12 Tips for Awesome Travel with your Kids

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In my last post, I gave you all my best arguments for why I think you should travel with kids. To further convince that you it’s doable, I’ve put together 12 tips for how to make traveling with kids easy and stress free.

Be Prepared. Traveling with kids is not necessarily different than traveling with anyone else. Preparing is the key to ensuring a smooth trip. Here are some essentials for prepared travel with kids:

    1. Children of any age need a passport for international travel. Read up on the State Department’s rules so you don’t waste your time making more than one trip to the passport office.
    2. Look for travel gadgets that make traveling with kids easier. If there is something you’re having a hard time planning around, I guarantee someone else has had this problem and invented a solution. My new favorite is one I learned about from another mom friend. I dread lugging a car sear around a long vacation where I’ll only need it sparingly. This vest offers safety in 1000 times more convenient fashion. I can’t wait to use for my family’s upcoming cruise!
    3. The only time you’ll probably be pressed to entertain your kids is during the “travel” leg of the trip. So, bring stuff to do for the car or plane ride. New toys will entertain them the most.
    4. Research your vacation for kid-friendly amenities. Know what food options are available. Know what kids’ activities are offered. Know the minimum ages for kids to participate in activities so they won’t be left out of things they are looking forward to. Tripadvisor reviews typically offer a ton of behind the scenes advice from other travelers, as well as parent forums. Also consider using a travel agent if this research seems daunting. (Travel agents typically receive their commissions from the companies you book through them,  so you don’t pay them directly for their services.)

Set the Vibe. Your kids will react to your energy. If you’re nervous and stressed, or really worried about how your kids are going to behave, you can guarantee they will act like donkeys. Here are some ways to keep yourself calm, which will in turn add to your kids’ calm:

  1. Tell them and yourself what to expect as you’re moving through the trip. The uncertainty can be unnerving to you all. Letting everyone know what is happening and what is coming next can go a long way in soothing anxiety.
  2. Enjoy the process. Relax and take in what’s going on around you, even if you don’t consider it the “fun” part of the trip. My daughter’s excited “oooooooh!” as the plane lifts off the ground is pure joy for me, and relaxes me into enjoying the anxious parts of take off.
  3. Take your time if you need to. If you think you’re holding other people up, invite them to go around you. We all know that kids move way slower than we do, so giving yourselves the extra time will help you keep your head on straight without getting frustrated with yourself or your kids and losing your cool.
  4. Prepare for the people around you. If you think your baby may cry during a flight, and it may stress you out, consider what you can use as a peace offering to your fellow travelers. Maybe a set of ear plugs with a note and some candy for those seated near you. Chances are, the other travelers won’t be as bothered as you think they will, but you will be calmer feeling like you’ve connected with them a little, and they will undoubtedly appreciate the gesture.

It doesn’t have to break the bank. Adding one or more kids to your travel mix definitely adds up, but you can save money in several places if you’re deal saavy.

  1. Sign your kids up for travel rewards. If you’re paying for them to travel, they are eligible to receive the same travel rewards you are. My 3 year old has her own Delta Skymiles account, so she’s racking up miles just like we are.
  2. Shop for credit card rewards. Many “travel” credit cards will offer a one time or recurring benefit for opening the card. You might get a free companion airline ticket every year with your paid ticket, you might get enough bonus miles or points for a hotel night or plane ticket, etc. Then with every purchase on the card, you earn additional points or miles. I use these often and strategically to plan all my travel. When I’m gearing up for a trip, I will use one of the travel cards to start banking points on a particular hotel or airline.
  3. Familiarize yourself with your airline and hotel offerings for traveling with kids. Some examples? Kids under 1 can usually fly free if you hold them. Most airlines don’t charge you to check a car seat or stroller. You can also check your stroller free at the gate if you want to use it in the airport. Many hotels will provide a roll away crib or pack n play of some sort for free.
  4. Find out if there is a free or reduced price amenity for children under a certain age. This can save you hundreds of dollars when you’re traveling with young kids, from plane fare to park or excursion costs to meals. Many places allow kids under 1, 2, 3 or 4 to participate for free, so always make sure to check a website or ask.

I’ve put together what I consider to be the most important thoughts for traveling with kids, but I know you have more! What tips or questions would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments.

Don’t be Afraid to Travel with Kids!

Disclaimer: my posts contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link or buy a product. I only endorse products which I have used and enjoy!

