Traveling with children can be a incredibly fun or incredibly stressful, depending on whether you have them under control.
Tips for the Plane
1. Don’t forget to pack wet wipes! The plane is crowded and it’s hard to keep getting up from your seat to wash up the kids in the plane restroom. So, the next best bet is bringing along your own cleaning device.
2. Don’t forget the emergency pull ups and diapers. This tip is vital. Make sure to toss some in your carry-on bag. Even if the flight is super short and you don’t think you need spare diapers…you can never predict when there are delays or if your plane is stuck on the runway.
3. To make the flight go faster for the kids, make sure to bring games and activities to keep them busy. Although, try to keep the game super simple and compact. Avoid a puzzle with a million pieces that will most likely get lost aboard the plane or a noisy toy that will annoy all the other passengers.
4. Pack each child their own carry-on bag. You can put each kid’s games and spare clothes in their own bag. This alleviates you having to carry ALL the kid’s items and being forced to over stuff your own carry-on bag. This is a great tip to stop the kids from bringing a million different toys because they know they must carry their own toy in their own carry-on bag. A fun tip is to pack each of the kid’s carry-on bags for them and don’t let them see the items you pack them. You can run to the dollar store and throw in cheap toys, coloring books and simple games. It will be a fun surprise and keep the kiddos busy on the plane.
5. Check-in as early as possible! Traveling with kids takes much more time than flying solo or with a group of adults. This confirms that you and kids won’t be separated on the plane and that your seats are next to each other.
6. If you are traveling with a stroller or car seat then it will have to go through the w-ray machine. Prepare yourself by removing all your belongings from them. Kids that are old enough to walk usually must take off their shoes just as adults do. It’s a good idea to dress the little ones in shoes that are easy to slip on and off to make this process a bit quicker and less stressful.
7. When packing your carry on it’s vital to remember the TSA 3-1-1 rule. Any liquids, gels or aerosols must be in a container 3 ounces or less and these items must fit inside a 1-quart size Ziploc type bag. Each passenger can have one bag. When you go through security they will ask you to remove the bag so that they can run it through the x-ray machine. This rule doesn’t apply to baby food, breast milk or formula.
8. A similar tip is to check to see if there are any available seats that may not have been open at the point of your flight purchase. If you didn’t buy a seat for you toddler, since usually children under 2 can sit on your lap, simply ask if there are empty seats. Usually the answer will be no, but it is worth checking!
9. This tip is a bit of a challenge BUT if possible, try to book flights during the hours of the day. Choose flights at normal times that your kids would normally be awake. Flying in the middle of the night can be a bit risky. Two things can happen…either the kids peacefully go back to sleep once on the plane which is the best-case scenario OR they are too giddy and excited about getting to the destination and do not sleep at all. This might make them grumpier later since they are missing their normal sleep time. No one wants to deal with bratty kids especially during your vacation.
10. Make the kids use the airport restroom before you board the plane. It’s no fun to get on the plane, settled in your seat and then having to immediately jump up to get the kids to the restroom on board the plane…the situation becomes even worse if the kids can’t hold it and there’s a line for the plane bathroom. Also consider limiting the amount of fluids the kids chug down right before the flight. This will help cut down on restroom trips and save you the struggle.
11. Explain how the airport will work. It’s important to explain security checks with the kids so that they aren’t afraid when walking through the metal detectors and so they aren’t terrified by all the people in uniforms. So just explain everything to the kids if this is their first flight. Let them know what to expect from the security process by telling them how it’s to ensure everyone’s safety while they are flying.
12. Keep the kids comfy while traveling by dressing them in comfortable clothes. Keep layers in mind when dressing (this applies to you as well). Planes are hot, cold or sometimes just right, but you never know what you will run into. It’s easiest to make sure each kid has a jacket and hey you can even use the jacket, roll it up, and use it as a pillow.
Tips for Travel Snacks
13. Think about snacks that are easy to pack, healthy and not super messy. Also try to pack snacks that do not require a refrigerator.
14. Granola bars are a great travel food. Opt for bars with low-sugar and high fiber content. They’re super easy to throw in a carry-on bag and hit the road. You could even get more creative and make a granola trail mix. Break up some bars and add some raisins or pretzels and then throw your homemade mix in a bag and you’re set.
