The best family travel tips, are typically passed down from those who under-prepared once before. You look back on vacation and realize that you will never make the same family travel mistakes twice or think how much worse the travel could have gone, had you not physically and mentally prepared.
Going On A Family Vacation
Chances are if you have kids, you still aren’t getting the full 8 hours of sleep needed to function like real humans. The thought of the warm sun shining on your face, and images of your children splashing in ocean waves, makes you click-happy online. Next thing you know you’re headed on a family vacation where your family of five is about to share a single hotel room, with two kids under two who have never flown on an airplane.
What better way to get out of the “Normal” routine, than to hop on a plane, go where the sun is shining, and still not get sleep somewhere else?
Traveling On A Plane With Kids
You probably traveled many times before kids. You’d throw together a bag the night before. Show up to the airport an hour ahead of departure, grab a coffee and flip through the latest and greatest book and get excited for a “plane nap.” Heck, maybe you even had an airplane cocktail and relaxed as you floated away amongst the clouds.
Traveling with kids is the COMPLETE opposite. You show up trying to find a parking space as close to the entrance as possible, because you’re responsible for hauling three extra large suitcases, a beach bag, a snack bag, and a baby bag; all while holding on to two toddler hands, and pushing your baby in a stroller merrily along the frozen tundra.
After checking in, it’s time for security, which is where the fun of traveling with kids really happens. Hop on one leg, take off your shoes, dump your bags, find your tickets, jam the stroller that won’t fit through the x-ray machine, throw your hands up through the body scan several times, wait you did it too fast- go back do it again.
Ohhh you brought wipes? Yeah those need to be specially checked. All those snacks, water and formula. Yep, special inspection for those too. You’ll need to wait.
You Made It Through Security, Now What?
Where is the toddler? Why is it so hot in here? And now your toddler needs to go to the bathroom, but you’re still waiting for your stroller to be checked and your snacks to be examined, and you don’t have any shoes on. This will be fun. WE ARE GOING TO HAVE FUN, you remind yourself.
After you have made your way through security, it’s time to prepare the stroller to be checked at the gate. Carefully push it’s wheels in, and then fit it into a travel stroller bag, which is more like fitting yourself into your pre-pregnancy jeans right after you have given birth.
Continuously dodge questions about snack time from your toddler, all while keeping the baby busy, since it’s questionable whether or not you should let them crawl around the floor. Coffee?! Haha thats cute, no time for that.
It will be fun… YOU are going to have fun. Are you having fun yet?
You get to board first, because of the kids, BONUS…but your husband isn’t there because he finally had an opportunity to go to the bathroom. Now, you finally get to board. you close your eyes, and hope for the best but prepare for the worst, as your baby starts to cry and your toddler is continuously banging the tray table on the seat in front of them.
You finally land, head to your cramped one bedroom hotel room, and it’s your babies bedtime. Everyone has to be quiet, but you don’t have a pack-and-play and your 4 year old wants to stay up late singing show tunes. The hotel you chose doesn’t have a restaurant and everyone is hungry. Are you having fun yet?
Family Travel Requires Planning
Ok, maybe that was dramatic. But it’s a raw and REAL look at what family travel is really like. Traveling, especially with kids is NOT a piece of cake. It requires PLENTY of mental prep work to ensure you have all your bases covered. The best family travel tips stem from PLANNING ahead. From where you and your family end up, to how you will get there and everything in between.
This is a REAL list of the best family travel tips that will mentally and physically prepare you for traveling with kids, from the moment you leave the door, till the moment you hit the beach! Are you ready?
THE BEST FAMILY TRAVEL TIPS
1. Research Where You Will Stay
A one room hotel, where everyone shares a room and tries to be quiet after a long day at the beach and bedtime at 7pm doesn’t really sound ideal for anyone. My favorite option for traveling with kids is to stay at a condo or house. This allows you to have all the amenities you love at home, like full size kitchens, separate rooms for your children, a dishwasher, and a washer and dryer.
If you must stay in a hotel, Embassy Suites is great for family travel. Every hotel suite has a separate bedroom, while the family room area usually has a pull-out couch bed. They also offer a really nice continental breakfast each morning, and an evening reception that includes free beer/cocktails and light appetizers, which you will need after your long plane ride.
2. Make A List Ahead Of Time
At least two weeks before you leave for your vacation, think about what you use in an entire day from the moment your kids wake up to the moment they go to bed. Don’t forget things like baby monitors, white noise machines, a pack-and-play sheet/crib sheet, Tylenol/Motrin, and a change of cold/warm weather clothes just in case.
Maybe you need special sippy cups, toddler eating utensils, blankies/stuffed animals etc. Over pack your list on paper, and then condense down when it actually comes time to pack. You will rather be over prepared than under prepared.
Pack a separate backpack/carry on bag filled with snacks, toys, and essentials. Make sure you will have enough hands to hold onto your children, while also comfortably carrying your bag.
3. Use Baby Rental Services
Renting baby equipment when you get to your destination, makes things so much easier. Babyquip offers rentals in most areas, and they will hand deliver things like pack-and-plays, high chairs, strollers, bouncers, play centers and car seats. Have all of your child’s favorite amenities brought right to you, without having to pack them. This makes family travel soooooo much easier.
4. Send A Box Ahead of Time
This is honestly my BEST hack for traveling in general, but especially traveling with kids. Call ahead of time and ask your hotel/rental if they will accept a package prior to your arrival. MANY will! A few days before you leave place an Amazon order or a Thrive Market order with some essentials! Snacks, sunscreen, disposable toddler eating utensils, food, diapers, wipes, etc.