Have you ever considered traveling with your children or someone else’s? Is the idea a bit daunting to say the least? I love to travel, and generally include my 3 year old daughter on most trips that I plan these days. I’ve had people tell me that she won’t remember the trip, it’s too much trouble to take her, she won’t enjoy it and neither will I. People think I’m crazy to take her on big trips. When asking for advice on traveling with kids, several people have advised simply, “Don’t!” I disagree, and have found the following huge benefits from traveling with my daughter.

Taking in the majesty of the ocean for the first time with my daughter
Taking in the majesty of the ocean for the first time with my daughter

Why travel with kids?

It allows you to really relax and enjoy yourself alongside the kids. Even though traveling with kids can have hectic moments, if you’re prepared, there will also be many moments of enjoying all the things you came to do. That’s essential for family bonding (even extended family or friend bonding if you’re traveling with someone else’s kids). As a parent, your only relaxed, happy time shouldn’t be when your kids aren’t there. They will relish in having you laying back, basking in the sun and playing, as much as you will adore seeing them do the same. If you travel with kids, you will learn to relax together, and get to see a different side of each other. You’ll get to know each other better. The same benefits you reap from travel will also extend to the kids. My husband and I took our daughter on a cruise when she was 2, and we all came back very relaxed and recharged together. We all slept great on the trip and some of the sleep and behavior issues we had been seeing with her before the trip completely disappeared.

Nap time in our pool cabana in Orlando
Nap time in our pool cabana in Orlando

It will help you and your kids learn to travel without fear. If you can travel with a baby, you can travel with anyone. If you travel with your kids when they are babies, you’ll become an old pro. So by the time they are old enough to really be aware of the travel, things will go much more smoothly because you’ll know what you’re doing. So will they. My daughter is 3 and she has been on 4 flying vacations, 1 driving vacation, and a cruise. She has zero apprehension about getting on a plane and is pretty well behaved in flight. We got the nerves and uncertainty of traveling together out of the way when she was an infant.

Ready for Take Off
Ready for Take Off

Even if kids don’t remember the trip, you will, and you’ll have pictures to for you and the kids to look back on. People have a terrible tendency of wanting to put off things until the “right time.” If you try to wait until kids will understand and enjoy every aspect of your vacation, you may be old and tired, you may be divorced, heck you may be gone. The fact of the matter is, your memories matter, too. And if you remember watching the sun set over the Caribbean while your beautiful baby slept on your chest, that is a powerful memory in your story. If you have a picture to show your child of this later, you’re also able to show her how it’s part of her story. I’ve already taken my daughter to Disney World with one of my girl friends who had also never been. Will my daughter remember it when she’s 10? Who knows. But, it was a great opportunity for my friend and I to spend some time together that we had been missing since I started a family, a great chance for her to get to know my daughter. My daughter also has a hard cover photo book to look back on, and if there comes a day when I’m no longer here to take her to Disney, thank God that we went when she was too little to remember, and that she can look back on those photos. (Want to make your own photo book? Here’s a coupon from the site I used, Walgreen’s, to help get you started 40% OFF Photo Books w/ code CREATENEW)

Happiest Place on Earth
Making Memories

It’s better than any formal education you can provide for a child. I had a teacher say this to me, and I couldn’t agree more. We can see the world on tv, we can read about it in books, but nothing compares to experiencing it in real life: tasting the food, meeting the people, hearing the language roll off the tongues of the natives, drinking in the landscape with our own eyes. As a kid, one of my biggest mindset problems growing up in a small town was that the whole world seemed as small and limiting as my town. The boundaries of the world seemed to start and end in my town. I found out that the world was big and the possibilities within it were bigger by traveling. I didn’t see many people who looked like me in my town growing up, but I’ve seen people who look like me in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Italy and Greece (though none of my background is from those places). How’s that for feeling like a citizen of the world? Want the kids in your life to understand the similarities and differences between themselves and others? Show them. Want them to appreciate the majesty of God’s undyingly beautiful creation? Show them. Want them to believe the sky is the limit? Show them!

Delanie on the beach in Roatan, Honduras
Delanie on the beach in Roatan, Honduras

So, have I convinced you to travel with kids? Share your experiences or philosophy on traveling with kids in the comments, and stay tuned for next week’s follow up piece with practical tips for traveling with kids.

Cruising the High Seas
Cruising the High Seas

This post also appears on Huffington Post.