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Few things in life are more exciting than going on a family vacation. Deciding where to go, what to pack, and how to get there will take a fair amount of time, though, and may even cause you a bit of a headache if you’re worried about how your kids will take to the journey.
This is particularly the case if you’re planning to take your kids on a flight, as it may be a totally new experience for them, and there are so many things that they need to think about.
Does everyone have their IDs? Have you packed everything you need on the flight itself? Will you be able to pick up some essentials when you get there? So many questions will be running through your mind in the lead-up to your vacation that you will forget to enjoy yourself!
To help you plan for traveling with your kids, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide that includes all of the information you need to know about taking a vacation with the kids.
Feel free to dip in and out of the guide and extract information from the sections that are relevant to you. Hopefully, the sections will help you find what you’re looking for.
By the time you reach the end of this guide, you’ll forget what you were worrying about and be able to look forward to your family vacation. We promise.
Why Travel with Kids
Before we look at some of the practicalities of traveling with kids, let’s think about why you should take your kids on vacation with you in the first place. While some parents like to leave the kids with their grandparents while they take some time to themselves, being away with your kids can be an awesome experience.
Travel is also an incredible development opportunity for your children, and by visiting new places and seeing new things, they will be learning without even realizing it. Here are some reasons why you should definitely consider traveling with your children.
Travel broadens the mind
How often have you heard this phrase from a backpacker? While it’s often given as a reason why adults travel, it is also applicable to kids who go to places they’re unfamiliar with. It opens their eyes to the world around them, forces them to ask questions about where they are, and makes them think about the bigger picture.
When your kids are young, they’re naturally inquisitive anyway, so taking them to a new place will encourage them to ask about the places you take them to and then use these new experiences to shape their own lives back home.
You can see the world through your kids’ eyes
When you travel with kids, you can do all of the things that kids love to do. Often, this allows you to get in touch with your youthful side again. Whether it’s swimming in the ocean, playing in the park, or even visiting a theme park, you get to release your inner child and remember what it was like to be young!
What’s more, seeing your kids have an incredible time is something that every parent wants to see. Being able to enjoy your vacation with your kids is truly something special, and it’s well worth the time you put into planning the perfect trip.
Your kids will become more patient
Travel teaches patience, whether you like it or not. Just to leave the country, you need to wait in lines at check-in, passport control, and luggage drop off, and that’s before you’ve even got on the flight.
Although it might take a little getting used to, your kids will quickly learn the value of patience and will understand that they can’t have everything in an instant. This is an incredibly valuable lesson for your kids to learn while you’re on the road.
Your kids will become more adaptable
Travel throws up a whole host of surprises, even when you put plans in place to try and keep everything under control. While you’re on vacation with the kids, something is bound to happen that will be a deviation from the plan, meaning your children will have to adapt to the situation around them. While you might not notice it at the time, this will help you in various situations when you’re back home.
Travel encourages your kids to be brave
While we adults might not see things like this, asking your kids to go to a new place, try new food, and meet new people requires bravery. It’s not easy taking a child to a new place and testing their boundaries, and to enjoy themselves and fully appreciate the experience; they have to be courageous and embrace the changes, even though they’re temporary.
Your kids are able to test their own boundaries
Sometimes, raising your kids in a comfortable, controlled environment at home can be a little suffocating. Taking them to a new place on vacation gives your children the chance to test their own boundaries and see what’s possible in the world around them. Experiential learning while on the road is a great way for your kids to develop their personalities.
Children learn about the world’s differences when traveling
In your child’s formative years, explaining differences to them can be difficult. It’s not easy to tell kids why the world as it is, but showing them is much easier and more impactful. If your kids can see with their own eyes the differences between peoples and cultures, they will be more inquisitive about it and be interested to learn more about the world as a result.
You can introduce travel as a break from technology
Kids (and adults!) are so consumed by technology these days. Booking a family vacation can be a chance to disconnect from the technology that powers our world and focus instead on spending quality time with the family. You can explore the great outdoors together and appreciate the smaller things in life. Although the kids might kick up a fuss at the start, you will find that they will adapt to the new experiences, as long as you keep them entertained!
You don’t have to leave your kids behind
You might think this is somewhat obvious, but taking the kids with you means you don’t have to leave them behind. While it might seem like a good idea at first, you might spend your whole vacation worrying about what they’re up to and wishing they were with you—having your kids by your side while on vacation will create family memories you can cherish for years to come.
As you can see, there are so many reasons why you should travel with your kids. Honestly, the associated stress with planning the perfect trip is overshadowed by the awesome experiences you will have when you’re with your children on vacation.
Now that we’ve looked at why you should travel with your kids in general, we will take a look at traveling with kids of various ages to help you understand the different things you need to consider.
Traveling with kids – Age Group
Traveling with a six-week-old baby is very different from traveling with a fourteen-year-old! As such, this section will introduce you to some key points to consider when traveling with kids of varying ages.
Babies up to the age of two are often the easiest travel companions when it comes to children. While they might cry a fair bit, as long as you keep them comfortable and up to date with their routine, they will be just as happy on the road as they would be at home.
