Traveling with Kids: 15 Top Tips You Need to Know

Whether you’re flying to a tropical paradise or packing up the car for a family camping trip, traveling with kids adds a whole new level of stress to any excursion. But just because you’re braving your next vacation with young children — whether they’re your kids, grandkids, or nieces and nephews — it doesn’t mean your journey has to be difficult. In fact, if you follow these simple tips from veteran parents, traveling with kids can be downright enjoyable. Yes, seriously.

Ahead, check out all the simple things you can do to make traveling with children a breeze.

1. Pack lightly

woman packing suitcase

Suitcase | Tatomm/iStock/Getty Images

Take everything you think you need to bring along for your kids and then pack exactly half that amount. Most people tend to overpack when they’re traveling with children, and the more you bring, the more stressed out you’ll be. Have a washer and dryer where you’re staying? Only bring a few outfits and wash them while you’re there.

Next: Bringing this one thing can make such a difference in your sanity.

2. Bring help

Little girl with her mature babysitter or nanny

Bring help | LuckyBusiness/iStock/Getty Images

Whether you invite your babysitter to tag along or you ask your mother-in-law, bringing help on vacation can be the difference between feeling stressed and being relaxed. An extra set of hands can be well worth the extra spend, and it’ll allow you and your partner to sneak away for a little alone time if you want.

Next: But whatever you do, don’t bring this.

3. Leave special things at home

Small girl with toy

Small girl with toy | gpointstudio/iStock

Your child’s favorite toy. That fancy shirt. A priceless piece of jewelry. Inevitably things can get lost or ruined on vacation, especially when you’re dealing with kids. Be smart about what you pack and only bring stuff that you wouldn’t be devastated to lose on your trip.

Next: This is the best time to travel.

4. Drive overnight

kids asleep in back of car

Sleeping kids | LightFieldStudios/iStock/Getty Images

The best way to keep kids from getting bored during long car rides? Travel while they’re asleep. Whether you leave before the sun comes up or opt to take the redeye flight, departing for your trip during sleep time can make the transition easier for little ones.

Next: Take the time to do this thing before you leave.

5. Schedule your time

Family vacation snorkeling

Snorkeling | Bicho_raro/iStock/Getty Images

Back before you had kids, an unscheduled trip may have felt like freedom. But with small children in tow, not having an itinerary can be a recipe for disaster. Make sure to look up things to do with kids ahead of time so you’re not stuck scrambling for activities at the last minute.

Next: Don’t make this common vacation mistake.

6. Don’t overcommit

family vacation beach sunrise

Sunrise on the beach | imtmphoto/iStock/Getty Images

While it’s smart to have a rough idea of what you’ll be doing on vacation each day, it’s unwise to jam-pack every waking minute with activities. There’s a good chance your family isn’t used to doing that many things in one day and overextending everyone can lead to exhaustion and crankiness for kids.

Your best bet? Schedule plenty of break times in between each planned event, especially if there’s a lot of walking involved.

Next: Smart travelers know to always plan this.

7. Plan a “free day”

Family in hotel room on vacation

Family on vacation | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Veteran Disney-goers know that you don’t need park tickets for every day of your stay — in between all those rides and experiences, it can be therapeutic to spend at least one day hanging by the hotel pool and taking it easy.

No matter where you’re going, planning a free day into your trip is smart. That way you have time to explore that little tourist attraction that wasn’t in the guidebook. Or, you know, take a long nap in the afternoon.

Next: It’s smart to let this one rule slide.

8. Bring a tablet

School kids with tablet pc

Tablets | iStock.com/dolgachov

Yes, limiting screen time for children is important. But rules were meant to be broken, and long flights are the perfect time to loosen up a little bit. Pre-load electronic devices with educational apps, movies, and games, be sure you have parental controls in place, and let go of any guilt you may have about it.

Next: Keep kids busy with this one simple trick.

9. Pack a surprise

Children playing with wooden toys

Kids play with their toys. | FamVeld/iStock/Getty Images

Ever notice how kids become enamored with new toys for at least a day before they lose interest? Use that tendency to your advantage and purchase small, inexpensive new toys for the trip to keep them occupied during travel time or on rainy days.

Next: This might be the most important thing you pack.

10. Bring enough snacks

Children eating their snacks

Snacks | Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

Hangry (hungry + angry) toddlers are no joke. Always bring more snacks than you think you’ll need. Skip the sugary treats, which will only lead to blood sugar spikes and crashes. Opt for healthier options like applesauce packets, peanut butter crackers, and trail mix.

Next: This is the best place to stay while you’re traveling.

11. Skip the hotel

Family arriving at vacation rental

Vacation rental | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

One way to make your vacation feel like home is to rent an actual home. Instead of cramming into a couple hotel rooms and using the microwave to heat your meals, consider renting out a house from Airbnb or staying at a vacation condo. You’ll have more room to spread out, plus you’ll be able to cook meals at home, which could save you hundreds.

Next: Go ahead, splurge on this.

12. Splurge a little

family with suitcases in the airport

Family with suitcases in the airport | iStock.com/Choreograph

Sure, it costs less to take the subway. But when you have three overtired children and a pile of luggage in tow, it’s worth it to pay the upcharge and take a taxi instead. Work these convenience charges into your overall vacation budget so you don’t have to think twice about it.

Next: This detour has a few benefits.

13. Stay with family

family sitting on sofa

Family | Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

Cousins in Cleveland? Sister in Sacramento? Working a family visit day into your vacation plans is a great idea when you’re traveling with kids. For one thing, it’ll save you money if you stay overnight (assuming your relatives don’t charge you). Plus, family bonding time is priceless.

Next: This is a smart idea for kids to learn about money.

14. Budget for souvenirs

London souvenir shop shot glasses

Souvenirs | Shaun Taylor/iStock/Getty Images

They may be overpriced, but you need to accept the fact that your kids will want souvenirs. Take this as an opportunity to teach them about budgeting by giving each child a set amount of money and letting them pick out their own items and paying for them independently.

Next: If you only take one piece of advice, let it be this one.

15. Let things go

Family in swimming pool

Family in swimming pool | Halfpoint/Getty Images

Traveling with kids isn’t going to be perfect no matter how much you plan for it. Whether you forget their suitcase or someone gets carsick, accepting the flaws of family vacation time will make everyone less stressed. Embrace the craziness and revel in the knowledge that you’re creating precious family memories that will last a lifetime.

Read more: Common Things People Always Forget to Pack for Vacation

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