder being unable to travel outside of the United States.
When you are flying, sometimes it’s better to choose comfort over low-priced seating, especially when you are traveling with kids. Extra legroom is a godsend on a long flight, and comfortable seating makes it easier for your children to get some shut-eye. Be sure to pack a neck pillow for you and a comfort object, like a blanket or stuffed toy, for your children.
The airport you are flying out of should be able to tell you about car seat and stroller logistics. Some airlines will allow you to fly with these items at no extra charge. You may bring one or both of these items as courtesy items depending on which airline you are flying with. Pricing and other details may be listed on their website.
Choosing direct flights will make getting to your destination much easier on you and your children. Layovers can be exhausting nightmares, especially for young children who tire easily and may not be able to keep up with the fast pace of running to catch the next flight. If possible, try to choose direct flights or limit your trip to one layover.
Flying into the closest airport to your destination will also make the trip easier on your children. You will be able to save money on cabs or rideshares and check into your room for a nap before you head out to see the sights. The less time and distance between home and your destination, the smoother the trip will be for everyone.
Ticketing for Kids
One of the most important things to cover about airline travel is lap child and seat tickets. Children under two years of age may be able to fly for free and sit on your lap for the duration of the flight. Lap infant tickets are a complicated and controversial topic, but parents have been able to save money by booking their children as lap infants. The rule states that the number of people in each row cannot be greater than the number of facemasks above. It is never guaranteed that you will have an empty seat next to you, so you must be prepared to hold your child for the entire ride if you choose to book their flight this way.
Always bring identification for your child, no matter how young they are.
Check-up Before You Check-in
One final thing to note about planning and booking ahead is that you should see your family doctor before taking your kids out of the country. The CDC recommends that your kids visit the doctor about a month before your trip to ensure that they have the proper vaccines and medications to keep them safe when traveling. The doctor will make sure your kids are in proper traveling health and be able to discuss your plans with you to caution you of any diseases to be wary of.
Don’t Over Plan
Over planning is the quickest way to squash the wanderlust and spontaneity that are so characteristic of travel. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind when planning your trip is quality over quantity. If you plan on doing one activity per day, you will be able to take your time to fully enjoy that experience. Leaving an open schedule will reduce stress for you and your kids and allow spontaneous events to arise.
No matter how carefully you plan your trip, there are going to be bumps along the way. Unexpected belly aches and bad weather can throw your entire itinerary off. Keep calm, take a few deep breaths, and do your best to make the most of the quality time with your kids. While you may not get to everything on your to-do list, your kids will love getting to spend time with you in an exciting new place. Travel is all about learning to go with the flow, and your kids can learn how to improvise and be flexible when issues arise.
The first step in packing is to make sure your luggage will accommodate the needs of your growing family. If you have more children traveling with you than on your last trip, be sure to do a practice packing session to make sure everything fits. There are many excellent luggage sets available online at affordable prices, but you will need to allow enough time for shipping if you discover that you need to purchase more luggage.
Research the forecast for your destination and pack accordingly. Ten-day forecasts are invaluable when trip planning, but they may change. Climate information for your destination can be found online, and it is based on data collected over many years. In any case, it’s best to be prepared for unexpected weather changes like rain and chilly nights. If you are going camping, you may want to pack an extra jacket and an extra pair of shoes for each person.
Kids travel better when they have familiar routines and items on the trip. Don’t forget your everyday essentials when traveling. Things like toothpaste, medicine, and formula are obvious, but also be sure to pack a few comfort objects for your child. Let them bring along their favorite toy and pack plates and utensils for small children if they use special ones at mealtimes.
Children who are old enough to pack their own suitcase may still need to be supervised. Allowing them to pack for themselves can be a great learning experience. Just check to make sure their suitcase includes underwear and not just their doll or race car collection!
No matter where you are headed, it’s always a good idea to pack a first aid kit, especially when you are bringing the kids along. Children tend to be accident-prone, and it never hurts to carry a few extra bandages along.
Be Ready for Delays and Long Journeys
Delays, cancellations, layovers, traffic, and flights that seemingly never end are all part of travel. When you are bringing kids along for the ride, hours sitting on the interstate and long flights will be marked by whining voices and squirmy bodies. The best way to avoid your children getting restless is to pack toys, games, books, and their favorite tech to keep them occupied every step of the way.
Nowadays, most kids are happy reading on their tablets, playing games on your smartphone, or listening to music. Since hours of entertainment can be loaded onto your devices, this will save you space in your bag and keep the kids happy for the whole trip.
Remember When You Were a Kid?
I’ve been traveling since before I could even walk! I took my very first steps on vacation and on my first long-haul flight, I remember being given a special lanyard to let everyone know I was an unaccompanied minor. I always loved flying, and I knew one day, I would want my kids to have the same experiences. I always disliked layovers because I couldn’t leave the airport and go explore the surrounding area. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade any of my travel experiences for the world, and I am thrilled that my family and I live a lifestyle that includes a lot of traveling.
Travel with kids is 100% doable if you follow these steps and tips. Fostering a love for travel and an open mind in your kids is one of the best ways to help them grow and learn. When you are ready to take your kids on the road, simply refer to this guide for a no-fuss adventure and a lifetime of memories made.