The Best Tips for Travel with Kids
Family travel can be such a wonderful thing. It can create lasting memories and strong family bonds. It can also be, let’s face it, a stressful situation. Planning the trip, packing, and keeping the kids in line while out of their normal routine can cause some chaos. However, travel with kids does not need to be overly stressful. It does, however, take a little more thought and planning in preparation for your vacation! Therefore, we have collected our best tricks, hacks, advice, and tips for traveling with kids so that you and your family can have a successful, memorable time together! Check them out below!
For starters, family travel is a fantastic opportunity to bond together as a family and to make memories. Being away from the normal routine gives you time to focus on each other, make memories, and connect in a way like never before. It is no wonder that families brave traveling with children – because it can be such a great experience IF you are prepared! That all being said, we believe that preparation (both mental and physical) is the key to successful trips with kids.
Our Best Tips for Traveling with Children
To give you and your family the best chance at a successful family vacation, we have collected our very best tips, tricks, hacks, resources, and advice for:
Packing Tips for Travel with Kids
First off, anyone who has kids knows that they come with a lot of stuff. From car seats to binkies and special blankies to toys, there is a lot to pack when you travel with kids. We have a few ideas to keep you organized and to make packing for your trip with kids easier!
- Start Early – Packing always takes more time than you think. We recommending packing at least three days before your departure to make sure you have time to purchase anything you might be missing.
- Lay It All Out – Before you just toss everything into a suitcase, we recommend laying out each outfit by day. Then, you can visually see how different outfits can mix and match and what you might be missing.
- Check the Weather – Before making packing choices, make sure to check the weather for the duration of your family travel so that you can pack accordingly.
- Personalized Packing List – If you plan to travel a lot, consider creating a packing list just for your family travel. After you have personalized the list with your family’s specific items, you can laminate the list and use it each time you have a trip. Just pull the list out and use a dry erase marker to check things off as you go. It might take a little time to create, but it will be so helpful for all of your future trips.
- Roll It – We totally recommend rolling your clothing rather than folding to avoid wrinkles. No one wants to be ironing during a vacation!
- Use Packing Cubes – For packing your suitcases, packing cubes are a must! These zipper pouches help to keep everything contained and separated. They also help condense the clothes into a tight space and can be pulled out and placed in drawers at your location.
- Ziplock System – To keep everything extra-organized, we recommending packing a complete outfit for each child, each day into separate ziplock bags. Include in the bag everything from socks to underwear to accessories. You can then label the bags by the day and add the child’s name.
- Mix & Match Clothing – If you pack neutral colors, you can easily mix and match tops with bottoms to create several outfits and minimize how much you have to pack. Also a bonus – blacks and greys don’t show dirt as much!
- Pack Extra – Messes happen and you will want to be prepared. Throw in a few extra outfits for such occasions – especially if you won’t have access to a washer and dryer.
- Packing Shoes – Shoes take up a lot of space in the suitcase and can add weight. Try to reduce shoe packing to a maximum of two shoes per person. Select shoes that can match several outfits. Also, consider wrapping shoes in a grocery bag to prevent your suitcase or clothing from getting dirty.
- Diapers – What to do about diapers? They are big, bulky and take up a lot of precious packing space. Depending on your destination, we recommend packing 1-2 days’ worth of diapers and then purchasing the rest at your location.
- Purchase Online – For some situations, you may be able to order online and have it delivered to your final destination. This includes groceries and diapers! This could be a life-saver!
- Rent When You Can – Did you know that there are baby equipment rental services? It is a thing! The company will deliver the baby gear, such as cribs, high chairs, car seats, and strollers, to your destination. This can make travel with kids much easier.
- Smell Fresh – Some people love to throw in a dryer sheet or two to their suitcase to keep things smelling fresh and clean. You could even slip a sheet into stinky shoes to keep the stench from spreading.
- Don’t Rely on Your Memory – When you travel with kids, you have a lot on your mind and a lot to remember. When you are packing, keep sticky notes handy. Jot down things you need to do or items still needing to be packed as you think of them. We promise you will thank us for this one!