15. Cereal is another great travel snack. Get creative and fun by packing O-cereal (Cheerios) and stringing them up on a piece of yarn. Now the kids have a snack and a necklace. They will love munching on their necklace during the trip. Like granola bars, you can make a trail mix with cereal as well by tossing in yogurt covered raisins or whatever you like.
16. Take caution with nuts if you are flying. You never know who might be allergic. It could even be the passenger on the plane sitting right next to you so try to steer clear of the nuts till you are off the plane. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
17. The typical animal cracker, goldfish or wheat thin are another great travel snack. If you are road tripping and have a small cooler you can even throw in some string cheese or cheese cubes. Branch out even more and toss in some grapes or baby carrots. Small boxes of craisins or raisins are easy too. Also think about fruit snacks or really anything that is easy to travel with.
Packing Tips for Families
18. Don’t forget to pack your medications inside of you carry-on. Medication is not an easy item to find at your destination, obviously, this is especially vital when it comes to prescription medications. Make sure you have all your meds and the kids packed and ready to go to avoid any problems.
19. Planes can be a little bit on the colder side. Throw a jacket in your carry-on bag and follow this same guideline for the kids as well.
20. Place plastic wrap underneath your bottle caps and the bottle itself. This eliminates the risk of the bottle cap becoming loose and spilling all over your precious belongings. You can simply throw away the plastic once you arrive at your destination.
21. Bring empty water bottles with you and WAIT to fill them up until after you pass through security. Make sure each kiddo has their own water bottle. This will save you some bucks considering some bottled water can be $4 at an airport. Each child can carry the water bottle in their backpack. It gives them a bit of responsibility.
22. Tips for packing shoes…put them in shower caps. This might sound weird but think about it, now they are separated from all your fresh smelling clean clothes. Plus, you can put a pair in a shower cap and now they can stay together.
23. DO NOT FOLD your clothes…. instead roll them! You may have heard this tip before. It saves space in your bag and keeps your clothing from being super wrinkly. Keep the collar of your clothes straight by packing your belt inside of the shirt collar. This gives a perfect spot to place your belt and a perfect method to avoid wrinkles.
24. Create list of all the items you want to pack and make lists for each of the kids too! Get a piece of notebook paper and start listing anything and everything. Think about the specific places you will visit. And then consider exactly what items and clothing pieces you will need/want at those places. This is also a good thing to have when it is time to pack up and return home. You can check the list and avoid leaving anything behind.
25. Make packing your chargers easier by putting rubber bands and twist ties on them to secure long tangled cords. Another tip is to recycle empty toilet paper rolls by wrapping cords around them. The main point is don’t forget any phone, laptop or any other chargers you may need/want.
26. Tag your luggage (and carry-on) with both your home and email address! This will be a lifesaver if your luggage becomes lost. Add your phone number as well and maybe the phone number of a friend or family member at home in case you cannot be reached.
27. Another tip for luggage…make it stand out! Purchase colorful luggage that can easily be identified when you are searching the luggage belt. Avoid black luggage in general. Also tie ribbons or bows on the luggage to make it stand out even more.
28. Wear the heaviest/ bulkiest items onto the plane if possible. This applies to the kids also. IF you really want to bring your riding boots just go ahead and wear them for the flight instead of placing the heavy shoes in your checked bag.
Tips for Road Trips
29. Bring a plastic cereal container with you and use it as a trash can. With snack wrappers, tissues, etc. you will want a place to collect all your trash instead of having it strung throughout the car. A plastic cereal container is the perfect size to stash all your trash and fits nicely on your car floor like a trashcan and it even has a lid. You can use plastic grocery bags as liners too
30. So, the kids wanna bring their art supplies to color and draw during the road trip. It’s a great idea to keep them busy and entertained. But you want to keep them organized as well. You can reuse an old DVD case to keep all their art supplies in order. The DVD case works as a personalized easel. You can even get extra creative and wrap the case with colorful paper to add some extra spunk.
31. You can use a shoe organizer on the back of the driver and passenger seat to organize all sorts of items that you are bringing along for the road trip. You can put books, toys and really any sort of supply in the shoe organizer and now you have more car room.
32. Put silicone muffin liners inside of cup holders in the car. This helps you clean up the car after the trip is over. Any crumbs or spills will be caught in the muffin liners which saves you a mess after your trip.
33. A random but useful tip…to keep your treats and candies from melting you can store them in the AC vent. Just be careful not to push them too far in or they might get stuck in the vent.
