Just imagine watching your child learning to crawl in an old chateau in southern France, or taking their first steps in an opulent mosque in Saudi Arabia, or learning to speak surrounded by children speaking a variety of mother tongues? Traveling with a child opens them up to a wonderful range of experiences that simply can’t be duplicated at home.
Traveling with small children can be extremely fulfilling. It can be a life-changing experience for kids, giving them the chance to see the world from a different, and very eye-opening, perspective. It also means that you can spend quality time together exploring the world rather than sitting at home glued to screens.
Many people think traveling as a family is simply too difficult. And while it certainly has its fair share of challenges, it is definitely not impossible. If you don’t believe us, check out some of the best travel blogs, like vlogs created by the moms and dads who are taking their kids on the ultimate ’round-the-world adventure. They can give you amazing tips and tricks to make family travel easier with kids at any age. We have included some super useful blogs that we have found (and loved!) throughout the article to help point you in the right direction.
Once you pick a destination, make sure to head over to their tourism bureau website. They usually have plenty of information regarding visiting the particular destination with kids, including the best kid-friendly activities on offer, great hotels that cater to families, and ways to save money on your trip.
And always remember that practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to traveling with kids. If something doesn’t “work” the first time, then learn from it and try new things in the future. If you love to travel, there is no reason why you need to give this up. Just keep trying until you find the right thing that works for you and your family.
Pack Adventures from Scratch for Extra Family Fun
Are you headed on a vacation with your family? It’s always good to have some extra tricks up your sleeve when traveling with the whole gang. Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition includes over 50 challenges, as well as tear-out surprises and other interactive elements. Try a task while in a new city or use it on a rainy day during a trip to the beach. Grab your copy today!
Family Travel Tips
Choosing a Great Destination
Picking a great destination is crucial when you are planning a vacation with kids in tow. Every family is different which means that people pick their vacation spots for a variety of reasons including proximity to home, ease of travel, amount of family-friendly attractions, and the type of trip that you want. It is important to pick a place that meets your expectations and choosing the right place can make or break your family vacation. If you are dreaming about spending a day lounging around on the beach while your kids build sandcastles, you probably aren’t going to book a vacation to New York City. Likewise, if you want a place full of historic towns and ancient ruins, you may not want to rush to Australia.
Work out a budget.
Figuring out how much you can afford to spend on your next family vacation is one of the most crucial steps in picking a destination. A family vacation to Hawaii may seem idyllic, but the high costs of flights and accommodation may leave you without much money to spend on activities while you are there which is certainly no fun.
Luckily, there are many great places that you can go as alternatives that can offer just as great of experiences even if they don’t have all the same hype surrounding them. It is important to remember that no vacation destination is “perfect” and you really need to balance what you want versus what fits into your budget.
When you are looking at your budget, you also need to decide whether or not this trip is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for your family. If you plan on traveling a lot with your kids in the near future then you may want to trim down your costs a bit to ensure they will get the chance to explore more fantastic parts of the world in the future. However, if this is going to be a big trip that you want your kids to remember forever, then feel free to splurge. Luckily, there is a never-ending list of destinations that you can go to regardless of what your budget is.
Decide what is right for your family.
When you are picking out a destination, it is also important to consider how adaptable your kids are. While some children may not even bat an eye at the thought of boarding a flight to Delhi, other kids may have a meltdown going somewhere a few hours away. Just like with many adults, it is important to work your “up” when you start traveling with kids. Short, easy trips can be a great start getting them used to the idea of traveling and you can gradually begin taking longer and longer trips to destinations further afield.
If this is one of your first times traveling as a family and you are planning on going somewhere within North America, a road trip could be a great way to ease your kids into traveling. Visiting national parks, nearby cities, or the grandparents on long weekend getaways will help get them comfortable with spending the night away from home and help teach them what is expected of them when you are on the road as a family.
Do plenty of research.