- Involve the Kids – Give the kids a chance to be involved! Send them off with tasks such as “choose 2 books you will want to bring” or “choose three pairs of pajamas”. They will love it, and it will help you too!
- Returning Home – When you are packing to return home from your family travel, one hack is to use one suitcase for all the dirty laundry. Have your family toss in all the dirty clothes, throw in some of those dryer sheets, and zip it up. Then, when you get home, that suitcase can go directly to the laundry room! Easy peasy!
Our Best Advice for Flying with Children
One of the most stressful parts of family travel is flying with kids. Being confined to a small space with strangers can provoke fear in any mother. But, flying with children doesn’t need to be scary. With a little preparation, some proven tips, and a lot of practical ideas, you and your family can have success in traveling with children on a plane. Below you will find our best tips and advice for flying with kids. Many of these tips come from Diva Tara’s own experience as she asked for help from our readers. You can see visuals to some of the tips at our Instagram “DatingDivas” under the highlight bubble “Baby Travel Tips.”
- Set Expectations – Start your preparations for the plane early. Read books together about airplanes, walk them through what to expect at the airport, and take time to discuss airplane etiquette. You will be surprised how much this can help.
- Know Before You Go – Most airlines allow you to bring strollers right up to the end of the walkway where you board the plane. This helps you navigate the airport while keeping your kiddos strapped in a stroller until you get to your gate. Check with your airline to know what is allowed and not allowed.
- Carrying a Car Seat – Most airlines allow you to check a car seat along with your luggage free of charge. Getting that car seat to the counter and then to your final destination can be tricky. You have luggage in tow and kids to wrangle. For that reason, I have loved having this Padded Car Seat Travel Bag to help me carry the car seat as well as protect it when being loaded onto the plane.
- Pre-Boarding Preparation – Before boarding the planes, make sure your kids are well-fed, diapers changed, and kids have gone to the bathroom.
- Pain Prevention – Prior to the flight, you can give your child Children’s Motrin or Tylenol. This will help relieve any pain from the cabin’s pressure on your little one’s ears. We do not recommend Benadryl. This medication can sometimes have the reverse effect and make children more energetic and hyper (the absolute opposite of what you want when flying with children!)
- Melatonin – For a long red-eye flight, we had a pediatric pharmacist recommend our little one take Sundown Natural Liquid Melatonin about 30 minutes before the flight. It is an all-natural, over the counter, sleep aid that worked perfectly. He slept the whole flight! We would, however, only use this during a night-time flight to avoid throwing off their natural sleep cycles and to use sparingly.
- When to Board the Plane – Many airlines give preferential boarding to families traveling with children and allow them to board very first. If you do not have assigned seats for your flight, this is a great opportunity for you to make sure you have room in the overhead compartment for your luggage, as well as assure that you will all be able to sit together. If, however, you have assigned seating, we recommend you wait until the very last possible moment to board. Any extra time for them to get their wiggles out is needed. Boarding first simply means a longer time waiting on the plane.
- Sit Near the Front – If you have the option to choose your seats, we recommend sitting near the front. This makes getting off the plane a little quicker – something you and your kids will appreciate.
- Helping With Pressure Changes at Take-off and Landing – Children are especially sensitive to the pressure changes in the cabin. One way to relieve this pressure is a sucking motion at take-off and landing. For babies, nursing, a bottle, or a binky will do the trick. For older children, a sucker, candy, gum, sippy cup, or apple sauce packet will get their mouth moving.
- Relieve the Pressure – Rubbing your little one’s ears in a circular motion can also be helpful at take-off and landing to relieve the pressure. If needed, you can also gently pull on the earlobes.
- Baby Ear Plugs – If you are really concerned about the pressure affecting your kiddos’ ears, there is a product called Earplanes. These inexpensive earplugs are specifically designed to help relieve ear discomfort in children.
- New Activities – It is a smart idea to pack some activities that will be new, exciting, or special to your child. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, just something new and different. We have more entertainment ideas below!
