Let’s face it—the best family travel tips are the ones that are easy to remember and to put into practice no matter where you are at in your life as a parent. Infants to toddlers, grade schoolers to teens, we all could use a little more help. Some tips are obvious (pack all medications in your carry on), while others can be a bit more obscure (don’t lug your expensive stroller overseas; opt for a cheap umbrella stroller that is easy to collapse and carry).
I’ve covered hundreds of travel tips in my freelance writing and on Walking On Travels. Some are for specific situations (what to do with a baby at the beach anyone?), but I have five tips that I have continuously gone back to as a parent for over six years and I see my friends with older kids doing too. All are easy to put into practice; you just have to make the effort to do them.
Table of Contents
Get out the door
Getting out the door, and I do mean the physical door of your home, is the hardest part of traveling with kids. It’s a physical block that makes us think traveling with our kids is impossible.
Just thinking about taking my kids to the grocery store makes me cringe. I’d rather just stay at home and deal with the crowds on the weekends. However, if you want me to check out a museum, garden, local restaurant or get on a plane to explore a new place, I can’t get out the door fast enough with them.
We all have fun when we go on adventures, whether they are near or far from home. No one has fun at the grocery store. So pack up your purse, throw a few snacks in the car and go to the local museum. See if you like that better than a shopping trip with the little ones. Test the waters and push the limits of your adventures each time you go out. Before you know it, you may just be looking forward to a 10-hour flight with your kids more than a trip to the grocer.
Travel takes patience, whether you have kids or not. Flights get delayed, train drivers go on strike, and rainy days take out your perfectly planned hike. If you thought disaster couldn’t strike or your plans couldn’t be pushed into extinction even more, try throwing kids into the mix.
Nap schedules cut into your wanderings. Tantrums do occur in front of the Eiffel Tower. Patience is your best friend. Roll with what happens. Allow for your plans to change. Understand that your kid is going to be a kid no matter where you take them; you just have to pick your backdrop for parenthood.
Stay flexible so you don’t lose your mind when your carefully planned vacation goes down the toilet. It’s going to be OK. Your trip may take a few twists and turns, but it will be better than you could have ever planned on any spreadsheet.
Packing- less is more
Traveling with kids doesn’t mean you have to pack up everything in the nursery, toy box and those critters in the bunk beds (no, the stuffed animals do not need to come). Pack items that pull double duty, book apartment rentals with a washing machine so you can do laundry as you go, and buy diapers, wipes and baby food locally whenever possible. The less you can pack on the way to your next destination, the more hands you will have to hold on to your kids, play with them, and not be tied down by a pile of baggage in transit.
Ditch the car
Let your feet do some walking. Rent a bike. Ride the local subway or train. There are so many ways to explore a new city. You don’t need a car unless you want to venture out, and even then trains can get you to some pretty awesome spots outside of town (think daytrip by train from Bern to the Swiss Alps).
Look at your options, compare prices and enjoy traveling like the locals. Take your eyes off the road so you can look at the wonder in your child’s eyes as they ride the train for the first time, watch whales pass on a ferry ride and meet other kids on your wanderings. This doesn’t happen from the back seat of a car; it happens out on the streets, country lanes and mountain paths of the world.
Traveling with your kids can feel daunting, especially if you are a new parent, or a parent venturing out into the world for the first time to give your children a taste of a new place. Relax. Enjoy the ride. Parenthood is a journey. You will mess up along the way, but have so many joyful moments to make up for any mistakes.
Now for the fun part. Remember those other friends I was telling you about with travel tips? I’ve teamed up with six incredible family travel bloggers who are sharing their favorite travel tips as well. We all know how hard it is to get out the door and we want to make it easier for you to take that first step, no matter your child’s age.
55 thoughts on “Best family travel tips to get you out the door”
I love your first point so much…get out the door! I try to encourage parents to start small with trips to local attractions. You will learn from those experiences and build on successes to create more resilient kids that look forward to new experiences! Great tips.
Totally agree Tamara. Baby steps are the key for most!
That is the biggest, baddest + best pine cone I have ever seen!!!! Very cool.
LOL Nicole. You actually have bigger ones up in Yosemite. Now THOSE were big. But this one was pretty huge too.
Get your kids used to taking naps in strange places or just out of the place of normal routine.
Couldn’t agree more Athena!
Patience is key, but I find that my kids are more adaptable than I am when plans get a little off. If you don’t stress, they don’t stress. I also think that getting out the door can truly be the hardest part, especially for those who are new to traveling with kids. Don’t listen to the naysayers, don’t take the whole play room, trust that they will enjoy the new place as much as you do and just go!
Make sure to pack outer wear that is suitable for rain. You never know when it will rain. Kids don’t mind it if they have the right gear.
I hear ya Bethany. Have been caught with the wrong coats and shoes way too many time!
