Strategies for Traveling With Children

By Julia Califano · September 26, 2023 · 8 minute read

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Strategies for Traveling With Children

No matter your age or your experience, traveling can be stressful. Add kids to the equation and the stress levels multiply. Tickets, boarding times, strollers, snacks, tablets, and tantrums —- it’s a lot to manage. So much so, it can be easy to forget to enjoy the incredible experience of traveling itself.

But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on going on vacation until your kids get older. Whether you’re dreaming of taking your crew to a foreign country or just a nearby city, these tips for traveling with kids could make your next family getaway seamless and memorable (for all the right reasons).

8 Tips for Traveling With Kids

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do before you ever leave home to help minimize headaches on the road and help ensure your trip is fun for both kids and grown-ups alike. Here are eight tried-and-true family travel tips to try.

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1. Pre-Book as Much as Possible

When it comes to tips for traveling with children, the more advance planning you can do, generally, the better. While you can’t anticipate every challenge you might face on the road, you can eliminate many of them by doing plenty of advance scouting.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to schedule transportation and accommodations far in advance to not only secure your reservations but also to potentially save some money.

Beyond the essentials, you may also be able to pre-book a lot of the activities you want to do, including sightseeing excursions and even meals. This can help ensure your family is experiencing a new place to the fullest and that the kids stay busy.

While having activities planned might be a lifesaver, it’s also ok to have a little bit of downtime and flexibility too. Exhausted children can be difficult to manage, so you might include some time for naps or relaxation to avoid meltdowns.

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2. Selecting the Right Places To Stay

Researching and booking the right hotel ahead of time might help you find one with fun features for the kids, like a pool or complimentary breakfast. You could also talk with the hotel staff once you get there to inquire about upgrades, cots for the kids, or extra pillows.

If you’re not interested in the hotel experience, you might consider staying in a vacation rental property, which could give your family more space and feel more like a home.

3. Packing Smart

When you’re traveling with children, especially more than one, you might have a lot of stuff to manage. Why make it more complicated by packing more than you need? You could plan out the days ahead of time based on any activities or travel and anticipate what you and your kiddos might wear each day.

If it’s a long trip or you need to pack lots of layers, you could roll the clothes rather than fold them, which might free up some space for those extra outfits your little ones (and maybe you!) might need in case of spills.
As for shoes, you might opt for slip-ons if you’re going through airport security and save the sneakers for the suitcase.

4. Getting the Kids Excited for Travel

You might want to talk to your kids before the trip about where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and what you’ll be doing. If your child is a first-time traveler, they may feel nervous doing something so new if they don’t understand what’s going on.

Even months in advance, you could talk about this fun trip on the horizon and all the cool things you will see and do when you get there.

5. Leaving Plenty of Time

While you likely want to minimize waiting time (and boredom), you also don’t want to have to rush. It can be wise to give yourself lots of time to spare, especially if you’re traveling by plane. This will not only give you plenty of time to check bags and get through the security, but might also give your kids some time to explore all the interesting things at the airport and get some snacks.

If you’re traveling by train or car, there may be fewer pressures, but it can still be wise to build in time for the unexpected. Whatever your mode of transport, you’ll want to make sure that all necessary documentation (for you and the kids) and any snacks, drinks, and essential medicines are easily accessible.

Recommended: Calculating If It’s Cheaper To Drive Or Fly Somewhere

6. Bringing the Proper Gear

For the plane, you might take a backpack or bag that can hold everything you need. From baby wipes and hand sanitizer to chargers and snacks, all the little things could help you feel more prepared for any surprises. If your little one needs a stroller, you could consider swapping your day-to-day one out for something that might be easier to travel with.

If it’s a late flight and you need your kids to sleep in transit, you may want to bring small pillows or blankets to help them be comfortable. While new presents are fun and exciting (more on that later), you might also want to keep your child’s comfort toys or blankets nearby. They might feel more at ease if they have something familiar.

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7. Bringing Your Car Seat on the Plane

While it may seem like a major hassle to carry a car seat to the gate and onto the plane, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends placing children under the age of two in an approved car seat and not in your lap. Kids can safely ride just like they do in the car — either rear-facing or front-facing.

Also, if you are renting a car at your destination, you’ll need a car seat once you arrive. Car rental companies often cannot guarantee that a car seat will be available.

Recommended: Have Baby, Will Travel: Tips for New Parents

8. Bringing Surprises — and Plenty of Snacks

Kids love surprises, so you may want to buy some new toys or coloring books to keep them occupied during travel time. Also be sure to have lots of their fave snacks on hand. It’s great if they are healthy (fresh and dried fruits are easy to take on the road), but if all rules go out the window and its candy and snacks galore, that’s fun too. And while some parents rarely let their kids watch TV, changing that up for travel time might be one great exception. TV shows and fun games on the tablet might be a nice activity to keep kids busy on a long flight.

Recommended: When Is the Best Time to Book Summer Travel?

Should You Wait Until Your Kids Are Older?

There are pros and cons to traveling with kids at every age. Babies are very portable and typically fly for free. Preschoolers, on the other hand, are out of diapers and naturally curious about everything, so they don’t need expensive vacations to keep them entertained.

Travelling tends to get easier when kids are school age — no more bulky car seats and strollers. They’re still naturally curious but also have more patience. Pre-teens and teens are sponges and can learn a lot through travel — this can be a great age to plan travel to other countries and more exotic locales. Letting them get involved in the planning can also keep them excited and engaged.

Recommended: Airfares: What You Need to Know

Enjoying Your Vacation

You’ve put in the time to plan a vacation your entire family will (hopefully) remember. Now you can get ready to enjoy it! But you might want to accept that some things will undoubtedly go wrong. No amount of planning and outfit coordination will allow you to avoid every single mishap or meltdown, and that’s okay. You can adjust the plan as needed so you and your family can still have fun on your trip.

The Takeaway

Planning ahead, packing smart, and having all the tools at the ready, from snacks to little presents, might lead to your best family vacation yet. Whether it’s your first time traveling with kids or your tenth, it’s always wise to be prepared.

Since travel isn’t cheap (especially with kids), you’ll also want to be financially prepared for your trip. You might want to think about what the trip will cost, set a savings goal, and start stashing cash in your vacation fund well in advance. If you want to earn a high rate and pay the lowest fees, consider opening an account at an online bank. Without the added expenses of large branch networks, online banks are often able to offer more favorable returns than national brick-and-mortar institutions.

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FAQ

What do you need when traveling with kids?

It depends on the child’s age, but these items can come in handy when you’re on the road:

•   Extra clothes (in case of spills, accidents, or travel delays)

•   Hand sanitizer

•   Disposable wipes

•   Refillable water bottles

•   Disposable bags

•   Healthy snacks

•   Books, toys, and games

•   Medicines

•   First aid kit

What is the hardest age to travel with a child?

Every child is different, but kids between 12 and 18 months can be particularly challenging to travel with since they are typically mobile, don’t like to sit still for long stretches, and are too young to understand and follow directions.

What is the best age to take kids on vacation?

Every age has pros and cons but travel with kids generally gets easier after age six.


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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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