That being said, you will need to take a fair bit of equipment with you to ensure your baby is comfortable and portable throughout your vacation. You will have to think about strollers, car seats, carriers, toys, diapers, and all the essentials like blankets, food, and milk bottles, which can take up a lot of space.
But, as long as you’re prepared, you’ll find that hitting the road with your baby is a breeze, and it’s often free, as you don’t normally need to buy your baby a seat on the plane or pay for their accommodation.
When your baby develops into a toddler, they’ve reached a fun and inquisitive age! They will have started to pay more attention to the world around them and will be super excited with the opportunity to explore new places.
Just be mindful that you factor in plenty of playtimes to let your toddler blow off some steam before long journeys. It’s not fair to expect them to sit quietly for hours on end when they have lots of energy. During a flight or any other type of long journey, be sure to pack some games and activities that they can do to pass the time.
The last thing you want is for your toddler to throw a tantrum on the plane because they’re bored or restless!
If you’re traveling with a kid who is five or older, you will find that they’re much more independent-minded and will understand the need to behave in public! That being said, boredom can get the better of them if you don’t take steps to keep them entertained.
Also, you will find that school-age kids can be involved in the planning process of the vacation in a small way, which keeps them interested and allows them to take responsibility for specific things you do while you’re on the road.
Perhaps the key to engaging with your children while traveling is giving them a choice of things to do and actually listening to their opinions. Helping them to feel like a valued part of the family and that their opinions matter will do a lot to encourage them to participate in the vacation.
You will also find that pre-teen children can be incredibly helpful when they want to be. Asking them to help with younger children or with watching over the luggage, for instance, can save you a lot of hassle and focus on other important tasks.
While some teenagers may cause you problems while you’re abroad, others will be a pleasure to be with! There’s really no predicting how they will behave, as they are starting to become independent and developing strong personalities.
Generally speaking, listening to your teenager and giving them autonomy to do certain things on their own will help you win their favor. Consider letting them walk around the airport alone, for instance, while you’re waiting to check-in for your flight.
Most teenagers hate being treated like kids, so giving them a little bit of freedom to explore could be a good way of keeping them onside.
It’s important to note here that every child is unique. The way your kids respond to traveling will depend mainly on what they’re like as a person and how they respond to change. Preparing for your trip will only get you so far, and until you’ve been away with your kids, it will be difficult to know how they will react.
Picking a Destination
If you’ve decided you want to take a vacation with the kids, the first thing to decide is where you want to go. Or, it might be better to consider where would be a suitable destination for your family. While the world is very much your oyster when it comes to travel, there are certain things you should be mindful of when choosing your destination, including:
This is often one of the biggest considerations for people when choosing where to go on a family vacation. You will need to think about the predicted weather in your desired destination at the time of year you wish to travel. If your kids love the outdoors, the last thing you want to happen is to be stuck inside all week because of torrential rain!
Equally, if you want to get away somewhere for a fabulous beach holiday, consider how hot it actually gets in a specific place before making a booking. Young kids, in particular, struggle with the heat, so you will need to find somewhere that is manageable!
Things to do
One of your biggest priorities for your family vacation is keeping your kids entertained. You know your kids better than anyone, so make sure your planned destination has lots of things to keep them busy. Think about:
- Outdoor attractions like theme & water parks, nature reserves, and recreation parks.
- Indoor attractions like fun museums, indoor theme parks, or arcades. These will come in useful if you get some bad weather.
- Family-friendly restaurants and evening entertainment.
- Swimming opportunities in lakes, the sea, or in a private or public pool [specifically for warm-climate vacations!].
- Public transport options if you don’t plan on hiring a car. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with no way of getting around!
If you’re leaving your own country for your family vacation, everyone will need a valid passport. If you’re heading somewhere exotic like Africa or Asia, think about any inoculations you and your kids will need before you book up, as things like Yellow Fever vaccine certificates are compulsory in many countries.
Many countries in the world also require visas, even if you’re just planning a vacation. To save yourself the hassle, check out this list of visa-free destinations you can travel to as US citizens. It’s always a good idea to begin with countries where you’re going to have no issues on arrival!
We will go into accommodation options in more detail a little later in the guide, but you should think carefully about the most suitable accommodation for you and your family before you pick a destination. Do you want to stay in a luxury, all-inclusive resort, or would your kids be more comfortable in a remote cabin in the woods? Whatever your family’s preference, be sure to check that your desired destination has suitable options for you.
Flying toddlers across the world on back-to-back 12-hour flights is probably not the smartest move! Not only will it be uncomfortable for them, but you will struggle to keep them entertained for that long. Where possible, try and keep travel times short. If you do decide to go a bit further afield, think about breaking up your journey into several legs, and make the most of a stopover in an exciting new city.
While it can be a fun challenge to take your kids to a country where their first language isn’t widely spoken, you don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable. If you plan your vacation a few months in advance, you could always sit with your kids and teach them some basic language skills so they will be able to practice when you get to your destination.
Cost and budget
Traveling with your kids can be expensive, particularly if you plan to do lots of activities! Heading to a Caribbean island may be idyllic, but this part of the world tends to be super expensive. If you’re planning to eat out regularly and do lots of things while on vacation, consider visiting a destination that offers better value for money than your home country.
