Traveling with kids can be a stressful balancing act. You have to remember everything you need to bring, where your kids are, and so much more. With the kids out of school, you might be planning a vacation and wondering how you’ll manage it all. Don’t worry, though, we’ve got the tips and tricks you need to survive. Whether it’s your first time traveling with your kiddos, or you’re a seasoned expert at getting through the airport with babes in tow, we have the perfect guide for you.
Discover some great new toys and travel essentials to keep the kids happy (and keep yourself sane), as well as our best tips for traveling with kids.
Planning & Timing Tips for Travel
Packing, getting out of the house, going through airport security—it all takes more time with kids. That’s why it’s important to plan out your trip and make sure that you leave extra time for everything. When planning, you should also accept that things will go wrong. While you can try to prepare for the worst, don’t let little mishaps or missed schedules ruin the whole trip. The point of vacationing with your family is to enjoy your time together.
If you’re used to winging it when you travel, just know that this is much harder with kids. The best thing you can do is book all of your lodging, transportation, and tours in advance. However, give yourself the ability to change things if you need to. Look at cancellation and refund policies and try to get the most flexible ones. There might be cases when you fully expect to go on that tour, but your kids are just too cranky. If you get refundable tickets, you may end up saving yourself money and hassle throughout your vacation.
When you’re booking lodging, you should also consider whether you want a vacation house or a hotel. If you need to do a lot of your own meal prep, have dietary restrictions, or want some home-cooked meals, you might want to get a vacation rental. However, if you love having more amenities, such as pools, room service, and even kids’ clubs, then you might want to get a resort suite or hotel rooms.
While it can be tempting to choose flights based on cost, there are a few other factors you should consider. If you prefer less crowded flights or want to avoid delays, flight attendants told Parents.com that it’s best to fly early in the day. However, when choosing flights, you should also consider your kids’ sleep schedules (especially if they’re toddlers). To avoid tired meltdowns, try not to keep them up past their nap or bedtime while waiting to board. You should also try to leave extra time for layovers. This way you won’t have to dash madly through the airport with your kids to make your connection. If you’re traveling to a different time zone, you can combat jet lag by walking around in daylight when you arrive. Long before your vacation, you should sign the whole family up for TSA pre-check. This way, you’ll have shorter lines, less waiting, and an easier time getting through security.
Taking a road trip? It might be a different story. Halley Morrissey, a parent on Fourpost’s Brand Partnerships team, suggests driving in the middle of the night while your kids are asleep. This should help them be rested and happy by the time you arrive at your destination (though you might need to catch a few z’s).
Outlining the Trip
When planning your trip, definitely schedule in some downtime for the kids. If they have a specific naptime, include that in your schedule. Also include some playtime at local parks, playgrounds, or your hotel pool, to give everyone a chance to relax.
If your kids are a little older, get them involved in some of the planning. Let them know what you’ll be doing and what to expect. Allow them to pick out some activities. This can be a great way to get them interested and excited about your family vacation. Knowing what to expect will help them understand why and when they’re going places, so it isn’t an unhappy surprise.
If you’re not the only parent on the trip, you might also want to schedule in some alone time for yourself. Traveling with kids can be exhausting and there’s no better way to recharge than to do some fun solo activities. Have the other parent, a babysitter, or even a hotel kids’ club watch the kiddos for a few hours while you relax or explore a new place on your own.
Paperwork & Contact Info
Some foreign countries require parents to show birth certificates when traveling with kids. When planning your trip, look into any necessary paperwork, and if you need more than a passport or visa. If you’re traveling with another adult, assign one of you to watch the kids while the other handles tickets.
You should also make sure that your kids have all your contact information on them at all times while traveling. This means names, phone numbers, hotel or lodging addresses, home addresses, and any other pertinent contact information your kids might need if they somehow get separated from you. If they’re not old enough to remember contact information but are old enough to wander off, attach this information to them in some way—even if you have to write it on their arms. Some parents also attach a kid-friendly GPS tracker to their children’s shoes, belts, or backpacks.