34. Playing games in the car will make the long drive go by much faster. It’s fun for the kids and can even be fun for you. Here’s an assortment of some of the best games to play during road trips…
35. License Plate Game is this one is a classic! Each player can have a piece of paper and pen. If you’re in the U.S. road tripping, make a list of all the different states you pass by while on the road. The winner is the person with the most states listed. You can make things more fun by doing double points for naming the state’s capital or if you see a license plate from another country.
36. I-Spy is another classic game that everyone knows how to play. Of course, there are the basic items you will pass during your road trip like clouds or the sky or maybe a bird or tree. But mix things up and choose more unique landscapes like a mountain or valley or pasture. Just make sure all the objects are still in a view to keep the game fair and fun.
37. 20 Questions. It’s’ a great car game and is so extremely simple. Players just choose a person and then have other passenger guess who it is with a limit of 20 questions. To make the game more challengers…players can choose more off-the-wall people but if you wanna take the game down a few notches choose easier people. This game is best for kids that are a little older since it can be more difficult compared to I-Spy.
38. The “Animal Game” is like 20 questions. Have one player choose an animal or you could choose another category, but animals tend to be fun. All the other players must guess what the animal is but can only ask yes or no questions. For example,…Does the animal live in Australia? Is the animal a carnivore? Each player is only allowed one actual guess…so if you ask, “Is it a Koala?” and the answer is no…then this player is out of the game. So obviously, it is best to wait till you are very confident in your guess.
39. Memory Game or some call it the picnic game. One player starts out the game by saying, “I’m going out on a picnic and I’m bringing…” and then they list an item. The next player must remember the item listed by the first player and now needs to add something else to the story. Then the game continues but getting something wrong in the story means you’re out.
40. Quiet Game is every parent’s favorite car game. So, the kids have been bickering or you’re just tired of the high noise level in the car. Well now it sounds like the perfect time to play the quiet game. Basically, the rules go like this. Who can stay quiet the longest. So, countdown 3, 2, 1, hush puppies!! Hopefully the silence lasts a decent amount of time before the giggles set in.
41. Would you rather is another great and interesting game to play during a long road trip. Would you rather jump in a tank with snakes or swim with sharks? Each player takes turns making up different scenarios. It’s the perfect game for every age level.
42. Hot Seat is for an older crowd. But so much fun. It’s very simple. Each player takes a turn in the “hot seat” where they are put on the spot for a total of 5 questions. All other players in the car will ask this person 5 questions and the “hot seat” guest must answer them. They are allowed one veto if you want to tame the game a bit.
Tips for Parents with Babies
43. Make bedtime easy by preparing your baby. If you are bringing a portable travel bed, help baby adjust by having them sleep in the travel bed a few days prior to your trip. This eases them in because they are still in a familiar environment at home. If you give them a trial run then they will probably be much more comfortable in the travel bed at your destination.
44. Stick to your typical routines while out on your vacation. Try to keep the same bedtime rituals. If your baby is used to a bath then lullabies and bottle, stick to this routine. It can be stressful for baby to completely change everything up when you are on your trip.
45. If hauling a stroller around doesn’t sound like fun to you…consider wearing your baby. Invest in a front carrier or baby backpack. Like the advice for trial runs…put the baby in it and test out the carrier before your trip to make sure baby and you both like it. You can see if it is comfortable to carry and will work well to use during your trip.
46. Bring baby-bumpers. If your baby can roll over and your plan to put them in a hotel crib…it is wise to have bumpers since most hotel cribs are rod iron. The bumpers can be used at home as well so don’t feel like you are investing in something that will never be used again.
47. Car seats…if you are planning to bring the car seat along consider not checking it in. If the plane isn’t full they might let you take the car seat on with you which just makes your life a million times easier. It’s worth the travel to drag it on the plane in the case that you can put the baby in it for the whole flight.
48. Consider renting apartments or a home (Airbnb?) instead of renting out hotel rooms. The cost is similar and you will have all the amenities you need in a full apartment or home. You will have a kitchen where you can clean baby bottles and more fridge room. If you take this route you will also most likely have a washer and dryer which is a great amenity while traveling.
49. If your baby loves music or certain television shows, consider downloading them to your phone or tablet. That way during your flight you can still access them without Wi-Fi and then everyone is happy. This applies to you as well. If you want to listen to music that normally uses internet to access, consider downloading it before you leave the airport to ensure you can still access it once you take off.
