We have a few big trips with the kids under our belts now. Each time we travel, we figure out a new tip or trick that makes our travel successively easier. I am excited to share our best, hard won secrets of traveling with kids with you so that you can add them to your travel ninja tool belt!
If you find this useful, here are some other posts about our experiences traveling with our kids as babies and toddlers
- 6 Ways that Traveling with Toddlers has Changed our Travel Habits
- Busting 5 Common Fears of Traveling with a Toddler
- Why We Are Taking our Toddlers on a Cruise
- Surviving the Airport with a Toddler
Transportation Upon Arrival
Splurge on transportation to make you arrival as easy and stress free as possible. This is not the place to pinch pennies, when you are all tired from a long flight and you drag the kiddos into a labyrinth of public transportation with a heap of bags in tow (TRUST ME ON THIS ONE….WE HAVE DONE THIS). This is a super stressful start to the trip and it can set the tone of the things to come.
Book a Decent Place
Spend a little extra to get a decent hotel. I am not saying that you need to stay at the Ritz, but don’t cut funds and end up at a place that is dirty or unsafe like we have. When we were traveling before kids, staying in a place that was a little on the scuzzy side to save a little money was tolerable. Now, not so much. Clean and safe are our minimum now. We don’t need fancy, but we don’t compromise on the basics.
Room to Run?
Make sure you have available options for a place for them to run off steam at any moment. Plan for this. If you can, find accommodations that are near a great park (bonus for having an amazing playground!) This will lessen everyone’s stress level immensely. Planning your days out during your trip, make notes in your plans about where the nearest parks are for each location.
Set an itinerary but be willing to let go of it. We plan for no more than one big activity early in the day, before nap while the kids are still fresh. Now that the kids are a little older, we sometimes try a less intensive sight or activity in the afternoon. Evening time is reserved for nothing more than dinner and hanging out, experiencing local culture. We feel now that this time is just as important as the time that we spend seeing the sights.
ALWAYS have food and snacks with you, and keep an extra special treat or snack up your sleeve for when you really need to shift gears or attention for a bit. You never want to run out of food for any reason. Plan for more snacks than you think you will need for unexpected situations or delays.
Don’t forget to bring some special snacks for mommy and daddy…something you really LOVE (these are MY favorite snack bars!) Travel is hard…you need nourishment to keep up with those little people!
Is Eating out Worth It?
Until the kiddos are out of the toddler stage, it might be less stressful for everyone to minimize sit down restaurants when traveling. Some families might be more adventurous than is in this regard, but for us, we have a lot more takeout food from grocery stores and picnics. When we do eat in a restaurant, we choose carefully. We look for a place where the wait will not be too long and with enough noise that the kiddos won’t be a huge disruption if they get a little loud.
Plan and Prepare
Prepare your kids ahead of time for what the day will hold. Sit down in the morning and map out the day with your kids. Let them know what the plans are. Tell them about the parts that they will likely enjoy most and when they will happen. As we proceed through our day, we are constantly talking with the kids about what the next steps are. This helps them adapt to the new situations that travel brings up and makes the trip run more smoothly.
Don’t Bring Too Many Toys
The first few times that we traveled with the kids the fear of running out of things to amuse them drove us bring way too much stuff. We were loaded down with oodles of activities that they didn’t use. We don’t anymore.
Now that our kids are preschool age and older, they get their tablets and headphones as a special treat when we travel. Other then that we stick to bringing a koosh ball to play catch, perhaps a small game of memory, a sticker book for each of them for the airplane and sometimes these story cards. Basically, we like to stick to lots of open ended activities that can be utilized in a variety of ways.
There are usually enough new experiences and things to see during travel to occupy their brains without needing too many extra things.
Relax and Enjoy the Journey!
Travel with kids is an altogether different process than before kids. Sometimes, we have to realize that the journey IS part of the destination. We cherish our travel time because the challenges and experiences bring us closer together as a family. Travel provides rare, uninterrupted family time free from distractions and the ever present “to do” list. We try really hard to let go of expectations and just go with the flow and focus on enjoying time together, whether we are checking something off of our bucket list or just hanging out chasing pigeons.