When researching where to go with the kids, when you’ve taken all of these things into account, it’s time to sit down and plan your flights!
Planning and Booking the Flight
But when you’re traveling with your kids, there are several things you need to consider that you may never have thought about before. These include:
Which airport is your flight leaving from? Are there any stopovers? Will you be arriving at your destination in the middle of the night? These are just some of the things you have to ask yourself about the flight schedule. An ideal flight for kids should:
- Be at a reasonable time, so they don’t have to get up in the middle of the night. You should also try and avoid arriving at your destination at an unreasonable time like 2 am.
- Not include long airport layovers. While direct flights are more expensive, the last thing you want to do is keep your three-year-old entertained in a random airport in the dead of night while you wait to board your next flight.
- Include sufficient baggage. One way in which budget airlines make their money back is by charging exorbitant amounts of money for excess baggage. Make sure your ticket price includes sufficient baggage, so you don’t get stung with fees when you arrive at the airport.
When you book a flight online, you are often randomly assigned seats. While this is okay when you’re traveling alone or if you’re with your partner, it’s a nightmare when you’re with the kids as it’s important that you’re together. Even if you have to pay for your seats together, it’s worth it. You don’t want to risk turning up on the day of your flight and having to ask an unsuspecting passenger to swap places with your toddler!
A top tip for you to consider when picking your seats is proximity to the bathroom. While you don’t necessarily want to sit directly opposite the toilets, if you sit towards the back of the plane, you will be closer to them. This makes an impromptu trip to the bathroom much more manageable!
On long-haul flights, the in-flight entertainment options are incredibly comprehensive, and you won’t have to worry about keeping the kids entertained. On shorter flights, however, you will need to pack something/s to help pass the time while in the air. If you don’t, it can be a long time to try and keep your kids entertained!
Food and drink
Again, most long-haul flights include meal and drink options, but they might not always be suitable for your kids. Our advice is to always eat a decent meal before you board the plane and take some snacks with you in your hand luggage. It’s best not to rely on an airline to feed your hungry child something that they actually like!
With these things considered, you’re ready to book your flights. Unless you’re booking your trip through a travel agent, it’s best to shop around and look for deals on various platforms like Skyscanner and CheapFlights.
Planning an Itinerary and Choosing Accommodation
Booking your flights makes your upcoming vacation seem very real indeed, and you’re now ready to put all of the other plans in place to ensure you have a memorable adventure with your kids.
While some families think that much of the magic of a family vacation lies in the fact that it’s not stringently planned, we think it’s best to put together an itinerary and sort out your accommodation before you leave home.
And don’t worry, your itinerary is not set in stone! You can always change it if things don’t go according to plan or if you get to your destination and decide you want to do something else instead. Here are some things you should think about before booking accommodation when traveling with your kids:
Hotel or home?
This is perhaps the biggest decision you have to make, and it will really depend on your personal circumstances. Staying in a hotel can be exciting, as you get the chance to meet other families on their vacations, and your kids get the chance to play with some of their age mates. That being said, you’re a little restricted in a hotel room in terms of what you can prepare to eat, doing your laundry, and also just having your own space to relax and unwind.
As such, many people who take their kids on vacation prefer to book a holiday rental and make use of a person’s home instead of relying on the services of a hotel. While both approaches have their merits, it’s best that you think about what’s most appropriate for your family. You can find some absolutely stunning apartments and expansive family homes for short-term rent on sites like Airbnb, so consider checking out the listings for the place that you’re visiting.
When you’re on vacation with the kids, you need to think about how you will move around, particularly if your accommodation is isolated or away from the center of the resort you’re staying in. Some options include:
- Car rental. This provides you with the ultimate freedom when you’re on vacation and gives you the opportunity to travel to new places at your leisure.
- Public transport. If you’re going on a city break, you might find that public transport is much more convenient than renting a car.
- Hotel shuttles. In some popular vacation resorts, hotels will put on shuttle bus services for their guests to run them to points of interest and nearby beaches.
- Cycling. If your kids love the great outdoors, consider renting bicycles for the duration of your holiday. You can usually get good deals for long-term rentals, and it can be an excellent way of exploring a new place.
Your transport options will help you determine the type of accommodation you should book to ensure your family is comfortable and able to move around easily.
Who are you traveling with?
If you’re just traveling with your immediate family, then you only need to think about what works for you. However, if you’re traveling with friends or perhaps extended family, you might like to think about accommodation options that allow you all to stay together. You can easily find larger villas and houses to rent to cater to big family groups if that’s something that you want to do.
After all, being on vacation with your friends might be great, but you may want to have your own space at night with your family.
Budget, midrange, or luxury?
Naturally, you will have to think about the quality of accommodation you would like to reserve for your family during your upcoming vacation. Most destinations have accommodation types to suit all budgets, so you will just have to do some research to find something appropriate for your needs. Bear in mind that some luxury hotels aren’t family-friendly, so you will have to look for exclusive resorts that welcome kids.