Once you have started narrowing down a list of places that you think would be great for your family, make sure to do plenty of research on how kid-friendly they actually are. While you can learn a lot by looking at reviews on websites like TripAdvisor, there are plenty of destination-specific blogs available where you can learn about people’s experience in traveling in a particular place with kids. Pinterest is a great way to find some lesser-known blogs and can give you a more realistic account of a destination than some of the more famous blogs.
Make sure to also head over to the destination’s tourism bureau website. They usually have plenty of information regarding visiting the particular destination with kids including the best kid-friendly activities on offer, great hotels that cater to families, and ways to save money on your trip. You can also check out the destination guides on Let’s Roam to get a great snapshot of what a city has to offer!
Finally, when you are booking a hotel or Airbnb, make sure to read the reviews left behind by families that have stayed recently. A sleek, sophisticated property may look great in pictures but turn out to be completely inadequate for the needs of a family. Guest reviews will give you a good idea of how special needs are accommodated and what level of customer service that you can expect.
Family Travel With Kids of All Ages
How you travel as a family and the strategies that you follow differ greatly based on the age and personality of your kids. People traveling with a baby will obviously have very different needs and concerns than someone traveling with a teenager. However, doing a bit of research and planning before you get on the road can make everything go a bit more smoothly.
When you are planning your vacation, don’t forget to take advantage of the many handy apps that are out there that are specially designed to make your life much easier. We have even put together a full list of great travel apps that you can use before, during, and after your adventure!
Also, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go, especially when you are traveling with kids. Most American insurance policies won’t cover you when you are traveling internationally and although some credit cards offer insurance for travelers, this doesn’t always cover health-related expenses which can end up costing you an absolute fortune.
Traveling With Kids Under Two
While many people may assume that this is one of the hardest times to travel with kids and delay their travel plans until the kids are older, this is actually one of the best times to travel, especially if you are going to some pretty far-flung destinations, as the new colors and sounds can be mesmerizing for them and they often get really excited simply watching the world go by.
Simply pop them into a baby sling (strollers don’t work too well in cobblestones or rough streets) and you are on your way! The great thing about starting to travel when kids are this young is that they begin to get used to being in different places which will make it much easier to travel more in the future.
Carry only what you need.
One of the perks of traveling with babies is that kids this age are pretty portable so you can pretty much carry them wherever you go as long as you bring along some of their favorite toys, books, blankets, and other accessories. Just make sure not to overdo it when it comes to baby gear. Carrying too much stuff is always a huge hassle but particularly so when you are traveling from place to place on public transport or having to pack and unpack your belongings often when you are changing destinations.
A good rule of thumb is to bring enough diapers for at least a few days, especially if you are traveling to a foreign country where there may be a big language barrier or cultural norms are very different. Make sure that you pack lightly for yourself as well, and try to downsize as much as possible when it comes to checking luggage and carry-ons. This helps make everyone’s life much easier!
Also, don’t forget to put multiple changes of clothes in your diaper bag or carry-on before your flight. This will help the clean-up crew (aka mom and dad) after a big blowout and can also help save the day if the airline happens to lose your luggage.
Keep a schedule.
It is also important that you maintain some of the same schedules that you normally would at home when you begin traveling with your baby—especially when it comes to nap time. If they are used to sleeping or eating at a particular time, try to follow this. The little extra planning that goes into this will make it much, much easier for you in the long run as you can hopefully mitigate some of the issues that come along with traveling with a grumpy baby.
If your baby is pretty laid back, you can always follow their natural clock and simply lull them to sleep when they are tired but keep in mind that jet lag is a real thing and you may end up with a baby that is wide awake in the middle of the night.
Get started early!
When you begin contemplating traveling with a baby, make sure to check with different airlines as to how old babies must be before they can fly. While doctors recommend waiting until a baby’s immune system is fully developed, which can be anywhere between 3-6 months, some airlines allow kids as young as two days old. While it is completely up to you as to what you feel comfortable with, this lag time may be a great opportunity to take a few road trips to a place nearby to get some first-hand experience while you are still close enough to go right back home if something happens. Taking a few short trips early on also gives you a pretty good idea of how much stuff you actually need to have with you when you travel and can help you streamline your luggage a bit.