- Snacks – Make sure to pack a lot of snacks in your carry on bag. This can keep little fingers busy and tummies full!
- Sippy Cups – It is unlikely that the airline will have lids for the drinks they provide. It is worth preventing spills by bringing a sippy cup for your child!
- Keep Toys Contained – You can use a teething necklace or something similar to string toys together. This keeps toys accessible and together.
- Headphones – If you want to use an iPad for entertainment on the airplane, remember to pack headphones. If you have multiple kids sharing an iPad, we recommend using a dual adapter like this one.
- Survive – If something does go wrong during your flight, please remember to be gentle with yourself and with your little ones. Focus on fixing what you can and letting go of what you can’t. Most people will understand your position. Just do the best you can.
Tips and Ideas for Road Trip Family Travel
Traveling by car is a great way to travel with kids. It provides a unique kind of flexibility and can be a more economical option for family travel. However, long car rides for kids can be a challenge. If you plan to hit the road with your crew – we have a few tips to make traveling with children more enjoyable for everyone!
- Car Check – Before you head out on the road for some family travel time, make sure to get your car’s maintenance checked. No one wants to have car issues on a trip, but it is especially difficult when you travel with kids. Check your tire pressure, your oil levels, and even fill that gas tank before loading the kids in the car. Anything to keep things running smoothly will help you travel with kids.
- Tips for Packing the Car – One of the advantages of road trip travel is that you can bring more things. We love this Ultimate Road Trip Packing List that includes some of the most important essentials to pack in the car – including tips for where to keep it all!
- Time It Right – Depending on your trip, you may be able to plan time in the car around typical nap times or bedtimes, allowing your kids to sleep the majority of the time in the car. This makes time in the car go so much quicker! Do what works for you, but keep this in mind when you plan to set out.
- Break It Up – As you plan your route, make sure to plan in some specific stops along the way. You can use an app like “Along the Way” to find stops with kid-friendly places to eat or maybe a fun park where you can all have a break and get some wiggles out!
- Map It Out – Use resources like “Roadtrippers,” to help you map out your journey to your final destination.
- Be Realistic About Your Driving Schedule – You know your family best when it comes to how long you can drive and when. Plan breaks and always be flexible.
- Countdown – We have a great printable countdown that we love that you can customize with stops along the way! It is great for kids to have a visual of the progress you have made. Perhaps you can even avoid the “are we there yet?” question.
- Have Lots of Activities on Hand – Provide a lot of options for entertainment within reach of your kids. Below we share our favorite activities to do while traveling.
- Surprise Bags – Consider tucking away some of your road trip entertainment and pulling out something new every hour, or at certain destination points along the way. This can help keep the interest throughout the trip.
- Road Trip Survival Kit – This printable kit includes activities that are perfect for surviving road trips with kids. It includes a countdown to your destination, a license plate game, a questionnaire, treat toppers, and more!
- Portable Potty – When your kids have to go on the go, we totally recommend the Potette Portable Potty. It is a travel size toilet seat with disposable bags. After they go, just tie off the bag and throw it away. It will seriously save the day!
- Snack Bags – Any road trip requires delicious snacks but, especially trips with kids! We love providing each kid with their own gallon size bag of snacks to last them the whole trip. They can manage how much they eat and when and mom doesn’t have to be constantly providing the food.
- Hold Off On The Technology – Screens can be a life-saver when you travel with kids on the road. However, too much screen time can make kids irritable as well. We recommend letting them entertain themselves in other ways and pulling out this tool in emergency situations. For more entertainment ideas – keep reading!
- More Road Trip Tips For Traveling With Kids – This post goes even more in-depth with over 100 ideas to help you be prepared to travel with kids on a road trip adventure!
Activities Everyone Enjoys When You Travel With Kids
Whether traveling by plane or car – one of the greatest challenges, when you travel with kids, is keeping them entertained. Here are some great resources and ideas to keep everyone busy and happy throughout your travels!