Nearby amenities and points of interest
Even if you rent a car for the duration of your vacation, you should think about the amenities and points of interest that are nearby your chosen accommodation. It’s nice knowing that you don’t have to drive everywhere while you’re on vacation, so electing to stay somewhere with access to some local points of interest is a great idea to get the most out of your vacation.
Planning your days
When you’re on vacation with your kids, don’t forget: less is more! If you try and pack too many activities into a short space of time, you will all run out of energy by the end of the vacation! While it’s tempting to get in as many things as possible, don’t go for quantity over quality. Sit down with your kids and think about everything you might like to see, and develop an itinerary that excites you without leaving you feeling overwhelmed!
Picking accommodation that is suitable for your kids isn’t easy, and it requires a little bit of research. Make sure you think about the specific needs and interests of your family, as you will be able to find somewhere to stay that is suitable.
Common Challenges – How to Combat Them
Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you will encounter some metaphorical bumps in the road with your kids on vacation. Whether it’s an untimely tantrum or the misplacement of an important document, the sooner you accept that little challenges are likely to arise during your vacation, the easier they will be to deal with when they come up.
Here are six challenges you might experience with your kids, as well as a little bit of advice on how you can go about overcoming them.
Challenge #1: Jetlag
How to combat: Jetlag is something that affects everyone of all ages, but kids, in particular, seem to struggle with it. If your vacation has taken you to a different time zone, your kids’ sleep may well be disturbed. To help combat jetlag, get plenty of natural light, take naps when you feel tired, and ensure your kids stay hydrated and refreshed.
Challenge #2: Homesickness
How to combat: Some kids take a few days to adapt to a new place, particularly when it comes to sleeping peacefully at night. If you’re worried that your child might suffer from homesickness, take some home comforts like blankets, soft toys, or even a night light that remind them of being at home. After a couple of days, they can often put their feelings of discomfort behind them and enjoy the vacation.
Challenge #3: Fussy eaters
How to combat: While your kids might be willing to try lots of new things at home and aren’t overly fussy with what they eat when they’re in a new place, they might all of a sudden turn into fussy eaters and only want to eat junk food. While you shouldn’t necessarily expect your kids to eat exotic delicacies while on vacation, you may want to encourage them to eat at nice restaurants and enjoy your evening as a family. As such, try and pick places with a varied menu and a mixture of options, and don’t force them into trying things they don’t want to! This very rarely has the desired effect.
Challenge #4: Tech overload
How to combat: Spending all that money to take your place to a new place and watching them sit in front of their devices can be painful for any parent to take in. While you shouldn’t deprive your kids of their tech while abroad, think about limiting their tech time to specific times of the day and replacing some of their tech with outdoor, family activities. Because it’s for a short time, most kids will be receptive to trying new things while on vacation.
Challenge #5: They don’t want to come with you
How to combat: When your kids get older and reach their dreaded teenage years, they might not even want to come on vacation with you at all. One way to combat this is to invite their best friend along for the trip or to go on holiday with a larger group of people, so your kids can have more time playing with their age mates. Although it’s a difficult thing to hear, it’s not always personal; they’re just going through a tough age!
Challenge #6: There’s just too much to think about!
How to combat: This one isn’t a challenge for the kids, but for the parents! There is a lot to think about, but trust us, you won’t regret taking your kids on vacation. In fact, the memories you create will be worth it in the long run, and any tantrums, arguments, or disagreements will be long forgotten, and you will focus on all of the good things that made the holiday so special.
While you shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about challenges and what might go wrong on vacation with your kids, it’s helpful to know that it doesn’t have to be the end of the world if things don’t work out according to plan! Just try and stay positive and remember that you’re on vacation.
If you’ve made it this far, you must be pretty serious about taking your kids on vacation! And that’s a great thing. When you’ve figured out where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and where you will stay when you arrive, it’s time to consider what you’re going to take with you.
Packing for yourself is hard enough; how do you even begin packing for the kids? How will you know you have everything you need? What happens if you leave something behind? This section isn’t going to itemize everything you need to pack [this is way too personal, and everyone is different!]. Instead, it focuses on sharing some helpful packing tips that will ensure you think about everything you need to take with you.
Don’t pack for every eventuality
Let’s begin with your packing mindset. Unless you’re taking your family to the North Pole for an expedition, you don’t need to pack for every eventuality. If you forget to pack your shampoo or sun lotion, you will find a supermarket where you’re going on vacation to pick it up. If you try and pack with every possible incidence considered, you will drive yourself crazy. So, don’t even try!
Avoid duplicate items
If you’re going on vacation, the chances are you don’t need more than one pair of trainers or more than one pair of sunglasses. Duplicate items waste a ton of space in your suitcase, so just pack the things that you need. You can always pick things up when you arrive.
Understand and adhere to airline weight limits
If your luggage weight limit is 23 kgs, make sure you stick to it! Better yet, we would recommend you shoot for 20 kgs and leave yourself some space for souvenirs and anything else you pick up while you’re away on vacation. Airlines are extremely tight when it comes to baggage limits, and the last thing you want to do is unpack all of your clothes in the middle of the airport to adhere to the baggage guidelines.
