Traveling is one of life’s pleasures, and it doesn’t have to stop when you have children. Taking your little ones on a trip might seem like a daunting endeavor, but parents all around the world do it successfully. All you need are some special preparations, planning, and in the words of Nike, just do it! Travel when you can, as soon as you can, and as often as you can—making memories with your children will be worth any hassle that comes with planning a trip.
Whether it is your first time going on a trip with kids or your fifteenth one, here are 22 tips for traveling with small children
1. Accept that Things will Go Wrong
Do yourself a favor and accept defeat in advance. Things will inevitably go wrong when doing any kind of traveling. When you add kids to the mix, it’s even more likely, whether it be a meltdown in the middle of the airport or a lost toy, so take a breath and handle the situation as calmly as possible.
2. Ask About Discounts
Make sure to ask about child discounts whenever you travel to save money. You will probably be surprised at how many places offer discounts for people traveling with children, including transportation such as buses and trains, tours, private guides, attraction entrance fees, and restaurants. Traveling can be expensive, especially with kids, so every little bit counts in terms of cutting costs.
3. Book Wisely
When considering where to book your vacation, keep accommodations in mind. Hotels and vacation rentals are good options for family getaways, but look out for special perks like room service, baby-sitting services, and kids clubs. Take your time deciding where to book and think about accessibility—will you have to climb a steep hill or winding stairway to get to the hotel with your kids in tow?
4. Keep in Mind Car Seats
To bring or not to bring, that is many parents’ question when it comes to car seats. Especially if you are flying, such a bulky object may be too much hassle—but some families swear by them. If you think it would be a good idea to take one, consider investing in a combination car seat and buggy that is easily collapsible and has more than one use.
5. Do Your Research
No matter the destination, local or in a different country, it’s wise to do your research beforehand. Opening hours, attractions, local wildlife, visas, vaccinations, medications—research the specifics before you leave to relieve some of the stress when you arrive.
6. Don’t Overpack
Keep in mind that you can purchase most items at your destination besides prescription medications and glasses. Don’t worry about bringing along too many extras that you may not use; and instead, focus on the essentials. If you need to, pop out to a shop at your destination and buy what you might have forgotten.
7. Bring Entertainment Items
When traveling with children, keeping them entertained is essential to everyone’s enjoyment of the trip. Whether this is with activities, books, toys, or electronics, ensure that you pack enough things to keep your kids busy. This is especially crucial for long transit periods such as plane rides—you may be happy to take a nap, but your kids will want something more entertaining to pass the time.
8. Pack a First Aid Kit
Keep safe during your travels with a first aid kit packed and ready to go. Include supplies that cover more severe incidents and minor accidents like scraped knees, blisters, and bee stings. Be sure also to tailor the kit to the weather of your destination—heating packs for cold areas and aloe for the beach.
9. Go Over the Trip
Save everyone some amount of hassle by going over the trip in advance with your kids. Introduce them to the trip itinerary and travel plans, let them know what to expect and answer any questions. This is also an excellent time to explain proper plane, hotel, or tour etiquette, especially for first-time travelers.
10. Stay Hydrated
No matter the climate of your destination, make sure to keep clean drinking water on you at all times. Children are especially prone to dehydration, so ensuring frequent water breaks is essential to keeping everyone healthy and happy! This is also important for locals where not all water sources are potable drinking water— steer clear of dehydration and stomach bugs by always carrying bottled water.
11. Have Proper Identification and Documentation
Keep track of all documents and IDs needed for travel, including your children’s. Ensure you know what papers you and your kids will need ahead of time, as some countries require passports, birth certificates, or permission letters from any non-present parent for travel. It’s also a good idea to make photocopies of important papers just in case!
12. Keep Track of the Kids
Make your trip flow smoothly by making sure you know where your kids are at all times. It might seem obvious, but don’t add more stress to your holiday logistics by having a moment of panic when you look down, and your child is not where you expected. Instead, you can get a small GPS tracker for peace of mind, or write your contact information on a note and attach it to their clothes, just in case the worst should happen.
13. Leave Plenty of Time
Whether you are leaving for the airport or exploring the town, budget lots of time. Everything tends to take longer than anticipated when traveling with children, so make sure you have the extra time to account for delays. Keep your schedule loose and leave lots of room for adjustments to the itinerary.
14. Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best
What could possibly go wrong? It’s actually an excellent question to ask yourself before you leave for a trip. Make a list of everything that could go wrong and some solutions—running through situations before they happen can help prepare you mentally and physically for possible obstacles on your trip.
15. Pre-Book Everything You Can
Pre-booking things for your trip shouldn’t end with your flights and hotel stay. Make sure you have options for transportation, eating out, entertainment, activities, and more. This is especially important if you are traveling with a large group. Flexibility is good, but make sure the important things are set in stone—you can always cancel it later.
16. Prep Your Kids with Activities
Get your kids pumped for the trip with some travel-related activities or projects in the time leading up to your vacation. Explore the geography, history, animals, and plant life of your destination, watch a movie that is set there, or learn some words in the local language. If the food is very different from your cuisine, do some research on the dishes and try cooking up one to prepare everyone’s tastebuds for the change.
17. Schedule Downtime
It may feel like a waste, but downtime is crucial when traveling with kids, especially when they are younger. Don’t pack in too many activities and destinations, and look into how you can spend downtime relaxing outside of the hotel room. Spending an hour reading in a library, relaxing in a park, or catching a movie at the local theater are all good ways to take a rest but still enjoy your vacation destination.
18. Consider Seating
Make sure you know where your child can safely sit when taking transit or on a flight. For instance, some airplanes only have extra oxygen masks over specific seats, which should be considered when traveling with a child.
19. Snacks, Snack, Snacks
No one is happy when they’re hungry, and kids are no different. Ensure that you have a plethora of snacks and food options. Mealtimes can get easily delayed when traveling due to long flights, traffic, or unexpected closures, so keep yourself well stocked with snack foods for happy kids and happy travels!
20. Special Requirements
If any of your family members or children have special requirements, make sure to prepare well in advance. For example, if your child has a food allergy, make sure to research the local foods and what to ask for, especially if they speak a different language at your destination. Print out cards detailing any needs or requirements your family has in English and the local language for easier communication.
21. Take it Slow
Remove some of the stress from your trip and take it slow—there’s no rush to get off the airplane or a need to squeeze in three museums before lunch. Take a breath, enjoy the experience, and take it easy!