Anything Goes When Traveling with Kids

traveling with kids- Ashley

As any parent with kids will know, a family getaway can sometimes be much less idyllic than it sounds. Children are very active by nature, which can result in a trip that’s more work than relaxation. Travel is an adventure in itself and traveling with kids can be more than people can endure. That’s why a lot of people don’t do it.

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Lake-Garda-Italy Anything Goes When Traveling with Kids

Traveling with Kids

Anything Goes When Kids are Involved

Attitude is everything although it’s safe to assume that you will encounter a problem or two along the way. If you treat your trip like the adventure, it is, annoyances, missteps, and mishaps simply become small obstacles for your band of explorers to overcome. I mean, seriously, do you think Dora would let a two-hour rain delay get to her? Would Indiana Jones get stressed out because the restaurant doesn’t have chicken fingers?

My recommendation… go with the flow and everything will work out the way it works out, lol. Add kids to the mix and there are no guarantees.

When you get ready to take a trip with the kids, talk to them about the different languages, cultures, and food they will encounter. Seek the right balance between the familiar and comforting and the new and exciting. You’ll decide the mix based on your kids, but since you cannot recreate home in a box (and why would you, isn’t that the point of traveling in the first place.) Prepare and excite them about the differences. Be careful not to over-promise, which might lead to disaster when a particular museum or amusement is closed unexpectedly.

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I could write an entire book about traveling with babies. But it all boils down is make sure you have enough milk, bottles, diapers, warm clothes, blankets, wet wipes to last a few days longer than your planned trip.

Planning is very important when you have little ones. Is there a discount based on age? Is it stroller accessible? Are the activities age-appropriate? Babies cry even when they aren’t hungry or wet. If kids are unpredictable, then babies are an enigma wrapped in a riddle and everyone understands that. The key is to make them as comfortable as possible, so you don’t spend too much time trying not to ruin anyone else’s trip because of poor planning.

Visualize it

With our kids, we like to start with picture/ travel books to whet their appetite and spur their curiosity. Look at a street scene, say the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and ask the kids to imagine standing right there, in the picture. What would they see? What would it sound like, smell like? Then shift to a map and try to find that spot. Where is it in relation to our hotel? How could we get there? Needless to say, it is exceptionally cool to in fact try to find the spot we picked out of the book once we actually got to Paris. Older children may be able to navigate the family to that very spot, with little or no assistance. Other ideas include: downloading music native to your destination, rent a movie from the library, or make some flashcards of a few useful words/ phrases and quiz each other.

For more on traveling with kids, read How to Create a Travel Bug.

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Best Time to Travel

If at all possible, leave at just the right time. If your kid’s nap, use their schedules to your advantage. For example, if you’ve got a long car ride, see if you can’t leave an hour or so before their nap time. Most kids can entertain themselves for a little while. Once they fall asleep, you just bought yourself an hour or two of bliss on the way to your destination. This can work for flights as well. Consider a red-eye flight, especially if you’re flying across the big pond. You can try to entertain your child for 6 hours on a daytime flight or you can have them sleep on a flight that leaves at 11 PM. It’s a no-brainer!!

Be warned, however, this is a high-risk, high-return gambit. When executed successfully, you get on the plane; give your kid his teddy bear or favorite “blanky” and wake up 3,000 miles away, refreshed, and ready for whatever comes next. When things go awry, however, you are awake all night enduring glares from the people seated near you, and the whole family is transformed into cranky zombies the next day.

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Travel Toys

Trust your parental instincts when it comes to choosing your kids’ toys and books. Toys with lots of small, moving parts are bound to end up as vacuum food. “One-trick” toys also take the express train to boredom town. Things like a good set of portable art supplies with crayons, color pencils, and some paper can transform into hours of amusement (or at least distraction). If your son can play at home with his Nintendo DS for hours, it’s probably a pretty solid bet it will entertain him on vacation as well. Make sure to pack the charger (to keep it working) and earplugs (to keep it from working on you).