Also, if you are planning on traveling abroad, keep in mind that babies need their own passports so you may want to get started on this as soon as possible as there is nothing more stressful than planning a fantastic family vacation and then not even being sure that you will be able to take it due to one family member missing their passport.
If you want some more great tips and tricks for traveling with a baby, make sure to check out this fantastic article 35 Baby Travel Tips on Local Milk. This mom-blogger gives great first-hand experiences on traveling around the world with a baby and even includes an extremely useful minimalist packing list.
Traveling With Toddlers
While traveling with babies is relatively easy since they sleep a lot and can be carried to most places, traveling with toddlers is a little bit more challenging. However, it is also more rewarding as you can see young children begin engaging with the world around them. (And, honestly, what is cuter and provides better photo opportunities than some of these little interactions?)
Let them explore.
While you may feel the need to be overprotective of them when they are in a new environment, make sure that you give them plenty of space to run around and explore whether it be at a local playground, park, or children’s museum. This gives them the chance to learn through play and perhaps more importantly, burn off some excess energy which hopefully leads to better sleep and fewer meltdowns. Make sure to check for any major hazards and keep some sanitizing wipes handy in case they get into anything filthy and let them be on their merry little way.
Bring lots and lots of snacks.
Some toddlers are able to pack in an incredible amount of food considering their teeny tiny size so make sure to pack plenty of snacks so you don’t end up with a hangry toddler. They can also help keep your kiddo occupied for a few minutes so that you can have a small, much-needed break. Don’t worry about bringing everything from home. You will find plenty of crackers, cookies, and fresh fruit everywhere around the world, most of which are much better quality and cheaper than anything that you can find in the United States.
Try to fly at night.
While we all have nightmares of screaming toddlers on flights while everyone is trying to sleep both from the parent and fellow passenger perspective, flying at night can be one of the best times to fly, especially if your toddler is a good sleeper. Bring something with you to block out any excess light and try to get them to relax as early into the flight as possible.
If this isn’t possible, try to factor in plenty of quiet time when you arrive at a destination to give them a chance to catch up on any missed sleep and get used to their new environment.
Need more advice? Check out this great article from Parents.com featuring 10 Expert Tips for Traveling with Toddlers.
Traveling With Elementary-Aged Kids
When kids reach an age where they are able to hold conversations, read, and think independently, travel can really begin to shape them and serves as an excellent educational opportunity. However, they may not always be as excited about this new adventure and would prefer to be at home with their friends and toys. Luckily, there are some great things that you can do to keep them engaged.
Involve kids in the vacation planning.
When you are putting together your vacation plans, try to include your kids’ input. While this doesn’t necessarily mean hopping on a plane to Disney because your seven-year-old wanted to (although this is a great destination for young kids and the young at heart!), it does mean taking into account their interests.
For example, if you have children who love animals, an island adventure full of snorkeling trips, jungle hikes, and exotic animals could be something enjoyable for the whole family. However, if your kids seem a bit more interested in burying their heads in a book, why not head out to Europe, Egypt, or China where they can see some of the fantastic things that they are reading about in history class in real life? If you have kids with a wide variety of interests, why not go to Mexico where you can spend one day climbing the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza and find yourself snorkeling off the coast of Cozumel the next?
When your kids feel like their own interests are being taken into account, it will be much easier to keep them engaged throughout the entire trip which makes it more fun for everyone.
Try to time your vacation.
When you are planning your next family vacation, try to plan around school vacation times. While we don’t necessarily condone taking kids out of school, we know that traveling can be an incredibly enriching experience and strongly believe that kids can often learn more in a week of traveling than they can in a month of sitting in a classroom.
When you travel outside of peak holiday periods, it helps you save money on accommodation and flights, and even better, it usually helps save on some of the stress that is involved with traveling which creates a better travel experience for your entire family.
Before you go, make sure to check with your children’s teachers to see if they will be missing anything critical during their vacation and take any homework assignments with you when you go. This will help them keep on top of their schoolwork and give them something useful to do on the plane or long car ride.