Ask your kids what they want to take with them
Providing your kids are old enough, ask them what they want to take with them on vacation. Whether it’s a special toy or their favorite hat, asking them what they want to pack avoids disappointment when you arrive, and they realize it’s not there! It will save you the tantrum, too.
Invest in travel towels for the kids
Towels take up an absurd amount of space in your luggage. In fact, one towel per family member will practically fill a suitcase, so think about investing in a travel towel. They’re fairly inexpensive, save a load of space, and dry quickly. They should be an essential part of every family’s travel kit.
Be mindful of prohibited items
Certain items like laptops and other gadgets with large batteries can’t be packed into suitcases. This will result in your bag being taken out of the hold, and you might arrive at your destination without it! It’s a good idea to check the airline’s list of prohibited items before you reach the airport, particularly if you’re packing some of your kids’ toys that you haven’t traveled with before.
Personalize your suitcase
Be aware that most suitcases look the same when they’re going around on the baggage conveyor belt! You can buy cool luggage tags for your kids’ cases, so they’re easily distinguishable when you arrive. You don’t want someone accidentally taking your luggage to their hotel.
Packing essentials for the flight
When you’ve got your bags packed and are ready for check-in, you need to think about what to take with you on the flight. It’s a good idea to be aware of common cabin restrictions before you start putting your hand luggage together, so you don’t get anything confiscated in the airport.
You should also check with your airline the size and weight you’re allowed to take into the cabin, as this will determine what you can and can’t take with you. Here’s a breakdown of the essential items you need to have with you on your flight with your kids:
- Important documents: Make sure you have a small bag handy for all your important documents, including passports, insurance, booking confirmations, and anything else that you will need to complete your journey.
- Everyday items: You will need your smartphone and charger, wallet/purse, prescription medication [if required]. It’s a good idea to put these items in the same place as your important documents.
- Sanitation items: Depending on how old your children are, you will need to take things like diapers and lotions, but they must be within the allowed limits. You could also take a hand sanitizer, toothpaste & a toothbrush for your kids to freshen up if you have a particularly long flight.
- Snacks: When you’re through security, you can fill your bag with goodies your kids can enjoy during the flight. This is important if your kids are a little fussy with food, as airplane food isn’t always the nicest!
- Fun items: Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping your kids entertained during the flight. Include soft toys, games, tablets, music players, etc. Basically, pack anything you think will keep the kids busy while you’re in the air.
- Clothing items: It’s a good idea to pack a sweater and/or waterproof for your kids, even if you’re heading to a hot destination. The temperature on a flight varies a lot, and it can get quite cool at night. It’s always handy to have some extra clothing items on hand, just in case your kids complain about feeling cold.
We can’t stress enough how important it is to read the guidelines issued by the airline when it comes to cabin baggage. You should pay attention to the size, dimensions, and prohibited items or face the daunting prospect of having to repack at the last minute before you board your flight.
HELPFUL TRAVEL GUIDES
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Road trip guide – Useful tips to follow while traveling
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Mobile photography tips for taking incredible shots.
Best travel Games for kids and adults to keep you entertained.
A pet parent’s guide to traveling with pets internationally.
Road Trip with Kids
Vacation road trips with the kids can be memorable for all the right reasons. If you pick an awesome playlist and pack the car full of positive vibes, you can have a wonderful family road trip. That being said, if you don’t prepare for your time on the road with your kids, it can quickly turn into a nightmare! Here are some top tips to get the most out of a road trip with your kids.
Feed your kids before setting off [and take snacks with you!]
You don’t want your kids traveling on an empty stomach. Regardless of the time of the day you set off on your road trip, make sure you’ve fed the kids before you leave home. You should also take some healthy and filling snacks with you to save having to stop off and buy junk food or poor-quality gas station refreshments.
Play some games
There are so many classic road trip games that you can enjoy with the kids while you’re on the road, from the license plate game to I-spy. You could even download some fun games on your smartphone or tablet and allow your kids to tune in while you’re traveling. It can be a great way to pass the time.
Plan plenty of stops
Although it can be tempting to travel through and get to your destination as quickly as possible, you should plan plenty of stops to give the kids the chance to get out of the car and enjoy some fresh air along the way. They also work as helpful bathroom breaks and refreshment stops, so make sure you plan them regularly throughout the journey.
Learn as you go
Road trips are an excellent way of teaching your kids about the world around them. If you’re good at planning, print off some activity sheets and give the kids the chance to record what they see along the way. If you’re particularly creative, you could put together a road trip bingo set and ask your kids to complete it while you’re on the road.
Put together a fun pack
Before you leave on your road trip, think about preparing a fun pack for your kids to enjoy. You could include some of the following:
- Crayons and coloring pencils.
- Notepads, paper, and cards.
- Fun books, comics, or graphic novels.
- Information about where they’re going.
- Soft toys.
- A pack of their favorite sweets.
- Travel games.
Fun-packs aren’t expensive to put together and can keep your kids busy for hours!
Mix up the music
Music is a huge part of any successful family road trip. We think that variety is key. You need to help the kids feel included when it comes to the choice of music, so ask them for their preferences or put together a playlist of music from movies you know they love. Before you know it, you could have a Disney sing-a-long session on your hands!