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Travel Light

When packing for family trips, less really is more. As in, the less stuff you’re lugging around, the more freedom you’ll have. Take things that can serve double duty. The travel outfit should be loose-fitting and comfortable. Keep in mind that airplanes are often chilly, and layering is most effective against the changes in temperature. Buy a new toothbrush for each family member so you can pack everything the night before. Place personal toiletry items, baby lotion, and hand sanitizer, etc. in a sandwich-size Ziploc bag or transparent pouch and remember that current regulations prohibit liquids over 3 oz in carry-on luggage.

Check out 8 Travel resolutions and how to keep them for more travel tips you should incorporate into your travel.

What to Pack

A small, sturdy nightlight can help turn a scary hotel room into a cozy den. And definitely, don’t forget the baby wipes. Even if your kid was out of diapers years ago, baby wipes are invaluable when traveling. You can clean hands, faces, toilet seats, almost anything with them. On a hot day, you can even wipe your face & neck with them to cool down a bit. Other things that come in handy are tissue for a runny nose, plastic bags for wet or dirty clothes, an extra change of clothing (especially underwear and socks) for each kid, a few pull-ups (just in case), children’s Tylenol or Benadryl, and gum, candy or fruit snacks to help keep tiny eardrums from popping on the airplane ride.

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Meals & Snacks

Food is one of the most pleasurable and potentially the most irritating aspects of traveling with kids. When kids get hungry, they get cranky, and it doesn’t matter where you are, it’s no fun. Food is also a big chunk of travel expenses for a family. Eating out in restaurants all the time can cost a bundle and little kids may not find anything thing “they like” on the menu.

Most cities have all the well-known American fast-food chains. McDonald’s, Subway, Taco Bell, etc. offering a respite for picky or finicky children with variations on the food you’re familiar with. Make sure you have plenty of snacks for the in-between times. Since my kids never passed a vending machine, they didn’t like, I purchase cereal bars, pb&j, and bread to fix a quick snack in the room and if I have a refrigerator, milk, and luncheon meat as well.

Snacks can also keep your children satisfied, which may encourage napping. Choose foods that aren’t packed with sugar and that won’t melt or crumble apart. Licorice, cracker sandwiches, cereal, and granola bars are good bets. Try preparing these snacks in unique ways. Young kids will love cereal pieces strung onto yarn to form an edible necklace.

Take turns during mealtimes –if you can. So at least one of you can enjoy a meal from start to finish. Remember, many restaurants don’t understand the term “doggy bag” and even if they did, very few European hotels come equipped with a microwave to reheat your leftovers. With that being said…

Prepare at Home

Why wait until you leave before trying some ethnic delights? Visit a Spanish market, go out for a kebab, or try to eat with chopsticks. Encourage your kids to help you prepare a few traditional dishes in the comfort of your own kitchen. You’ll expand your child’s horizons and create a fun memory in the process.

If your child is an avid reader, take advantage of their curiosity. Head to some used book sales or the local library to pile up on books for the trip. You can get a nice variety of books at a bargain or absolutely free. Since plane seats are narrow and spills are likely, you won’t be as upset if the used books get damaged. This is a great time to build curiosity for the things of interest at the destination you are heading to. Don’t forget about activity books, jokes books, and those amazing I Spy and Where’s Waldo that will keep them busy for a long time.

Bring Back Memories

Wouldn’t you and your child love a memory book/journal of their vacation? Before the trip, get each of your kids a small journal, markers, and tape. Suggest that they journal about their trip by drawing, writing, and taping in pictures, ticket stubs, postcards, etc. This will help them remember the special moments of the trip and their thoughts and feelings about what they are seeing. On the plane or in the car, they can tape in some fun things from the in-flight magazine, write about the movie they saw or log what fabulous or not so fabulous food they ate. Have them make a list of who they want to send postcards to while on the trip. Then they can work through the list on the trip.