Whether you are packing a carry-on bag for the plane or a busy bag for the car, how you pack the bag is important. Pack your bag with entertainment options that are not messy, provide long-lasting play, and take up little space. Below are some of our favorite items to pack!
- Water Wow Books – We are BIG fans of these reusable magic color books. Just add water to the brush, and the color appears when you brush it on. The best part is that after it dries, the color disappears, and you can color again!
- Color Wonder Coloring Books – These coloring books are a game-changer for parents. These mess-free markers only work on specific coloring surfaces. So, you can rest easy knowing that your kids are coloring without leaving graffiti in unwanted places.
- Boogie Board Writing Tablet – This is lightweight, thin, and can provide hours of gaming classics such as Tic-Tac-Toe and Hangman! The tablet is fun to write on, and kids love how it all magically disappears with the touch of a button!
- Magnet Stories – These activity playsets are easy to throw in a bag and provide opportunities for imaginative play and storytelling.
- Window Clings – Whether on an airplane or in a car, these special window stickers keep little hands busy. And the best part? They are reusable.
- Games on the Go – This nifty little set of cards includes 50 game ideas that can be played anytime and anywhere – perfect for when you travel with kids!
- Screen Time – We don’t do a lot of screen time in our family, but when we travel with kids, the iPad comes out! You can download age-appropriate shows, apps, and even storybooks in advance to provide plenty of entertainment during your trip. Remember to pack headphones if flying on a plane. Also, I recommend utilizing your other activities first and using this as a last resort!
- Conversations Cards – Any downtime can include bonding time with these 300 family-focussed conversation starters.
- Podcasts – Before you take off, download some kid-friendly podcasts. Here are a few popular ones that adults can enjoy as well!
- Done-For-You-Travel Bag – Did you know that you can buy travel busy bags for your kids that are all ready to go? This set includes 20 various activities that are perfect for trips with kids.
Advice From Moms Who Travel With Kids
Without question, hearing advice from seasoned parents who have traveled with kids will help ease your worries! Take a few minutes to read the advice below and plan accordingly. When it doubt, you’re welcome to message us below to ask for any additional advice. We’re happy to help!
- Sleep Schedules – Traveling with children will likely mean that nap and sleep schedules will be off, and it will be okay. Jet lag, time zone changes, and planned activities during nap time can all result in changes to your typical schedule. Know that your kiddos will get back on schedule when you return home. This is for a small-time. Do what you can, but don’t stress. We promise it will be ok.
- Mindset – Pre-children, you likely went on vacations without much concern. These vacations were likely relaxing and allowed for unwinding. Consider adjusting your mindset to think of your family travel as a trip rather than a vacation. Be realistic when you picture your family trip, and know that this will be different. Get in the mindset of making memories with your family!
- Stay Calm – Travel with kids can be difficult, but one of our biggest tips is to remain calm. Kids feed off of the energy you provide. If you are fearful or stressed, they will be too. Take a deep breath and relax.
- Embrace the Adventure – Travel with kids is an adventure in every sense of the word. No matter what challenges come up in your travels, enjoy your time with your precious cargo (aka the kiddos). You are making memories together that will last a lifetime!
We hope that wherever your journey takes you and your family that you feel prepared, empowered, and excited for the adventure to come! Do you have any other travel tips from your experience? Share them below! We would love to hear your tips for traveling with kids!
Now that you are all ready to hit the road on your next family travel adventure, here are a few of our favorite places to go! Check out our favorite Places to Visit in the USA and our top 101 Best Family Vacations Spots.
Love this! Sarina is the cutest!!!! Such great tips
Thanks, Jami! You are so kind. I hope you enjoy the tips.
Thank you for these tips! Traveling with kids takes some serious preparation and you have covered it all!
LOVE these tips so much!!
Dryer sheets for shoes is genius!
These are genius!!!!
So many amazing tips! Love the idea of using one suitcase for all the dirty laundry for the return trip!
Sarina, I LOVED all these tips! Using a dryer sheet to keep things smelling fresh is GENIUS and so simple! I feel like I should have been doing that for years! HAHA