If you know that you have a long-distance to cover to get to your destination, think about framing it as a fun road trip before introducing it to the kids. This is much more likely to get them excited than telling them about a daunting three-hour journey when they get off the plane!
General Tips when Traveling with Kids
As we reach the end of this comprehensive guide, we just want to leave you with some general tips that will help you when you’re traveling with kids. After all, you don’t want to go to all of the effort of planning the perfect vacation, only for your kids to ruin it by misbehaving the whole time!
Flying etiquette to observe
Flying is a totally new experience for kids, and it can be super exciting when they’re experiencing air travel for the first time. That being said, they’re sharing a space with their fellow passengers, and you need to try your best to keep them well behaved.
That being said, you can’t try and please everyone on the plane, nor should you try. There will always be someone ready to roll their eyes or cast glances in your direction whatever you do, so don’t beat yourself up too much.
Here are some general flying etiquette rules you should be aware of when traveling with your kids:
- Don’t change your kids’ diapers on the food trays! Other people have to eat from there, and it’s not a suitable place to change diapers.
- Your kids shouldn’t be allowed to kick the back of someone else’s chair. It’s incredibly uncomfortable for the person to have to sit through.
- Flight attendants aren’t babysitters and aren’t there to take care of your child.
- While it’s important to walk around with your kids once in a while, they shouldn’t treat the aisles as if it’s a play area.
Although you can’t control all elements of your child’s behavior on a flight, you can do your best to keep them from disturbing other people.
Keeping kids safe when traveling
Your kids’ safety should be one of your most important considerations when you’re away from home. And keeping them safe is your responsibility. While accidents happen, there are several things you can do to keep your kids safe when traveling, including:
- Make smart decisions: While jumping off a pier into choppy water might seem like a great idea, don’t run the risk. It’s just not worth it.
- Buy travel insurance: For less than $50, you can buy comprehensive travel insurance for your kids, and it’s absolutely worth the investment, just in case something goes wrong.
- Keep your kids hydrated: If you’re taking a vacation to a place that’s hotter than your home, you need to make sure the kids are taking on enough fluid throughout the day.
- Childproof your accommodation: Keep doors and windows locked and remove anything that could fall or cause injury. If you’re not familiar with the place you’re visiting, it’s a good idea to check it out in advance to make sure it’s safe for your kids.
- Keep an eye on your kids in public places: Perhaps the worst feeling in the world is losing sight of your kids in a public space, particularly in a country that you’re not familiar with. Don’t be complacent when you’re on vacation, and always make sure you have an eye on your kids’ whereabouts.
- Give your kids your contact information: If your child does wander off, make sure they have your contact information on a little piece of paper in their pockets. You could even help them memorize your number. That way, if they’re picked up after wandering off, the person who finds them can contact you.
- Take basic medicines with you: While you might not want to take a comprehensive first aid kit, having basic medicines with you like headache pills and band-aids can help get you out of a sticky situation.
Having your child fall sick while on vacation is something that every parent hopes to avoid, so the more you can do to keep your kids safe, the more you will be able to enjoy your vacation.
Fun things to do while waiting in line with kids
Waiting in line is one of the worst things about traveling, and although it helps our kids become more patient, it’s boring all the same. The good news is that there are many ways you can make things more interesting for your kids while waiting in line so that the hours seem like minutes and the minutes seem like seconds. Here are a few things you can try to alleviate the boredom of standing in line:
I-spy is one of the most universally understood games and can be played anywhere. You don’t need any equipment; you simply get your kids to look around them and think about what they can see. Although you probably know how it goes, all you need to say to get things started is:
I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with…
Snacking is a great way to pass the time while standing in line. If you’re waiting to go on your favorite ride at Disneyland, you could stock up on snacks before joining the queue, so your kids can focus on eating rather than standing around waiting!
Plan what’s next
The time you spend in line, wherever it is, can be used to plan what you’re going to do next. Whether it’s the next ride at a theme park or the following day’s lunch plans, you can use the time with your kids to think about what to do in the near future.
When you’re waiting in line with other families, it’s actually an excellent opportunity to make friends with the people around you! For us adults, the idea of speaking to people we don’t know in a line is a little crazy, but kids are great at it and will take it upon themselves to begin conversations. You can get chatting with the people around you like this in no time at all.
Although you might be trying to encourage your kids to avoid using tech while you’re on vacation, standing in line is the ideal opportunity to get the tablet or smartphone out and let your kids play away. After all, they would only be standing around otherwise, and it’s an excellent way to keep them from complaining about having to wait around!
Age Specific Tips for kids
In the final section of this family travel guide, we want to leave you with some super helpful age-specific tips for traveling with kids. Many of the preceding sections have been somewhat generic and applicable to all age ranges. As such, we have broken this final section down into age groups and leave you with some top tips for traveling with kids of different ages.
When it comes to traveling with babies, people tend to have mixed emotions. On the one hand, people often think it must be a nightmare. Having to pack all the necessary items and being up at all hours caring for your baby while on the road make people think it must be extremely difficult to travel with a baby.