Involve Everyone in the Planning

When planning your holiday to make sure that you’ve taken each member of the family into consideration. Each of them has their individual likes (and dislikes), and trying to meet these will result in a better holiday for everyone. If it’s possible, give your kids a choice between two activities they would enjoy and let them decide. Not only do you get them involved in the planning, but you allow then to take credit (or ownership) in their vacation too. And for heaven’s sake, don’t forget about yourself! Remember mom and dad, this is your vacation too.

Where You Stay

The most important consideration in selecting a hotel, when kids are involved, isn’t necessarily a scenic view or luxurious sheets—it’s the neighborhood near the places you’ll want to explore, and staff that welcomes families. It’s staying in a place that’s convenient for meals and amenities, such as fresh-baked cookies, Internet access, cribs and babysitting services, swimming pools, suites with kitchens, near playgrounds, etc. If your children are at the age were running around is their main priority, ask for a room on the ground level as far away from other guests as possible.

One of my favorite hotels stays with my kids was the Melia in Seville located at Dr. Pedro De Castro, 1, Sur, 41004 Seville, Spain

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What to Do When You Get There

And finally, you’ve survived the planning, packing, plane, train, or automobile ride, checked into your hotel room and now you’re ready to see the sights. Don’t ruin it now. Avoid cramming too many activities into one day. Traveling with kids requires flexibility and having an itinerary filled to the brim might not work too well. Instead, try to split the activities over more days, or only schedule a few important ones so you can spend some quality relaxation time together as a family.

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    1. duffelbagspouse

      I so agree. Lugging a lot of extra stuff like toys will be so annoying when most kids will be entertained by the simplest things. Lol

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Stop that. Lol, have you ever unleashed your kids on your spoons, pots and pans? They can be entertained easily.

  1. Caitlin

    I don’t have children yet, but I do travel a ton for work – my heart always goes out to parents traveling with children on planes! We were all children once 🙂

  2. Krysten

    We have traveled a lot with our 18 months old and it seems the older he gets the worse he is in the plane. I really needed these tips for our next trip!

  3. Natalie

    Traveling with kids can really be stressful – I have witnessed it while traveling. But it is worth it in the end for all the memories that are created! And yes, snacks are crucial, even for adults!

  4. Sauumye

    My sister just came back for a month from US and this is relatable. We were travelling across India and the one thing we couldn’t forget at all before stepping out were her son’s toys. He wouldn’t leave the house without the. Carrying them around the country was a lot of work.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I can’t imagine because traveling around India has its own challenges. But the good thing is you all survive and I imagine you have tons of experiences that you will never forget.

  5. Lisa

    We are travelling for the first time this summer with our 2 year old and I have to admit, I am slightly dreading the getting from a to b part! I will definitely be utilising some of these tips.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Don’t fret. Just plan as well as you can. You know your child, keep that in mind when planning activities, travel time and you’ll be just fine.

  6. blair villanueva

    I guess travelling with babies is the kost stressful one. But if youvare travelling with kids (especially kids that are so techie) they are awesome travel buddies 🙂

  7. Hey Sharonoox

    Great tips! Agree with the go with the flow when travelling with kids. There are times things might not go as planned. Love travelling with my children, it’s so much fun!

  8. Author Brandi Kennedy

    These are amazing tips – I haven’t had much chance to travel with my girls just yet, but I’d like to, and am hopeful that we’ll get to do a little traveling in the next few years.

    Also, I saw your son’s name in the caption of his photo and am utterly delighted – that’s the name of one of my main characters in the Selkie Trilogy! I’m such a goof to be excited over that, but I am anyway.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Lol, you know Malik means king or prince? We wanted a name he would have to aspire to. And 21 years later, its still one of my favorite names… and I am kinda partial to the kid too.

