Traveling with your whole family for the first time can be overwhelming. Even though it gets easier the more you do it, you’re going to run into a few challenges any time you travel with kids.
Being prepared and knowing what you’re getting into are two of the biggest things you can do to make family travel go smoothly, but there are lots of little things you can do to make your trip better too.
Lists like this can be overwhelming but packed with great information. Don’t worry, you don’t need to read this one all at once: there’s a handy table of contents you can come back to reference any time. You never know where there will be a little tidbit of information that saves you some time, money, or stress on your next trip. I’ve picked up lots of information over the years this way and I’m happy to share some of it with you now.
Without further ado, here are the tips we think are the most useful and easiest to implement when traveling with kids. Planning for extra time is exactly the opposite of what I do when I’m traveling alone. I typically leave so little time at my home airport that once I get through security and walk to my gate, I can usually get on the plane within 2 or 3 minutes. This is definitely not what you want to do if you are traveling with kids.
You definitely don’t want to miss your flight because it took an extra 10 minutes to get your stroller and bottles through security. Then you are stuck at the airport waiting to be rescheduled with unhappy children. Trust me, that’s not fun!
Families have a tendency to pack everything kids use at home. Bringing familiar items will keep your routines consistent and you’ll be sure to have everything you need. Unfortunately, this is a terrible idea. At the end of a long travel day, there is a good chance you will end up carrying at least 1 kid, so you certainly don’t want to be carrying 100 pounds of luggage, too.
Instead, pack as little as possible. The act of traveling itself will mess with your home routines, so trying to preserve all of them isn’t going to work anyway. It will just lead to frustration and sore arms. When you arrive in a new place, you’ll want to go straight to your lodging, drop off bags, and give kids a chance to rest if necessary. This is especially true if it’s been a long journey to get to your destination.
You should know where you’re staying before you arrive. If you want a bit of flexibility in location, book the first night or 2 ahead of time, and decide where to stay for the rest of the trip once you’re settled. Pre-booking doesn’t end with flights and lodging, either. Anything you can book ahead of time is 1 less thing you have to worry about while trying to keep your whole family fed, amused, and happy on your trip.
Keeping track of your child seems like it should be obvious, but it’s important enough to mention. No matter what you’re doing, whether things are going smoothly or you’re having a logistical nightmare, always make sure you know where your children are.
You’d be surprised how easy it is to get wrapped up in something like buying train tickets in another language. The next thing you know, your son or daughter has wandered over to the little shop at the train station to check out candy bars. If those candy bars are on the far side of a shelf and you can’t see your child, this could lead to a moment of panic.
If you’re traveling with another parent or adult, share duties. One person buys the tickets and the other watches the kids. If you’re traveling alone with the kids, be sure that they stay in view at all times. If necessary, hold their hands or have them sit in your line of sight. Even the most vigilant parent can lose track of children. If your children are prone to wandering off, consider using a small GPS tracker that you can attach to their shoes or belt. The tracker will alert you if our child gets too far away and will let you track them to see exactly where they went.