Packing Tips for Traveling With Kids
When traveling with kids of any age, try to pack as light as possible and remember where everything is. You don’t want to end up lugging heavy suitcases while also carrying a tired toddler or baby in your arms. You also don’t want to dig through bags to find the one special toy that your kid needs now. Depending on their age, you might want to give your kids their own backpack or suitcase, so they can easily grab what they need.
Whether your trip is one hour or ten hours long, entertainment is key to keeping kids happy and busy. Mark Ghermezian, our CEO here at Fourpost and father of five, recommends bringing an iPad with pre-downloaded games and shows, as well as coloring books and markers.
Besides tech or books, you should bring small, new toys for your kids to open up while traveling. A new toy will have more entertainment value than an old one. That being said, don’t forget to bring at least one older toy that they love as well for comfort and familiarity.
Snacks on Snacks
Always brings snacks. Wherever you go, however long the trip, snacks are super important. This is even more important if your kids have any dietary restrictions. Both Mark and Halley recommend bringing ziplock bags full of their favorite snacks, including fruit, juice, and even some snacks they’ve never seen before to pique their interest.
Other things you may want to bring with you (without overpacking the bag) are basic medicines, spare outfits for you and the kids, and diapers and wipes for babies. If you’re flying with kids, make sure you also bring something to help with the pressure change, such as baby bottles, suckable candies, gum, and water.
The Best Toys & Gear for Traveling With Kids
While traveling, you want to make sure you have the right gear with you. As mentioned, new toys have more entertainment value. However, there are other essentials like travel-friendly strollers or carriers that you may need to bring as well. You can get all the gear below at Fourpost in Mall of America.
New Toys & Books
When choosing a new toy to bring with you on a trip, don’t get one with a million, easily-scattered pieces. The best toys you can bring are flexible with play and easily packed up.
We recommend a Cubebot from Areaware, a wooden toy robot that can be positioned to hold dozens of poses. This little robot feels like it has tons of fun pieces without the danger of losing them under an airplane seat.
Rose & Rex curates a selection of fun toys that spark creativity. They offer a variety from dolls to trucks to this cute explorer play kit.
This kit is perfect for your little adventurer and includes a compass, water bottle, binoculars, travel diary, and treasure box. These pieces are kept tidy in the suitcase, which has enough room for a few more travel-friendly toys as well.
You might also want to get them a new book. Try My Best Pet by Louise Tate for a cute board book about a dinosaur. If you’re flying, they might be interested in All Kinds of Planes by Carl Johanson from Penguin Random House. This kids’ book features every kind of air transportation you can imagine flying, both real and imaginary. One of our most popular kids’ books is Good Night Minnesota by Adam Gamble, which could help remind your kids of home while you’re on the road.
Strollers vs Carriers
If you travel frequently or will be walking a lot, you should invest in high-quality gear that travels well. Whether you bring a stroller, baby carrier, or both is going to depend on where you’re going. For example, think about the streets. If you’re going to be walking across bumpy cobblestones and up and down a bunch of stairs, you might want to bring a baby carrier or sling instead of a stroller. However, if you’re going somewhere tropical, a baby carrier might get sticky and uncomfortable in warm, humid weather.
Colugo’s baby carriers and strollers are super travel-friendly, whether you’re going around the world or taking a trip to your local park.
Their strollers are compact, lightweight, fold with one hand, and can be slung over your back like a bag. And their carriers are light, easily adjustable and buckled, and come with generous pocket space. Plus, they pack up neatly when not needed.
Other Travel Essentials
If you’re taking a flight, check out PRINTWORKS’ travel collection for yourself. They have cute and colorful eye masks, passport holders, luggage tags, and makeup bags.
For the kiddos, you might want to bring along a sweater and pillow for cold plane cabins. Better even—a sweater that transforms into a cuddly pillow. Cubcoats are transforming hoodies that zip up into stuffed animal pillows.
If your kids love taking photos, get them an instant camera so they can participate in the photo fun all vacation long. Polaroid Originals cameras are a great way to capture unforgettable moments during your summer travels.
Planning on outdoor adventures with fun picnics? Bring along the travel-friendly, collapsible picnic basket below to keep your summer spreads insulated. Plus, stock up on cute paper napkins, plates, and cups from Meri Meri.