However, those that have tried it will tell you that traveling with babies is actually an awful lot easier than take your older kids away on vacation. Why? Well, providing babies are comfortable, regularly fed, and following their routine, it doesn’t matter to them whether they’re lying peacefully in their cradle or heading to Australia at 40,000ft!
While traveling with your baby is not plain sailing by any stretch of the imagination, it’s perfectly possible with a little bit of careful research and effort. These top tips will also help you prepare for life on the road with your youngest:
- Understand your limits: If you’re someone who is anxious, extra cautious, and likes things to follow a strict routine, you should be careful about traveling too far with your baby. Don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone and pick a destination close to home if you’re worried about what might go wrong on longer trips.
- Make sure your baby is healthy: It sounds like an obvious point, but if your baby is under the weather or feeling some discomfort, it’s best to put off travel until they’re healthy. Being on the road with a sick baby isn’t fun for anyone.
- Think about feeding on the move: If you’re breastfeeding your baby, you should have no issues with feeding your baby while traveling. However, if your baby is bottle-fed and you rely on formula, you need to think carefully about where you travel to make sure you can get the food you need for your little one.
- Make the most of free entry & travel: When your baby is under the age of two, you don’t normally have to pay for them to travel or enter attractions. As such, it’s an excellent way to see the world with your baby, as you don’t incur anywhere near the costs you would when they’re a couple of years older.
- Try and cater to your baby’s routine: If you’re traveling a long distance and entering a different time zone, you need to think about your baby’s routine when you arrive. If they’re used to feeding and sleeping at particular times of the day, this is likely to be different when you’re in another country, so be prepared for this change when you arrive.
While everyone has different experiences, babies tend to make excellent travel companions. To be honest, they mainly feed, sleep, and keep you company, so as long as you take good care of them, they will love life on the road as much as you will.
‘Toddler’ age is fairly ill-defined but think of it as the time when your baby starts to find their legs and is interested in exploring the world around them. This is a truly wonderful time for your kids, as they’re going through lots of changes and experiencing so many new things for the first time.
For many parents, when your kids reach toddler age, things get a little more difficult. You find yourself charging around, chasing your kids everywhere, and having to keep a constant eye on them, particularly when you’re outside home. As such, traveling with toddlers can present many challenges, as they may well fancy themselves as adventurers and be interested in walking off on their own!
However, providing you plan things in advance and take certain precautions, traveling with toddlers can be an extremely rewarding experience. Here are some top tips to ensure your vacation with your toddlers is memorable for all of the right reasons:
- Select your destination carefully: When traveling with toddlers, you have to think carefully about where you take them. Heading to chaotic cities like Bangkok would pose a big challenge to your watchfulness, and it could be extremely difficult to keep an eye on where your little one wanders! Relaxing, easy-to-navigate destinations are best suited to adventurous toddlers.
- Think about bathroom stops: Toddlers are at a tricky age when it comes to the bathroom. They’re often transitioning from diapers to the potty, so factoring in regular stops so they can do their business in comfort is important. If you’re planning a long-distance journey, it might be a good idea to wait until your youngest is potty trained.
- Take the necessary equipment: Toddlers might not need quite as much equipment as young babies while on the road, but you’ll still need to make sure you have everything you need to make the trip comfortable. For larger items like car seats and strollers, consider renting them when you arrive, as it can save you lots of space [and money] on the flight.
- Don’t plan to eat out every night: If you’re taking your toddler on vacation, eating out can be a difficult experience. Through no fault of their own, they get bored quickly and want to go off and explore, making an evening meal a lot less enjoyable than it would be if it was just the two of you! Instead, think about renting accommodation where you can eat in.
While traveling with toddlers undoubtedly has its challenges, don’t be put off. At this age, kids are incredibly interested in what’s happening around them, and they’re old enough to start appreciating where they are and what they’re doing. Plus, the photos you will add to your collections will be so worth it when you look back on them in years to come!
Preschool age is when your kids are starting to develop their own unique personalities. They’re becoming confident in themselves and start to challenge a lot of what’s happening around them! While this is sometimes fun, trying to understand a preschool kid’s reasoning isn’t the easiest thing in the world!
Traveling with preschool kids might be the most incredible experience, as they’re able to appreciate the world around them. But it might also be a complete disaster, as you can’t get them to sit down and enjoy the delicious breakfast you’ve just prepared for them, as the cereal doesn’t taste the same as it does back home!
The reality is that most travel experiences with preschool kids will be somewhere in the middle. Preschool age is tough for parents wherever you are in the world, so traveling with your kids at this age should be no more challenging than things would be if you were at home and heading on a day trip. To get the best out of traveling with preschoolers, think about the following:
- Include your kids in the planning process: Preschool kids are old enough to know what’s happening. They’re also pretty insightful when it comes to offering their thoughts about certain plans or activities that you want to do as a family. There’s no harm in running something by them and asking them what they think about it.
- Give them some responsibilities: Kids at this age love to take on responsibilities that show you trust them. You could let them pack their own bags or maybe act as a timekeeper on a long road trip. Little roles that seem like chores to you will seem like a wonderful responsibility to a four-year-old.