50. Breastfeeding. This is everyone’s top worry while traveling. Think about bringing a small cooler with a bottle of milk (freeze it so it stays cold longer). It’s also a good idea to pump as much as possible before your trip so you aren’t extremely uncomfortable during your flight.
51. Consider staying close to the city and attractions as much as possible. If baby gets fussy there is nothing worse than being two hours from civilization or your hotel. Also think about getting a hotel close to the destinations you plan to visit. This cuts down on travel time and helps you stay in a proximity. It’s a win-win for everyone.
52. Pack a blanket. If you are in a park or somewhere outside it’s nice to have a clean, safe spot to put baby down and let them crawl. Obviously, the blanket has multiple purposes and can be used to cover up baby on the flight to your destination but maybe not on the way home if you have been putting the blanket on the ground during your trip.
53. Like how your ears pop during take-off and landing…baby might have the same struggle. Common advice is to feed them a bottle or breast feed because it alleviates the pressure in their ears.
54. Bring extra changes of clothes. Don’t just bring the exact amount necessary but bring extra outfits for baby. You never know when a major spill will happen or if the weather takes a turn for much colder or much warmer conditions. This saves you the stress of having to run out and buy extra clothes or hurry and wash soiled ones.
55. When selecting your seat on the plane try to avoid the back of the plane. It’s often the most crowded with people constantly walking past to use the restroom and flight attendants running up and down the aisle. This will keep a sleepy baby awake and not let them have their precious nap time.
56. It’s important to pack plenty of diapers for your trip…however don’t over pack. Diapers take up tons of room and are a hassle to deal with. Any destination you go to you will be able to purchase diapers so don’t worry too much about this essential item.
57. Another note on diapers. Think about a backpack style diaper bag. They are much easier to carry around and it won’t get you down in your back since the weight is properly dispersed between both of your shoulders.
58. Remember to bring all your typical baby supplies…wipes, rash cream, changing mat, sunscreen, tissues, bibs, breast pump, clothes, toys, bottles, formula milk, etc. Try to think about all the different items you use on a regular basis at home. Now plan for the amount of time you will be away and you can pack the perfect amount.
59. Bring some toys to keep baby busy while on the plane or in the car during the road trip. Think about packing rattles, soft animals, (don’t forget the beloved teddy bear), plastic keys, teething rings, etc. It’s very important to keep baby happy when traveling to avoid any temper tantrums. This takes the pressure off you and keeps everyone around you happy as well (no one likes the screaming baby on the plane). Toys and familiar objects will help keep baby at ease while flying or road tripping.
60. If you are road tripping think about investing in removable shades for the windows or some sort of sun blocker. These will protect your baby’s skin and eyes from the sun and help them sleep better by blocking out the sun. This also keeps the back seat much cooler when the sun is blocked.
61. Make sure the car seat is properly installed and threaded with the seat belt.
62. Keep in mind that your baby needs a passport just like you do! Make sure you take care of all documentation and things of this nature well before your trip. Check online for specific travel rules and information based on your planned destination to ensure you are fully prepared and equip to set off on your journey!
63. Don’t forget to pack the plastic baggies. They are a traveler’s necessity…especially when the kids are part of the trip. Old grocery bags can be used for dirty clothes. Think about brining reusable bags in case you purchase too many souvenirs and are unable to carry everything. Also bring Ziploc bags. You will be shocked by the number of things a zip up bag can be useful for. Bags help you stay organized and will help you when you return home since it will keep everything together.
64. Make sure you have lots of small bills. They are needed for tips, vending machines and luggage carts. It’s nice to have them, especially if you visit certain places that do not accept cash.
Best Places to Travel with Kids
65. Beach: this might seem obvious but the beach is an amazing destination for families. Do your research and find beaches with tons of attractions and family friendly services. There are tons of activities to do at the beach. Not only can you relax and soak up some sun, but think about going parasailing or on a boat ride. If the family is adventurous you can even go jet skiing. The sky’s the limit at beach destinations with the activities that you can do!
66. National Parks: another great family-friendly trip. Kids love seeing the beautiful scenery and exploring nature. You can even consider going on a camping trip to really take in the outdoors.
67. Farms: this might seem a bit off the wall but farms are fantastic places for families and young kids. There are so many things to do and see. Kiddos can feed the baby animals or maybe go on a pony ride. Often farms might have corn mazes, hay rides, kites and fishing. The kids might even get to milk a cow. This is usually an inexpensive trip but will provide lots of unique and fun memories that the whole family can enjoy.
