Family Travel Tips

Ways to ensure everyone has a good time.

Family Travel Tips

Image(s) licensed by Ingram Publishing


Traveling with kids is like diving into the deep end of the pool. It might be cool and refreshing, but it’s risky. Lose your balance and the whole thing is a flop. These travel tips will ensure your trip is exhilarating in a good way.

Baby on board

  • Plan around baby’s needs: eating, sleeping, and pooping. Keep her usual schedule as much as possible. Don’t let her get too hungry or too tired and change diapers often.
  • Pack light, but not too light. Having what you need eases stress – if provisions don’t weigh you down. Have a change of clothes for everyone, including yourself. Bring a stroller if space allows: they’re handy for carrying more than the baby. Many airlines check baby gear free of charge.
  • If you need to heat milk or baby food, find lodging with a fridge and microwave.  In transit, offer room-temperature options, like applesauce and cheerios.
  • How you pack is important, too. Easy access is key. Make an “in transit” kit to stow under the airline seat or near baby’s car seat. It’s not what you have, it’s what you can find that matters. You don’t want to unpack everything to find the wipes!

Ants in their pants

  • Traveling with toddlers and preschoolers is challenging. Kids can’t roam free, so try to maximize movement during travel breaks.
  • On the road, think parks, playgrounds and rest areas. Pick up food to go, then use your map or GPS to find play space nearby. Keep a blanket in the car to turn pit stops into picnics.
  • Going up? Don’t book the shortest airline itinerary. You’ll want ample time to take a walk and stretch, use the restroom, and eat a snack before boarding your next flight, especially with a squirmy toddler on your lap.
  • Use training pants for long stretches of travel time if your child isn’t 100% accident-free. Some kids won’t go there, but if yours will, pull-ups can save your sanity and your seat!
  • Too much go-go-go wears everyone out. Leave room for rest and relaxation in your itinerary to avoid end-of-day meltdowns.
  • Fearless adventurers
  • Let school-age kids participate in travel planning. Use online maps to explore routes, and let them suggest activities they would enjoy. Build a travel notebook containing itinerary and activity information.
  • Help kids brainstorm items they’ll need. Print a checklist for each child, and have them set out items for inspection. Double check that they have the necessities, then pack them up together.
  • Kids will need snacks along the way. Bring non-perishables from home if you can. You’ll save money and they will eat healthier.
  • Video games and DVD players can keep kids quiet, but they stifle family interaction. Make travel time memorable with family games and sing-along music.

Teen travelers

  • Expect tweens and teens to pack for themselves, and follow up to make sure they have the essentials. Reinforce the need to have the right clothes for each situation – short shorts aren’t for out-to-dinner.
  • Entertainment items come in small packages now: think iPod, digital camera, cell phone, laptop. Score points by funding new tunes or book titles before the trip.
  • Plan for alone time. Give tweens and teens breathing room by renting a condo or vacation home, or booking adjoining rooms at hotels.
  • Within reason, help older kids stay connected to friends back home. You don’t want to watch your daughter text her boyfriend during a Broadway play, but it’s not reasonable to expect her to unplug from her social network completely either. Social media and cell phones can preserve their relationships and your sanity.

Author: Heidi Smith Luedtke

Heidi Smith Luedtke is a psychologist.

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