Leave plenty of extra time.
Doing anything with kids usually takes much longer than you anticipated and this certainly applies when you travel so it is incredibly important to leave plenty of extra time for pretty much everything. While you may have been able to squeeze in some of a city’s top attractions all in one day when you traveled solo or as a couple, there is a high chance that you will need to spread this out over a few days during your family trip. Cutting down on the amount that you schedule into your day will help give kids plenty of downtime to rest and recover which should help cut down on the risk of them burning out and disconnecting during the trip.
You will also want to get to the airport well in advance for your flight in case it takes longer than expected to get checked in, make it through security, etc. The worst way to start your vacation is by missing your flight by just a few minutes and being stuck at the airport with grumpy kids.
Pre-book as much as you can.
While you may be used to traveling by the seat of your pants normally, this can be extra stressful when you have kids. Try to book hotels, car rentals (with car seats if necessary), and one or two of your must-see attractions and activities in advance just to avoid disappointment as you certainly don’t want to tell your kids you are going to see X, Y, or Z and then not be able to get tickets.
Keep in mind though that there is a fine line between having a few things booked in advance as a safeguard and going a bit overboard and scheduling everything. When you schedule too much, you may end up causing undue stress as you are rushing from one thing to the next which will most likely end up with a family of unhappy, exhausted kids and parents.
Traveling With Tweens and Teens
Traveling with older kids like preteens and teenagers can be much easier in some ways than traveling with younger children (yah, no diapers, no toys!) but it does bring on a new set of challenges depending on the age and maturity level of your kids. Older children may like they are too “grown-up” for a family vacation or be more interested in their after-school activities than they are in seeing the world around them.
Bring a friend along.
For many of us, when we were teenagers, our friends and first loves were EVERYTHING and we couldn’t bear to be apart from them for more than a few days. While looking back, it feels a bit silly and overdramatic but we all know how difficult it can be to convince teenagers that everything will be fine. To make life a bit easier, why not just bring a friend along?
If you have the extra space and the money, this could be a great way to keep your teenager happy during your vacation (which is priceless).and also keep them more engaged in their environment since they have someone their own age to share the experience with.
Give them plenty of space.
Older kids, especially teenagers, are most likely used to spending plenty of time “alone” in their rooms or with their friends and suddenly spending 24/7 together with their parents may be a little too much for them to handle. Make sure to give them plenty of space and time on their own during your vacation to help them keep the same sense of autonomy that they have been cultivating at home. While it is never nice to feel like your teenagers don’t want to be around you, don’t worry—this is just a phase and is an important part of growing up.
If possible, try to rent Airbnbs that have enough space so your teenagers can have their own rooms or rent an extra hotel room. While the extra expense may feel a bit painful at the time, it is well worth it to maintain the peaceful vibe of your vacation.
Get their input on activities.
Just like with younger kids, it is important to have the buy-in from older kids when it comes to where you go and what you do while on your vacation. Make sure to ask them what they want to do and try to pick activities that you think they will be interested in. This may be tricky if you have kids of vastly different ages so make sure to bring plenty of things to keep younger children occupied if you are going somewhere that is targeted to an older audience. If you are traveling with your partner, this is a good time to split up for a few hours so that kids can each do something age-appropriate.
Ready to Roam?
We hope that these top tips have helped you feel ready to head out for a great trip! Before you head out, don’t forget to pick up a scratch-off adventure book that will give you great new challenges to do each day to help you explore even more!
You might also consider one of our fun-filled scavenger hunts, which will have you racing down streets and completing challenges in more than 400 cities around the world. They’ll help you discover destinations in whole new ways while you create wonderful family memories!
Be sure to keep an eye on our other articles centered on travel and family fun! We’ve got additional tips for traveling with kids, family road trip ideas, the best places to travel with children, and more!
Frequently Asked Questions
One of the best family travel tips is to be flexible and don’t try to schedule too much during one trip. Also, let the kids help plan the trip, try scheduling night flights, and give teens some space!