Family trips can create memories that last a lifetime, but there’s no denying that traveling with kids can be a challenge. Follow the family travel tips below to help make your next family trip less stressful, more fun, and more affordable.
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10 Fabulous Family Travel Tips
These family travel tips focus on tips for planning your trip, flying with kids, and securing lodging for the whole family.
Planning Your Trip
#1 – Be On the Lookout for Special Deals
Start with a budget in mind. Then look for special deals and discounts while planning to save money and make the most of every dollar. You can often get reduced prices for children on transportation, hotels/lodging, restaurants, attractions, tours, and more just by asking.
#2 – Involve the Kids in Planning
The best way to make it a true family trip is to get the kids involved from the beginning. Let them contribute to the itinerary with sights to see, activities to try, foods to eat, and so on. By having a say in the planning, they’ll be more invested and more excited.
#3 – Prebook
Prebook as much as possible in advance. Go online and reserve tickets for “must do” itinerary items like museums, theme parks, and other attractions. Yes, you’ll lose some flexibility, but you’ll also avoid the disappointment of showing up somewhere only to find tickets are sold out or the line is unimaginably long.
#4 – Maximize loyalty programs and perks
Are you a member of any travel-related loyalty programs or clubs with discounts (like AAA)? Now is the time to use them, either by redeeming points you’ve already accumulated or strategically planning your trip to get the most points or discounts you can.
Check your credit cards, too. Some offer free TSA PreCheck membership, free hotel nights, and higher reward rates for spending in a certain category like travel or restaurants.
Managing Air Travel
#5 – Choose Smart Flight Times
If possible, pick flight times that fit with your kids’ schedules, especially if they’re on the younger side and still have regular naptimes and bedtimes. The goal is to maintain their sleep schedule as much as possible. Disrupted sleep schedules often lead to exhausted, cranky kids and, in turn, exhausted, cranky parents.
#6 – Plan for Longer Layovers
As an adult traveling solo, you might prefer short connection times. But travel with kids is different – just getting off the plane and to the next gate can be an adventure of its own. You need to leave plenty of time so you’re not in danger of losing your connection. Plus, longer layovers allow for bathroom breaks, stocking up on supplies, grabbing snacks, and so on.
#7 – Bring Supplies to Keep Kids Entertained In Flight
A tablet is an easy go-to for in-flight entertainment. But it’s also smart to have some items to keep the kids occupied without the tech. Here are some items your kids might enjoy, depending on their ages.
- A deck of cards or a card game like Uno
- A new book in their favorite genre
- A book of jokes, riddles, or quiz/trivia you can read together
- Word searches, labyrinths, crossword puzzles, etc.
- Cut out paper dolls and outfits
- Sticker books
- Coloring book and crayons
Anything that’s not messy and keeps your child happy, quiet, and well-behaved is a winner!
Managing Family Lodging
#8 – Don’t Move Around too Much
Limit the number of hotel changes you make. It’s disruptive to the kids, plus it means several hours of hanging around between check out and check in with your bags and nowhere to go. In the middle of the day. At nap o’clock.
#9 – Choose your Conveniences
Choose a hotel and a room that have the amenities and conveniences you need most, such as connecting rooms, a bathtub for little kids, or a portable crib if you’re traveling with a baby. Older kids might want a pool and cable TV.
#10 – Prioritize safety
Once you get into your room or rental, make safety a priority. This is especially important if you have very young kids. Bring along outlet covers for electrical sockets, secure choking and tripping hazards like loose cables, and check for other safety hazards like unsecured TVs. Remind older kids not to talk to strangers and never to open the door to anyone.
Bonus: Large Family Travel Tips
Got a big brood? Here are some bonus tips for travel with a big family.
- Skip the hotel and stay at a vacation or rental home with multiple bedrooms, a kitchen, and a laundry room.
- Split into smaller groups sometimes. Older kids and younger kids may want to do different activities some days.
- Keep daily itineraries light. Plan just one big activity per day, with extra activities on the back burner in case there’s enough time and energy left for more fun.
- Give kids age-appropriate chores to help with travel, like making sandwiches for the cooler before hitting the road, counting all the bags to be sure they made it into and out of the car/plane/train, or calling ahead to check a restaurant’s closing time.
Great family vacations take a lot of planning and coordination. When you’re freighting around your entire family and your stuff (so much stuff!) there are sure to be some snafus along the way. But in the afterglow of a great vacation, the memories of challenges fade, and you’re left with the good memories of fun and family togetherness. Worth it!