Traveling with young children can sometimes seem overwhelming and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Traveling should be a great experience for everyone- including kids! In fact, research show that the earlier you introduce a child to traveling, the more they will come to love it!
We’re gonna get right to the point today, because if you are reading this you probably have children, and therefore don’t have much time for lengthy internet posts!
Here are my top tips for traveling with children!
1. Documentations and Requirements
As long as children are traveling domestically with a parent or guardian there is very little ID that is required of them. Typically, all that’s needed is a boarding pass. A passport isn’t need under the age of 18- unless traveling abroad.
Although ID is usually not required of minors traveling domestically, some airports or destinations may ask to see birth certificates or photo Id for proof of age for discounts or admittance. Children under 2 years of age fly free -on your lap- with most airlines.
*Be advised that the rule is “age at the time of travel,” not at the time of purchase.
2. Book Early Departures
It seems that children are always in a much cheerier mood in the morning than I am. In fact, mornings are when children are typically in their very best moods, which makes it the perfect time to start your adventures. Early departures also tend to be less crowded and give you a little more wiggle room for unexpected delays.
3. Give Yourself Extra Time
If you have kids, you already know that it takes double the amount of time that it should to accomplish literally anything- this is a law of the universe, and traveling is no exception. Be sure to give yourself plenty of extra time for getting loaded into the car, frequent bathroom breaks, making it from airport terminal to terminal, and everything in between.
4. Get The Extra Seat
As I mentioned, children under 2 years of age fly for free on many airlines, however, this isn’t always the best option. Them flying free doesn’t mean they get a seat- they will actually be sitting on your lap! This may be fine for shorter flights, or for infants, but the struggle is real once a child is physically able to move around on their own. I always suggest paying for their seat and opting for your own personal space. Flights are crammed enough without a person on your lap for the entire time. You will appreciate this, and so will they!
5. Bring As Little As Possible
Traveling with young kids is quite an ordeal. They seem come equipped with more stuff than any human could ever need. Be sure to pack all of the necessities (diapers, formulas, blankies, etc.), but also be sure not to OVER-pack. It’s easy to want to throw every gadget or toy into a bag, ‘just in case,’ but you will never need it all. A couple extra outfits, their favorite toys, and a few books will be enough to get you through your travels.
I also advise leaving any larger items, such as swings, bouncers, walkers, and play sets behind, as they will be difficult to tote around, and may cost you more to travel with as well.
One of the things you may want to bring are the electronics! Even if you limit your child’s screen time, this might be a good time to make an exception. Children get anxious and fidgety when they are bored or nervous, and video games, videos, or music always seem to do the trick and calm them down.
6. Pick The Right Stroller
A stroller is pretty much an essential for mobility with kids. Little feet tire easily, and adult arms also get tired from carrying kids… the reasonable answer is a stroller.
These things are great! They not only cart your children around when they are worn out, but they are also a great for carrying all the jackets, toys, diaper bags, and other things that parents acquire throughout the day.
Before committing to bringing your own, see if you are able to rent one once at your destination. This option will be far more convenient. If your children are older, you may want to opt out of the larger stroller and bring a smaller, lighter, more manageable umbrella stroller. Or, this may not be an essential item at all.
7. Bring Snacks!
Kids love snacks! (Who doesn’t?) They eat when they’re hungry, they eat when they’re bored, they eat when they’re tired, and they eat just because. (I feel like I’m describing myself here.) They like to fidget. Bring a couple of their favorite non-messy, easy-to-eat snacks to keep them happy. This will make for a much more enjoyable trip.
8. Dress In Layers and Slip On Shoes
The weather can change drastically throughout the day, and rather than toting a bunch of different outfits for everyone to change into when too hot or too cold, dress in layers at the beginning of the day and add or subtract as needed.
This is also where I’d like to advise to dress as simply as possible. Forget the buttons. Leave the shoes with laces at home. Make it as easy as possible for your kids, and for yourself.
9. Get Child Discounts
Many airlines, hotels, excursions, and attractions offer child discounts… Take advantage of this! If you’re like me and like to plan ahead, make sure you ask for the discounts when you make the reservations… Or remind your travel agent to do so for you.
10. Talk About The Trip
Children like routines, and traveling is anything but. Talk to your kids about the trip leading up to it to help sooth their nerves and get them excited about the experience. Talk to them about what to expect when traveling, and about some of the fun things they have to look forward to. They’ll be less stressed and more excited as travel time draws near.
11. Plan Age Appropriate Activities
When planning the details of your trip, keep in mind the ages of those you’re traveling with. If you want to explore wineries and historical sites, or spend full days at the spa, plan a separate trip. When taking a family trip, plan activities that the entire family will enjoy.
Remember that children have shorter attention spans than you and I, and will bore easily if they’re not excited by what’s going on. To ensure a fun, memorable vacation that everyone will enjoy, plan activities that correlate well with your children’s ages.
12. Let Them Plan Part Of The Experience
Make your child feel like they’re part of the experience by allowing them to plan part of it. This may be letting them pick an excursion, plan an activity, or could be as simple as having them pick a restaurant or meal they’d like to try.
13. Don’t Do Too Much In One Day
We tend to like to cram as much into our vacations as possible so that we don’t feel like we missed out on anything. But, be mindful that children tire out a lot more quickly than you and I do. Over-planning will lead to irritable, cranky kids who are overwhelmed and stressed out. Be sure to allow for plenty of rests, breaks, naps, and downtime to give them a chance to recharge.
14. Accept That Things Will Not Always Go As Planned
This goes without saying… nothing ever goes as planned when children are involved- or even when they’re not. Remember to stay calm and handle each circumstances accordingly. This is where allowing for extra time will really benefit you. Make the best of every situation so that the trip is still remembered as a good experience.
15. Reward Good Behavior
Who doesn’t love being praised? This is especially true for children, as positive reinforcement is proven to be an excellent way to build self esteem and promote future good behavior. And hey, feel free to reward yourself as well!
16. Take Advantage Of Child Care Options
Many resorts, hotels, cruises, and even some private homes offer daycare and child care services to allow children to relax and play either on their own or with other children. This also allows you to take a little break and have some time for yourself. This is a fantastic option to take advantage of, as it will leave everyone refreshed and ready to jump back into all the fun, family things.
17. Look For The Bathrooms and Exits
This is not just good advice for when you’re traveling, but for any time you go anywhere with children. You can ask a child if they need to use the restroom a hundred times and they’ll tell you no, but then suddenly out of nowhere, they have to go right now! It never fails.
There is also the occasional tantrum that just won’t cease. Who else has had to drag their kid, kicking and screaming, out of a building? I always suggest to have a game plan ready to go and know your closest restrooms and exits, just in case you need to make a quick escape.
18. Bring Wipes!
Wipes are good for all sorts of things other than just wiping babies’ bottoms. They are good for wiping up messes, de-sticking little fingers, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces. My daughter is older now, but I still take a pack of anti-bacterial wipes with me for general, everyday use.
I hope this helps for planning your next family trip!
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