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Traveling with your kids is one of the greatest things you can do as a parent. It allows you to show them the world, make memories with your family, and spend quality time with your favorite people. But, it can also be one of the most challenging things for parents. To help make your family travels smoother, here are 10 of my best tips for parents traveling with kids.
My husband and I have always loved traveling. When we became parents, it was important for us to travel as much as possible as a family. We took our first family road trip when our son was only 2 weeks old. We’ve been traveling as a family ever since. Our son is now a pro at it. And I’ve learned a lot throughout the years of traveling with kids.
#1: Start early.
One of my best tips for parents who want to travel with kids is to start early. The earlier you start traveling with your kids, the easier it will be. And take trips with them as often as possible.
When you travel early and often as a family, your kids will quickly understand that this is what you do. They won’t be thrown off by sleeping in hotels or having their schedules disrupted by flights, and won’t be bothered by long car rides.
Kids are much more flexible when travel is a regular part of life from the beginning.
#2: Be flexible.
Speaking of flexibility, in order to have smooth trips with your kids, you need to be flexible yourself. Unfortunately, even the most seasoned child travelers will have off days. Be prepared to adjust your plans when things go wrong or your kids have a meltdown.
The more you can pivot and do something different when you hit a roadblock, the less likely these setbacks will ruin your trips. Plus, the more your kids see you stay calm and move on to plan B, the more they will learn to be flexible themselves.
#3: Adjust your expectations.
Next on my list of the best tips for parents who want to travel with kids is to adjust your expectations. Trips with kids are not the same as adult only trips.
When you start traveling with your kids, you need to think about things like naptimes, kids’ menus, and age restrictions on activities. You won’t be able to do as much or move as fast as you did before kids. You also will have to stop more often during road trips.
But, if you adjust your expectations accordingly, you will find that traveling with your kids can be just as much fun as traveling without kids. There is nothing better than seeing the world through the eyes of your children.
#4: Listen to your children’s personalities.
When planning trips with kids, be sure to listen to your children’s personalities. Take their interests, preferences, and tendencies into account when you are deciding what to do, where to go, and how to get there.
For instance, if your daughter becomes unbearable if she is up past her bedtime, make your travel arrangements so you can be at the hotel before then.
If your son has trouble sitting quietly, then give him time to burn off some energy before boarding a plane.
#5: Build in some down time.
It’s no secret that kids usually can’t go as hard or as long as adults can. So, to make your family travels easier, build in some down time on each trip. Preferably, give your family some down time each day of your vacation.
There are many ways to schedule down time. Allow your family to sleep in late or turn in for the night early. You can also take a break at the hotel in the middle of the day to nap or just chill. Alternatively, you can arrange to visit a park or other area where your kids can let loose and run around freely for a while.
I recommend mixing in several of these options during the course of your trip.
#6: Do your research.
Over the years, I have learned that the more research I do for a trip, the smoother that trip is. This is because the more I know, the more I can anticipate and the better I can prepare for whatever comes our way.
So, when preparing for your family vacations, do your research. Look at operating hours, prices, menus, the weather, transportation options, and more. The more you know about your destination and planned activities, the better your trip will be.
#7: Buy advance tickets whenever possible.
Another one of my best tips for parents who travel with kids is to buy advance tickets for your must-do attractions whenever possible. This will save you time waiting in line while on your trip. It can also sometimes save you money. And at times, this will ensure that you don’t get left out in the cold if the event is sold out.
When my son was about three, we really wanted to do the penguin experience at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Unfortunately, I didn’t book it in advance and it was sold out before we got there.
Additionally, buying tickets in advance will allow you to plan the rest of your trip around these locked in attractions.
#8: Include your kids in the trip planning.
Want to get your kids as excited about traveling as you are? Then include them in your trip planning. The more you engage your kids in the plans and the more you take their opinions and interests into account, the more your kids will be interested in your vacation.
If your kids are young, you can include them by asking what they want to do, show them photos of different options and have them “vote” on which ones they would rather do, or just take their interests into account when planning things.
If your kids are older, have them research various options, ask them what places they want to visit, or let them be in charge of planning a specific day of your trip.
For more ideas, see how to include your kids in trip planning.
#9: Pack some snacks.
Of course, the best of the best tips for parents when traveling with kids is to always pack some snacks! It’s amazing how snacks can make any situation instantly better.
A favorite snack can calm an upset or impatient child. It can also curb the hunger pains if you are unexpectedly delayed. And it can be a great motivator if you need some cooperation from your child.
#10: Have fun!
Last on my list of the best tips for parents who are traveling with kids is to have fun! The whole reason we travel with our kids is to spend quality time together as a family and to experience the world with our kids. So, don’t get bogged down in trying to make it perfect!
Just go with the flow and have fun, no matter what happens. Enjoy the adventure! Laugh at your mistakes and focus on making memories.
The more fun you have, the more fun your kids will have.
Traveling with kids is not always easy, but it is one of the best ways to bond with your family and create lasting memories! This list of the best tips for parents traveling with kids will help you make the most of your next family trip. Enjoy!