7 Tips for Traveling with Children


Guest post by Put on Your Party Pants

Traveling with your children is a privilege many around the world do not enjoy.  We are fortunate to have the resources and ability to do so.  I never take that for granted.  

With that said, kids can take your stress level to that of Kate McCallister from Home Alone when she realized she forgot Kevin, in three seconds flat. 

We have not perfected the art of traveling with children, but I feel confident we would qualify for the “not the worst” award.  There are several things you can do to make your life easier while traveling with children as well.

 Plan, Plan, Plan, Then Let the Plan Go

Thorough planning has been the main key to our success.  Research your destination before you go.  Note: I said before – not at the hotel when everyone is coming off the rails after a long day and you need to find a restaurant (ask me how I know this).  

You don’t need to plan every second, but you should have a general idea of where you want to go, what you plan to do, and how you are going to accomplish your goals for the day.  Google is filled with resources to assist you in your planning.  

If you are visiting a theme park, check crowd calendars and make a touring plan.  My goal on every trip is to maximize our day while minimizing wait times.  When making your touring plan, don’t forget to build in breaks and naps if your children will need them.  

You may be surprised to learn you need to book dining reservations much earlier than you anticipated.  At some theme parks, an advanced dining reservation is the difference between a much needed break in the air conditioning and a hot dog stand with a thirty minute wait.  

Planning is important, but be flexible.  Even if you make a plan that is realistic for your children’s normal schedule, kids can be unpredictable.  Crabbiness is contagious.  If your kids are unhappy, you will be right there with them.  Cut bait and move on.

Pack Appropriately

There’s packing, and then there’s PACKING.  You don’t need a shoeshine kit for a trip to a state fair.  You do not need anything you don’t require in your daily life with some very limited exceptions.  Does your hotel have toiletries in the room?  Great. Don’t pack shampoo.  Your kids do not need their own child-sized suitcases. You get the idea.

Make a detailed packing list and stick to it. The airport is stressful enough without twelve suitcases full of spam and umbrellas to juggle!

Do Things the Kids Like

kids playing at the beach on holidays

Planning things the kids enjoy seems like a no brainer, but I think the concept sometimes gets lost in translation.  

I often expect the kids to be excited about something, then end up being dead wrong.  You can’t guess right every time, but I bet you know your four year old doesn’t want to visit a museum about sewing machines, right?

At this point, all of our travel is kid centered, and I am OK with it.  In a few years, my hormonal teenagers are not going to be excited to see Donald Duck.  You will never get this time back.  Embrace it.  Your travel will evolve over time.  If you drag them around doing things they don’t want to do all day, they will ruin the experience for you.

Get a Babysitter

Are you dying for a date night? Get a babysitter! If your resort does not offer childcare, there are babysitting agencies that will send a babysitter to your hotel room. This may sound scary, but these agencies run better background checks than I ever have for our babysitters at home. Go out and enjoy a meal without a sippy cup. A few hours without the kids will boost your energy for the rest of the whining trip.  

Relax Screen Time Rules on Planes

We limit screen time at home because my kids act like extras on Breaking Bad after a few minutes of exposure.  To double down on our efforts to be the lamest parents of all time, we limit sugar to one treat per day.

On a plane, all bets are off.  They have unfettered access to screens and candy.  If hooking them up to an IV and injecting sugar directly into their veins would keep them quiet, I would do it in a heartbeat.  Everyone else on the plane will thank you. The path of least resistance is the way to go. 

Spend Extra to Make Your Life Easier

I love to save money more than anyone.  I am on a constant quest to get the best deal possible.  Getting the best price is not the same as going the cheapest route.  Your goal should be to have the best experience possible within your budget.  

There are a few things you should consider upgrading.  When given the choice between a private car and changing buses three times at 10PM, spring for the car.  If you can afford a hotel room with a bedroom door you can use to separate yourself from your children you will probably be glad you did.  For theme parks, front of the line passes are expensive, but a great add on if you can afford it.  

To be clear, I am not encouraging you to put yourself into debt to go on vacation.  You should research ways to get more bang for your buck. For instance, Points and miles and Disney hacks can save thousands.

a kids fairground ride chairoplanes

Give yourself a reality check.  

After months of effort planning the perfect vacation, it is beyond frustrating when your kids do not appreciate it.  My kids love traveling, but they have no concept of how much these trips cost, how hard we work to earn the money to pay for them, and the time and effort we put into planning them.  My son will announce he has had the worst day ever because his brother got to close the hotel room door after an amazing day at Disneyland. Kids will be kids!

Final Thoughts       

Traveling with kids is amazing, but it is not all sunshine and lollipops.  Kids can be difficult, and they will certainly slow you down. Planning ahead, packing light, and not going the cheapest route possible will go a long way.  Appreciate the good moments, roll with the difficult ones, and enjoy the ride. Travel with your kids. You will not regret it.

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