25 Best Ways to Travel with Children

It's time enjoy your trips as much as your kids do.

25 Best Ways to Travel with Children

Chevy Chase wasn’t the first parent to find out that taking a vacation didn’t guarantee perfection. Spring Break, summer adventures, weekend getaways, or holiday pilgrimages are supposed to be times of laughter, relaxation, and exploration, yes. But we all know that when your travel crew involves little ones, life can never be as predictable as an episode of “The Bachelor: Women Tell All.”

For the traveling family, each age has its own challenges, but you can amp up the enjoyment and dial down the frustration by strategizing about how to go on the road while accomplishing your goals: Getting away, spending time together, and seeing the world. And for more amazing travel advice, check out these 20 Ways to Make Travel Less Stressful.

Packing suitcase Travel with Children

Don’t Leave Home Without

Wipes, baggies, rubber bands, a roll of electrical tape, #allofthechargers. And you should definitely bone up on the 30 Airport Secrets Only Insiders Know.

holding hands Travel With Children

Free Your Digits

Moments of peak frustration happen when your responsibilities out-number your hands. Delegate as much as you can away from your toddler-wrangling fingers: use ear buds for your phone, a backpack for your carry-on, your brain for remembering the gate, boarding time, and seat assignments. Also, don’t forget the 10 Travel Essentials Worth an Extra Bag.

car rides Travel with Children

Power Ranking: Know the 5 Best Ways to Occupy Your Kids in the Car

5. Favorite movie on loop
4. Snacks on loop
3. Drive at night
2. Apps
1. Free their data!

Car ride Travel With Children

Power Rankings: The 5 Worst Ways to Occupy Your Kids in the Car

5. Clay
4. Expecting them to appreciate your rendition of “Margaritaville”
3. The license plate game
2.Unlimited questions from you
1. Unlimited liquids for them

Disney Travel With Children

Simple > Grand

One time, after a multi-day trip to Disney World, my wife and I asked our boys what their favorite part of the trip was. Their answer: The big escalator in the hotel. Kids don’t need elaborate and expensive entertainment to have fun, and you don’t need to feel pressure to make every hour a gargantuan experience. They can be happy with hotel pools and subway rides. And for more travel must-haves, check out the 9 Best Compact Cameras for Trips.

travel with children

Find the Teaching Moments

Travel is the perfect time to teach how and when to not talk to strangers—and how and when you should.

zebras on a safari Travel With Children

Child Truth 1

Excursions that involve looking at/touching/swimming with animals are better than excursions that involve monuments. And consider avoiding the 15 Most Haunted Places in America altogether.

Travel with Children

Child Truth 2

The triumvirate of tantrum-triggers—hunger, fatigue, boredom—are formidable foes. Your vacation success hinges on your ability to outsmart them before they attack.

jumping on bed Travel with Children

Child Truth 3

They’ll remember—this one time—you let them jump on the bed.*

* Be the spotter

family on beach Travel with Children

Make Them Assistants, Not Always Tagalongs

At their core, children are mini-Sherlocks. They want to have some kind of quest, which means you can make every outing one. “Help me find” 3rd Street, or Gate B9, or a pizza place” will go a long way in keeping their minds going while you are. And if you’re looking for some amazing travel #inspo, here are the 10 Most Stunning American Resorts Under $150-a-Night.

flashlight Travel With Children

See the Light

In her blog Suitcases and Sippy Cups, Jessica Bowers, writes that one of the best come-in-handy items that can turn into a toy is a mini-flashlight. For hotel rooms, you can use it to play “I Spy” or make shadow animals.

Boy with Pink Sunglasses Parenting Travel with Children

Rules for Souvenirs for the Kids

1.Give them a budget for the trip so they can make choices about what’s really important.

2. Make at least one of souvenir something small that they can collect everywhere you go (keychains, postcards). Even if they go in a box after every trip, it’ll be one place (other than Instagram) where they can rewind their life a bit as they get older.

3. Maybe read this if your tween wants a shot glass.

family walking dog happier Travel with Kids

Wait Just a Minute

A long line shouldn’t always be a deterrent to not do something, as long as you’re not spending more time waiting than doing. Studies show that children who are more patient have better outcomes as adults. And if you need to relax during your trip, check out The Best Way to Do Yoga on an Airplane. 

family Travel with Children

Less is More

Instead of filling the day with everything you can do, pick one big thing you all want to do. Then down-shift. Misery quickly comes when you treat your vacation schedule like a work one. And for more amazing parenting advice, here are the 40 Parenting Hacks for Raising an Amazing Kid.

stuffed animals Travel with Kids

Do Not Bring

Their favorite blanket or stuffed animal. It. Will. Get. Lost.

elevator etiquette hodor Travel with Kids

Do Not Let Them Touch

All the elevator buttons.

Travel with children

Treat Them Like a Piece of Luggage

If you have small kids and will be in crowded areas, attach your cell number to them: A tag on their wrist, or even with a marker on their arm.

man with flask Travel with Children

Just Sayin’

Nobody will judge you if you want to make sure you, too, have a “sippy cup” on hand with “mommy’s juice” or “daddy’s milk.”

Packing, Travel Travel with Children

Include Them in On the Prep

As you’re gathering up everything you need to bring, take some time and let them choose a few things they “need,” too. It could be stuff from the dollar store, new socks, really anything that helps them share in the build-up of the excitement trip.

Suitcases Travel with Children

If You’re an A+ Organizer (or Know You Should Be)

Packing cubes are worth it.

family Travel with Children

Plan a Variety Show

A high-quality itinerary should be like a high-quality playlist: You don’t want to hear the same song over and over, and maybe you don’t want to do the same kind of thing over and over. Depending on where you’re going, you’ll keep your kids (and yourself) most engaged by mixing it up between nature, attractions, structured events, unstructured ones, walking, taking buses, go time, down time.

Drinking on plane Travel with children

Patrol the Legs

Most of your fellow passengers will tolerate and sympathize about a crying baby. They will not do the same about a tyke who kicks the seat.

dad with kids, travel with children

Empower Them

Jason Greene, founder of One Good Dad, encourages his kids to order food in the native language when they travel internationally. It’s an opportunity, he says, to teach them how to think independently, how to navigate unfamiliar situations, and to try new things—all life skills that they’ll use in the future.

Dad carrying baby Travel with Children

You’re Welcome

Chicken fingers in Spanish: Pollo empanizado y frito.

Family Travel with Children

In the End, This Matters Most

The most comfortable place for their head is up against your shoulder. For more parenting tips, check out The 30 Funniest Pieces of Celebrity Parenting Advice.

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