My best family travel tip is to choose seats at the back of the plane – unless the flight is completely booked there’s almost always extra seats back there!
Just witnessed this on our flight to Paris Amy! Wish I’d booked in the back! We could have all stretched out and slept better!
Not everything has to be planned. One of my favorite family vacation memories was when we arrived in Rhode Island one a lengthy road trip and knew we had one day to visit Newport but I had NO IDEA what was even there to see. We stopped at an information booth, made a quick plan, set out on foot (love that advice too!), and fell in love with that city and the beautiful mansions along the Cliff Walk. Because it was so incredible and unexpected, it was a great day for all of us.
Sometimes we take a bus for a trip, or we go with friends or relatives. This makes it much easier on both of us.. Also I love getting the children to walk around, explore where they are and being able to touch and feel and smell whats around them..
I thought I left a comment but I don’t see it loll anyway , allow the little ones to be able to run free and explore whats around them 🙂
I mentioned this on Tamara’s post, too, but I like to get my kids involved in the decision making process so that they get excited about where we’ll be going.
I’m trying to do this a little more now Jenna. It’s tough though. I want to do what I want to do. They just want to eat ice cream for every meal 😉
Let everyone choose an activity they enjoy
bring plenty of snacks!
Family tip- have a gps on your phone as well as the car.
Don’t forget the drugs. It’s always a good idea to travel with some children’s Tylenol (or whatever you prefer) so that you don’t have to worry about tracking down a drug store in a strange neighborhood
My best family travel tip is to have healthy snacks, lots of water and books, games, etc. to keep the kids entertained when they get bored.
Be flexible and have backup plans in case something goes wrong or the weather is bad.
make EVERYONE potty again right before you walk out the door
Planning ahead is so important, but it’s also important to be flexible. It’s great to have a plan but you have to be willing to stray away from it depending on the kid’s moods/interests!
My best tip is to pack a lot of snacks for the ride and activities for the kiddos!
Don’t pack so much to do into your vacation that you need a vacation from the vacation!
My best family travel tip is to have a schedule but be flexible. We stopped buying tickets to attractions for a pre-set time and date. Nap times change, kids get burnt out or bad weather happens. Don’t waste money booking everything in advance only to have to cancel and do something different!
My tip would be to pack healthy snacks for the trip. I know whenever I’m on the road, I tend to eat a lot of unhealthy junk food so having healthier snacks already with you could keep you from buying that bag of chips or burger and fries.
My tip is be organized and ready to go and RELAX.
Don’t try to do too much in one day.
Always have a buddy system so that no one gets lost.
I always, ALWAYS bring one “emergency” outfit for each kid and adult, I pack them in gallon sized ziploc baggies so that any accidents or messes are contained once you have the fresh clothes on. This has proven a lifesaver on more than one occassion and saves the trouble of digging through the luggage when you need a quick change due to mishap or adventure.
Know where the hospitals are in case of an emergency or accident
find some local kiddie activities like putt putt
My best tip is to choose a destination that will have something for everyone in the family! Other than that, bring snacks and games to keep the kids occupied!
I agree with taking naps
Plan activities for the kids where they can focus their energy.
Don’t try to cram too much into a day
Travelling at night is a sure fire way to have a quiet night
bring books and some toys that will help your child enjoy down time at the hotel. bring snacks and use groupon if you can.
Plenty of snacks & music if it’s a road trip!
My tip is to always have snacks and activities to keep the kids busy!
Be organized, so you don’t lose or mix your things up! And for entertainment on those long road or plane trips, download as many movies, games, books, etc. into your electronic devices to keep yourself and the kids busy!
My best tip is to get any attraction or museum tickets in advance if you know for sure you will be going. Sometimes the line for tickets or even just for entering can be very long, and many museums in Europe are timed entry. Having your tickets ahead of time makes getting in so much easier.
Take anti-bacterial wipes and USE them. Do you really think they clean tray tables on airplanes. The last thing you want is a sick kid ( or yourself) on your trip. Trust me I know, my daughter got sick while we were on our dream trip to England. She threw up the whole flight back.
Bring snacks and a lot of patience to deal with the kids fighting in the back seat.
Fantastic article and tips! As much as it pains me to admt as a travel planner, I recommend limiting your excursions to just one per day when you’re traveling kids. Then, see where that one thing takes you. I bet you’ll be surprised–and you won’t be so exhausted from sightseeing that you forget to enjoy yourselves. 🙂
Make sure you’ve got a small snack/something from home to keep a child comforted.
My best tip for traveling with kids is to be flexible and don’t get too stuck on doing every single thing that you had planned on doing/seeing. Just go with the flow because the kids always seem to have a blast even if all they do is go to the beach every day.
Plan for some down time
Have plenty of snacks and wipes.
Allow extra time so you can get out and stretch and explore
You will enjoy your trip much more by allowing more time between events.
Night Traveling Trip with family and Best Travel Tips.