Traveling with family is never quite as idyllic as the pictures make it look. The reality of family travel can be pretty overwhelming and can convince even the most travel-loving parents to stay at home for the next decade of their lives. However, you can enjoy a trip with your entire family with meticulous planning and organization.
Traveling with kids can be stressful. These expert parenting travel tips will guide you throughout your trip and ensure you have a smooth family travel experience.
The Best Tips for Smooth Family Travel
Pack Light and Smart
Although kids need a lot of stuff, the more items you bring, the more things you have to lug around, and the more items you will leave scattered around your travels. Prepare for your trip by writing down precisely what you need and what items can do double duty. For example, you want extra clothes for the kids, but pack easy-care items like leggings and t-shirts that they can wear for multiple occasions.
You may want to invest in some good travel products to cut down on the gear you need to bring. For example, a Doona Car Seat is a car seat and a stroller, so you only need to bring one item with you. Baby gear like that may cost you money but will help you pack light and smart.
The Basics: Bathroom, Meals, And So on
When traveling with kids, you need to pay extra attention to the basics. Make sure that there are bathrooms and meals for your children wherever you go. Consider bringing easy snacks and kid-friendly food as a backup. Bring changes of clothing and plenty of diapers and wipes with you. A good idea is to find a bathroom when you first go to a new place and point it out to your children.
Overprepared is the way to go. While smooth family travel is still an option with young kids, spontaneous family travel is less of an option. Be prepared for all eventualities. Pack extra clothes, diapers, wipes, and food. Know where you are going ad what you are doing. Be ready for the inevitable delays and lost baggage that is part of travel today. Make sure to pack a carry-on bag with absolute necessities so they don’t get lost with your luggage. Reserve as many things as possible in advance, so you are more assured of your spots. Prepay for the items and services you will need, such as sitting together, a car seat for the rental car, etc.
Especially if you are planning by plane, give yourself plenty of time before your flight leaves. Check-in and security lines are longer than ever, and kids often move slowly and need to make bathroom stops at inopportune times. So arrive early to give yourself time and avoid a stressful airport experience.
Pick The Right Attractions
If you want a positive trip with your children, then you need to pick the right attractions. Even if the art museum is on your absolute must-see list, your children may not enjoy the same things as you. So plan your attractions around your children’s needs. This doesn’t mean you need to you only pick kid-centric activities, but it does mean you should pick kid-friendly attractions and activities. Choose places to go that are kid-friendly, have plenty of bathroom and eating areas, and places where kids can play.
If you must go to a non-child-friendly attraction, then schedule it between kid-friendly activities and bring along entertainment, such as a tablet and headphones or a book, for antsy kids.
Read The Ratings
Always do your research and read the ratings before you plan a trip. Look out for reviews that specifically mention family travel or children. Remember, a 5-star rating from a childless traveler does not mean this is a good place for you to go.
Always check ahead, preferably by calling all destinations. Many attractions and tourist areas do not have current websites and may not have the current Covid protocols or rules listed. Make sure the places you want to go are open when you want to go.
Apps are your friend! Use travel planning apps to keep your itineraries and information in one place. Download parking, airline, and rental car apps to make check-in easier. Use attraction apps to make sure you get the most out of your experience. The more work you can do on your phone, the less work you need to do while standing in line- and we all know how kids are when they have to stand in line!
Stick To Your Regular Routine
Vacation and travel are a time to relax and enjoy; however, it is crucial to stick to your regular routine as much as possible when traveling with kids. This means trying to schedule meal times for the times you eat at home and bedtime for around the same time you sleep at home. For example, if your child always eats lunch at 12, they will not be a happy camper when they have to wait until 2. However, if you absolutely cannot avoid it, be prepared with snacks. The same idea applies to bedtime; although an early bedtime may not be the best way to spend an evening, it is better than the alternative!
Avoiding Jet Lag
If traveling to a different time zone, be prepared for the terrible jet lag. Jet lag with children is the worst, but there are things you can do to prepare. First, drink lots of water and spend lots of time outdoors. This allows your body to adjust naturally to the current time zone. Do your best to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night. Finally, be prepared for little children to wake up in the middle of the night to play, with practical activities and ideas to pass the time quietly.
The big hotel and Airbnb debate intensifies when you travel with children. Hotels offer a lot of amenities and are usually safer. However, a good Airbnb can be great when traveling with a whole family. If you can find a child-friendly Airbnb with good ratings, that may be your best bet. Usually, AIrbnbs have more room to run around and play, but they also have kitchens (great for preparing kid-friendly meals) and can be a better option for parents who put their kids to sleep early. As always, do your research before you choose your accommodations.
Safety and Security
We all want to keep our children safe. Prep your children by going over basic safety information for traveling. All children should know their parents’ names and phone numbers by heart. Review with your children what to do if they get lost, where they should go, and whom they should approach.
Be prepared with a basic first aid kit and information about your destination’s emergency services (especially if you travel out of the country). Always bring medications along with you and have your doctor’s phone numbers on your phone or written down.
Of course, you should follow all travel safety rules as well. Keep your purse, ID, and money securely on your person. Never take an unmarked car or follow an unknown person anywhere. Be careful where you drink and with whom. Know the name of your hotel and the address of your Airbnb in case of emergency.
Smooth Family Travel
Traveling with kids is not for the faint of heart! But with good preparation and planning, you can have a great trip that everyone will remember fondly.
This post originally appeared on Savoteur.