5. Do A Grocery Delivery When You Get There
This is the second best family travel hack. The night before you leave create a grocery list and ORDER your groceries ahead of time. Look up the zip code of where you are staying to determine which stores deliver to where you are staying. On the Instacart app select the store you want to have your groceries delivered from, and then add all of the items you want delivered and it should save everything in your cart.
Then, when you arrive to your location, confirm and complete your order and wait for your groceries to be delivered!
Tip: create an easy list of breakfast, lunches, dinners that are easy to cook with limited ingredients and kitchen appliances. Think: sandwiches, spaghetti, tacos, etc. Load up on snacks, bottles of water, diapers, wipes, and don’t forget a bottle or two of wine!
6. Research TSA Rule And Regulations
Many parents don’t know what you can and can’t bring on the airplane when it comes to babies, so make sure you are aware of the TSA rules so you don’t have to throw anything away!
You CAN bring formula, breastmilk, water needed for formula, baby food and snacks on the plane. They will have to go through a special screening where they physically test the items. Keep all of these items seperate, and easily accessible! I love putting this all in a plastic grocery bag, then after it has been checked at security, add it back to my baby bag or carry on luggage.
Heads up! Baby wipes need to be specially checked at security as well. Make sure you place the wipes with the rest of your baby products that need to be tested to speed things along.
7. Load Up The Tablet Before You Go
If screen time is your jam, download a few new movies or TV episodes your child has not seen. At home, our tablets are strictly for educational games, but on vacation they can transform into tiny TVS, to help pass the time on the airplane. Make sure the movies are fully downloaded BEFORE you leave the land of free WiFi. Nothing worse than getting on a plane with a tablet you can’t use. Also, make sure to buy good baby headphones so your little one can hear the show.
8. Baby Wear At the Airport
Remember a few paragraphs up about doing the hokey pokey trying to hold a baby and toddler at the security checkpoint? That was inspired by real life events, so don’t be me!
If you can, babywear your baby. It allows you to use two hands while you take off your shoes, throw your bags through the x-ray machines and usually you can go through the metal detectors with it. It’s also nice to have while on vacation so you don’t always have to bring a stroller with you. If you baby wear, you can then opt to have your stroller checked with your luggage, instead of gate checked making it much easier.
9. Keep Baby & Toddler Entertained On Plane
Head to the dollar store and stock up on a few new toys that your child has never seen before. Stickers, puzzles, action figures, coloring books, etc. and strategize how and when you pull them out. They also are great if you have bad weather when you get to your destination and need something to do.
Find LOTS AND I MEAN LOTS of fun stuff for your baby to chew on and get excited about. We love these ice-cream teether cones, teether straws. Bring a few of their favorite light up toys, shaker toys, and lovies. I love this apple toy that can grip to the tray table in front of you and will keep your child entertained for a long time. You may also look into this fun fidget spinner toy that sparks tons of fun!
When all else fails, they will probably love playing with plastic water bottles, cups, packages, Kleenex and other random things you may have in your bag.
10. Bring SNACKS… LOTS AND LOTS OF SNACKS
DON’T FORGET SNACKS. Snacks are crucial for family travel. In fact, the best family travel tip on this whole post is bringing snacks. Forget everything else I wrote, just make sure to bring an assortment of snacks to keep their bellies full. Here is a full list of some of my favorite snacks.
Make sure these are snacks that your kiddo has had before. The last thing you want to happen is to have tummy issues while you are 35,000 feet in the air! Consider sugar too, as you don’t want a ping-pong toddler bouncing off the walls, while you have nowhere for them to burn their energy.
Good traveling snacks for toddlers:
- Individual pretzel bags
- Granola bars
- Fruit cups
- Veggies & individual hummus containers
- Veggie Straws
11. Keep Everyone In Comfy Clothes
If your baby or toddler has shoes, chances are high that TSA will not make them remove their shoes as an FYI, but parents will have to remove their own shoes. Wear comfortable shoes that you can easily slide on and off, preferably without having to use your hands.
Wear a hooded sweatshirt/jacket/vest that has pockets so your phone, and tickets are easily accessible, instead of fishing around your purse or baby bag. Also, dress your child in layers. Planes can get cold and sometimes they are hot, so no matter what time of the year it is, add a lightweight zip up jacket to be safe.
12. Keep Schedules The Same
When you travel, you often leave the comfort zone of the time zone you live in. Consider keeping your kids on the exact same schedule they are on at home. Sure this may mean that they are now going to bed at 5pm in your new time zone, or even waking up at 5am instead of 7, but don’t set your watches ahead just yet. Keeping the same schedule, allows easy transition when you get back home, and you also won’t be dealing with over-tired kiddos. Keep nap times, dinner times, and any other scheduled activity that ends in time the same!
13. HAVE FUN
You now have a solid family travel plan in place to get you on that airplane and get yourself to the beach! With your bags packed and you full of confidence, you have it all! When you land you will have groceries and baby supplies waiting, and a pack and play ready to go.
Enjoy the fun in the sun! Watch your kiddos have a blast playing in the sand, and give your spouse a high five that you did it!
IF you have a plan.
IF you know how to physically and mentally prepare.
IF you hate the cold as much as I do and NEED a vacation.
Go, and get out there and explore the world with your family!