- Arrange for them to let off steam: Preschool age is when your kids are likely to be at their craziest! They will constantly be moving around and wanting to explore new places. If you’re planning a long journey, make sure you break it up and give your kids the chance to play and run around! You’ll be grateful for doing so when they go to sleep for the next leg of the journey!
- Take some home comforts with you: Things like security blankets and soft toys are extremely important for preschool kids. While you might think they would have grown out of them by now, they’re still a reassuring presence when your kids are worried or unsure of a particular situation.
- Pack lots of fun activities: You don’t want to run the risk of your preschool kid becoming bored on a long journey. Make sure you have a decent supply of fun activities for them to engage with, whether it’s travel games, mobile apps, or even coloring books and crayons. The more you have with you, the easier it will be to keep them engaged when they’re fed up.
Experiencing new places with preschool kids is incredibly rewarding, both for parents and kids. It’s a time in life when your kids are able to fully appreciate a lot of what is happening in the world around them, which means they get a lot more out of new experiences than they do when they’re slightly younger. Providing you can keep them entertained, vacations abroad with preschoolers can be truly memorable.
When your kids enter their teens, they’re beginning to find themselves in the world. They pay a lot of attention to their image, and what their friends think is all of a sudden extremely important. Even if you plan the most incredible vacation to an exclusive Caribbean island, your teen might shrug and look disinterested, commenting that they’d rather spend the summer with their friends at the skate park!
But it’s totally possible to take your kids on vacation and have a trip to remember. In fact, because they’re that little bit older, they can really appreciate the things you plan for them and can get fully involved in the planning of your vacation. As teenagers, your kids can articulate what they actually want, and it can be a great way to involve them in the organization of your vacation.
Here are some top tips to ensure you will have a vacation to remember with your teens:
- Try something new: You want your teen to be fully invested in your vacation, so it’s a good idea to try something new and exciting. Perhaps you could go white water rafting on the River Nile or hiking in the foothills of the Himalayas. Taking your teens to exciting new places will pique their interest and ensure they’re invested in your vacation.
- Pick your accommodation wisely: Teenagers like their own space. Actually, teenagers need their own space! If they’re cramped in a hotel room with their parents on vacation, it’s not going to help with their mood. Try and arrange some accommodation with separate rooms at least—the more space for your teen, the better.
- Think about teen-appropriate activities: When you’re choosing your destination, make sure there are plenty of activities for your teen to enjoy when you arrive. Remember, what’s enjoyable for your preschool kids isn’t likely to be fun for your teen! Things like basketball courts, skate parks, and soccer fields are much more likely to keep your teen busy while on vacation.
- Set some tech rules: Most teens are glued to their smartphones and other devices. Getting your kids to part with them for a couple of weeks is nigh on impossible, so you will just have to accept they’re coming on holiday with you. Before you leave home, it’s a good idea to set some tech ground rules so your teen knows what’s acceptable while you’re away.
- Plan some lazy days: You don’t have to plan something for every day of your vacation. In fact, lazy days are an excellent way for your teens to recharge their batteries and relax around the pool. You can also be generous with their tech on lazy days and give them the chance to catch up with what their friends are doing back home.
Traveling with your teen is a bit like marmite: some love it, some hate it! As is the case with kids of all ages, you just need to plan in advance and ensure the vacation is tailored to your teen’s needs. They’re at a difficult age when being with their parents isn’t necessarily ‘cool,’ so you need to do everything you can to make the vacation exciting for them.
So, we’ve reached the end of our traveling with kids guide! As you can see, there’s an awful lot to consider when planning your family vacation to ensure your kids are able to enjoy themselves. Because we’ve given you so much information, we thought it would be a good idea to summarize this post with the following ten key takeaways:
- Taking your kids on vacation might seem stressful at first, but it will be totally worth it. The memories, stories, and photos from the trip will last long into the future.
- Always choose comfort over style when traveling with kids. Make sure they’re comfortable and have everything they need for long journeys.
- Planning appropriate accommodation is so important. Make sure the hotel or home you reserve for the duration of your stay is suitable for your family.
- Think about how you will move around during your vacation. If you’re staying in the countryside, hiring a car is a good option.
- If you’re traveling with kids of different ages, you need to find fun things to do for all of them. What’s enjoyable for an 8-year-old is unlikely to be fun for a 16-year-old.
- Don’t try and do too much. Kids of all ages need time to recharge their batteries, so plan a couple of rest days and enjoy doing nothing!
- Set some rules for tech during your vacation. No parent wants to see their kids glued to their smartphone for the duration of your trip, so make it clear from the start what the rules are.
- Don’t pack for every eventuality. It’s impossible to take everything you might need, and you will be able to pick up most items at your destination.
- Take a camera with you. Whatever age your kids are, you need to take lots of photos to capture the memories!
- Have fun! The whole point of a vacation is to spend quality time with your family. Amidst all of the planning and research, it can be easy to forget this, so above all else, have a great time.
Traveling with kids should be something to cherish, so providing you’re well prepared, open-minded, and willing to try new things, you will be sure to have a family vacation to remember.