68. Cruises: a great trip for families. Cruises have tons of indoor and outdoor amenities to keep the whole family busy and enjoying their vacation. Of course, the destinations you will go to are fun too and allow you to check out several different places during your trip with each port you visit. The nice thing with cruises is that everything (well almost everything) is included in your cruise package. You will have all your dining and many attractions on board included upfront. There are tons of different cruise lines to choose from and many are geared specifically for children. Compare different ones to see what the best package is for you family. There are many aspects to consider such as the destinations for the cruise, things to do on board, etc.
69. Theme Parks: another obvious trip for families. Theme parks are the perfect place for kids. There is so much to do with games and rides and shows. Theme parks are located all over the country and you can choose ones specifically that are close to the beach or other landmarks you are interested in traveling to. It’s just about every kids dream trip to go to Disneyland or Disney world and they are only young once. It’s a good idea to look up different packages and see how costs differ depending on the time of year you decide to travel.
70. Ranch: pony rides and sing-alongs can be a fun family outing. Look into all-inclusive ranch resorts. Many have wagon rides and other outdoor activities. This will get the kiddos in the great outdoors and might even teach them a thing or two about the wild west.
71. Water Parks: in the heat of summer nothing is better than a refreshing water park trip. You can look into both indoor and outdoor venues as well. Many have areas specifically geared for the tiny tots that are safe for the baby to splash around. Look up packages and deals. Many water parks have daily, weekend or even tickets for a week-long admission.
72. Lake trip: consider a relaxing family vacation to the lake. You can lounge out by the water or take in nature with some hiking and fishing. This type of trip is typically low cost as well so this is a nice way to have fun without breaking the bank.
Family Travel During the Holidays
73. This tip applies to any trip, not just during the holiday season. Make sure to scan all travel documents, IDs and passports before you embark on your journey. Next email all the documents to yourself. This way you have them in a mobile form in the event you lose the actual documents. Make sure to do this for each member of the family.
74. Book far in advance! Holiday bring a heavy travel season where many families are trying to travel. Pre-book as many things as possible. Think about if you will need a rental car. Often if you pre-book the car it is much cheaper than waiting till the last minute. Plus, you don’t want to risk not getting a car at all. Also think about any tickets you may need for concerts or museums or family events. These can sell out especially around the holidays at popular destinations.
75. Do your best to avoid booking flights on “peak” travel days. This will only make tickets more expensive and airports more crowded. Do your research and you should be fine!
a. Thanksgiving à the most popular travel date is Wednesday a.k.a. the day before Thanksgiving. If possible book tickets before this day or if you’re able travel on Thanksgiving Day. This will cut rates by a long shot and make the airport far less busy and hectic. Try to avoid flying home on Sunday because this is the peak date for return flights home.
b. Christmas and New Year’s à peak dates change depending on the year and the specific day the holiday falls on. However, it is general rule of thumb that the dates that allow the most maximized long weekends without taking too many days off work is when everyone will be trying to travel. You an even use search engines that help you put flexible travel dates to see the best combination of round-trip flights for the best cost.
76. Think about optimizing your pennies by using package deals. Holiday travel can equate to good deals for air and hotel packages or a comb of three with air, hotel and car packages. This saves time too. Instead of shopping for all items separately and having tons of different emails an itineraries and charges, you can do it all in one.
77. This tip will save you a ton of time and frustration…do not wrap gifts that you are bringing with you. Especially if you plan to carry them onto the plane. Consider using gift bags instead. Even in checked baggage security may unwrap the gift so better to not go through the trouble and opt for gift bag.
Jill Miller is the founder of Your RV Lifestyle. Trading corporate America for the open road, Jill, along with her partner Jose, began their RV journey, making an unconventional start by wintering in New Jersey. A natural adventurer, she was motivated by a desire to explore the USA and beyond, embracing the varied landscapes, communities, and cultures across the country.
For Jill, the allure of RV living was not about material accumulation, but rather the pursuit of an adventurous, fulfilling lifestyle. A lover of golf, bicycling, hiking, and line dancing, she has carried her passions across the country, engaging with them in diverse settings. Jill’s commitment to the RV lifestyle came after years of careful research, numerous consultations with RV owners, and personal trials, including living in a rental RV.