Megan Bryant is a passionate writer and traveler who has combined her two loves to help others fulfill their traveling dreams. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually curled up with her 3 Dachshunds and a good book or planning her next adventure—wherever that may be.
Many parents dread traveling with their kids, and I get it; it does add an extra level of stress to an already somewhat stressful time. But traveling with kids can be made easier with a few handy tips and tricks.
Whether you’re traveling on a plane, train, or setting off on a road trip, here are some game-changing hacks to help your travel day run more smoothly.
Give Yourself Plenty of Time
One of the biggest tips for traveling with kids is to give yourself plenty of time. Everything will take longer with little ones in tow, whether it’s security checks, walking to your gate, or boarding the plane. So it’s best to give yourself an extra hour to navigate the airport without worrying about missing your flight.
Even for families heading off on a road trip, expect it to take an hour or two longer than the GPS says. Children will inevitably need toilet breaks and some time out of the car to stretch their legs. So if you need to be somewhere at a specific time, set off a few hours before your original plan.
It’s no secret that traveling can get extremely boring. I mean, sitting on a plane or in a car for hours on end isn’t really the definition of fun, is it?
Understandably, scheduling breaks during a road trip is far easier than if you are on a plane. But you can look for flights with layovers so your little ones can stretch their legs and run about in the airport.
While off on a road trip, stop by playgrounds, National Parks, or landmarks so your kids can spend a few hours out of the car. Hopefully, allowing your kids to do some exercise will also tire them out to the point that they sleep for the remainder of the journey. So it really is a win-win.
Prebook Everything You Can
When traveling with kids, you want everything to be as straightforward as possible, which is why it’s a great idea to pre-book everything you can. This could include your hotel, your transfers from the airport, and even parking spaces, so when you arrive at your destination, the check-in process is quick and straightforward.
Pack Plenty of Snacks
One of the best ways to keep your kids quiet—even if it’s just for a minute or two—is snacks. So be sure to pack lots of them! Hangry children can really put a damper on your journey. And often, you won’t know when their next meal will be.
Pack your kid’s favorite snacks—both healthy and non-healthy—saving the unhealthy snacks for when your kids are particularly ravenous.
Pack Things to Keep Them Entertained
Entertainment is key when traveling with kids, and how you entertain your little ones is completely up to you. Some parents like to allow their kids’ screen time while traveling, whereas others prefer to have their children engaged with books, coloring packs, and worksheets.
Even if your home is a screen-free zone, allowing your kids to use a tablet or a phone can really improve your traveling experience as they’ll be sitting quietly for hours on end—especially if screen-time is a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence.
Bring Spare Outfits for Everyone
Accidents happen, and you just never know when you’ll be covered in puke, pee, or even worse, poop. Whenever you’re traveling with kids, pack a spare outfit in your carry-on for everyone in the family. You’ll also want to pack a plastic bag to put the dirty clothes in if something were to happen.
Pop Ears With Candy or Bottles
When flying with little ones, you’ll want to help them equalize the pressure in their ears—especially babies and toddlers. The sucking motion when feeding can help your baby equalize their ears naturally, so it’s best to feed during take-off and landing.
For slightly older children, candy like a lollipop or even a bottle of juice can alleviate the pressure in their ears when the plane is changing altitude.
Strategically Plan Travel Time
If you have the flexibility, planning your travel time around naps or when you usually would be sleeping is a handy tip for traveling with kids. For example, if you were to fly a red-eye flight, the chances are your little one will sleep through the entire flight as they usually would be asleep at this time. Having your kid sleep for large portions of the journey will definitely make the experience cheerier for all involved.
Take a Travel Stroller or Baby Wear
If you don’t want to have to carry your little one around the airport or at your destination, then it is wise to take a stroller or even a carrier. Carriers have the benefit of allowing you to be hands-free at all times, but strollers have the benefit of comfort.
Ultimately you need to think about your destination and the activities you’ll be doing. If you’re visiting a town with cobblestone streets, then a stroller may not be the best idea. But on the other hand, if you’re traveling to a country with a tropical climate, having your baby attached to you will be extremely hot and sweaty for both you and the baby.
Travel Somewhere With a Kids Club
Traveling to a hotel with a kids club can really alter your and your kid’s holiday. Firstly, your kids can interact and play with children their own age, often getting involved in crafts, games, and other activities. And secondly, being able to drop your kids off—knowing they’re looked after—can give you an hour or two of peace and quiet to do things that you want to do.
When traveling with kids, it’s easy to get carried away with packing. But taking numerous suitcases and hand luggage and trying to keep track of your kids can be a disaster. Instead, pack as light as possible, limiting your bags to one bag each. If you can pack even lighter than that, then definitely do so!
If your kids are old enough, give them the responsibility of carrying or wheeling their own bags so that way you aren’t left with more than you can handle.
Beat Jet Lag
Beating jet lag can be a tricky task, but it really will make a difference to your vacation if you can adjust to your new time zone. And the way to do it? Well, you’ll need to try and keep everyone up until nighttime. By going to bed at 8 or 9 pm, you’ll wake up earlyish the next morning, but not too early so that nothing around you is open.
And one of the biggest tips of all is to remain patient. Being patient with kids can be extremely difficult, especially in stressful situations like traveling. But you need to remember that traveling is a new, unpredictable situation for your kids, and they often won’t know how to react to the change.
Take deep breaths and remember that it will all be over soon. At the end of the day, getting angry at your little ones won’t change anything, and it will start your vacation off on the wrong foot—and no one wants that.
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