  9. Jessica Harlow

    I can’t agree with you more about the concept of “go with the flow” when you travel with kids. There are always surprises, obstacles, unexpected bumps and if you approach them as almost “expected” than it’s not a big deal. Family vacations are my favorite way to travel now!

  10. David Elliott

    These are amazing trips for traveling with your kids. I definitely remember over packing for a trip with my child. That’s a definite no no. You collect so many memories along the way, you will need room to have more stuff to take when coming back.

  11. Glenda

    It is so true when you travel with kids you have to keep them really busy to that they won’t drive you crazy. I always had tons of snacks, music and a lot of games.

  12. Leo Tat

    The hardest time to travel with kids is when they are younger than four years old. From experience, If they are a baby, they would cry, or if they can walk, they need to walk up and down the aisle. No sleep can be achieved on long haul flights. Over four years old, my kids is content watching the tv or playing the iPad.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      So so true. They are so unpredictable and harder to soothe when they get upset or when they are feeling that first sense of independence.

  13. Shobika

    I don’t have kids of my own just yet but these seem like great recommendations and tips and I’ve saved it on my computer for down the road 😉 It seems like travelling with kids is a whole lot of fun and doesn’t seem so bad after all 🙂

  14. Elizabeth O.

    I have twins so you can just imagine how crazy that can be when we travel. It’s really important to be prepared with everything from food to entertainment! I think these are all very good tips for parents.

  15. Sondra Barker

    So many great tips for traveling with kids. I don’t have kids yet, but will definitely take this tips into consideration for when I have children.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      You’re funny. You’ll be fine. You will probably just overpack a couple of times and then you’ll learn.

  16. Denice

    We tried travelling with our little girl last year. It is different from how we usually travel. Everything is paced slower and we also time everything based on her clock. I like your travel journal suggestion. Will make sure we try that next time we travel. 🙂

  17. Miranda

    Oh my, we just made our first long road trip 3 days ago. To say the least, it was less than ideal….I appreciate the tips, will likely use them for our next vacation! Thanks for sharing!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Haha, I can hear the sarcasm in your voice. You won’t likely forget it and what you’ve learned from it. I wish you shared some of your insight.

  18. Sarah-Louise Bailey

    Traveling with kids is so much fun than doing it alone. They have a high and fun spirit that makes me enjoy the whole trip. A couple of mix and match clothes and some goodies that can fit our small luggage will do. Just don’t forget the camera!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I completely agree, they make you look at travel differently from a slightly lower eye level. I miss that point of view from them.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      You are lucky. I had to fight with my kids from time to time to leave the house and their friends, but it never failed… once we got there they had a great time. Now they look back fondly because they love to travel, but now they have to do it on their own dimes.

  19. Richard Bivins

    I don’t have any kids but I have taken 3 of my nephews on a trip to Washington DC. I should have prepared them better on what to expect because as pre-teens they were more interested in the girls at the hotel pool than seeing the great monuments in our nation’s capitol.

  20. Amber Myers

    Great advice. I’ve traveled with my kids many times. Usually food and small new toys helps them out. Plus DS games, of course! And they have phones now, so that also helps.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I remember looking across the table at both my boys one who were so into their handheld video games not taking note of the beautiful Riviera that was unfolded all around them. I dug into my salad Nicoise and ignored them, that was there heaven. Later, they recollected it down to the very minor details so they were experiences it, just in their own way.

  21. GiGi Eats

    I give my sister MASSIVE amounts of credit because she took her 1.5 year old to South East Asia with me and my family this past holiday…… I could never do that. I wouldn’t have the patience. Her daughter did pretty well but I feel like my sister and her husband couldn’t really enjoy ANY meals with us, which was sad, but I mean, they sort of knew what they were getting themselves into when they agreed to come.

  22. Robin rue

    My kids are pretty well-traveled. They have been traveling since they were babies. As long as we have snacks, we are good to go.

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