Traveling with kids can be a real challenge but it can also be an amazing family experience. The key is finding the balance between the stress of traveling and the joy of travel. Our goal is to give you travel tips to make your next family vacation stress free.
Use our family travel guide to be prepared for air travel, road trips, what you need to pack, travel checklist, hotel hacks and more. Everything you need to know about traveling with kids.
This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to buy something using my link, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information, see my disclaimer here.
20 Tips to Make Traveling with Kids Enjoyable
What to Do Before You Go
One of the keys to having a stress free vacation is to be prepared before you go on vacation. Here are a few things to do before you go on a family vacation.
Research your Destination
Find out what to expect in your vacation destination. Get answers to these questions
- Where would be the best location to stay
- Which airport to fly into
- What Attractions do you want to see
This is a fun task to do with the kids to get them excited about your upcoming trip. Let them help you pick which attractions you’re going to visit while on vacation. Book some of them ahead of time so you have less to do when you get there.
Book Your Airfare
Now that you know the airport you need to book your flight. I would suggest booking the time of your flights based on what is best for your kids.
For example, think about nap times and when your kids need to eat, when are they most active. Some people like to fly during nap time in hopes kids will sleep others like to go in the morning when kids are less crabby.
Take time to scan travel websites to find the best deals. Tuesday and Wednesday usually have lower rates and Sunday tends to be the most expensive.
Decide on Hotel or Vacation Rental
I would think about where you’re going and decide if it’s better for your family to stay at a hotel or vacation rental. Both have different positives and negatives.
Hotels often offer more amenities such as restaurants, pools, kids clubs, stores, and concierge services. However, the rooms tend to be smaller and there is little separation between you and the kids.
Vacation Rentals usually have more space for families to spread out and nice amenities like kitchens, washer dryers, and separate bedrooms & living rooms. The downside is you are more on your own without help from hotel staff and there tend to have fewer amenities like pools and restaurants.
One of our favorite sites for finding hotels and rental deals is booking.com. We really like the reviews people leave and have found some great prices.
Budget for Your Trip
Figure out a budget for your trip so you know how much you’re going to be spending. This will help you decide how much you have to spend on airlines, attractions, food, and hotels. Use our Free Trip Cost Calculator to help you make your travel budget.
Pre Travel Checklist
There is so much to get done before you leave on vacation. Make sure you don’t forget anything with this free printable Pre-Travel Checklist of 30 Things to Do Before Going on Vacation.
Some of the tasks include getting your passport, transportation to the airport, putting mail on hold, getting pet care, paying bills and more. Use this comprehensive checklist and you’ll never leave home wondering what you forgot again.
What You Need When Traveling with Kids
What to Pack & Not Pack
One of the biggest keys to travel is not to overpack. This is really hard for me but I have found unless you’re traveling somewhere very remote you can get most things at your destination.
What you’ll need is clothes, toiletries, medicines and entertainment (books, iPad, small games). If you have smaller kids you might need a pack n play, diapers, wipes, and other baby items.
To make sure you have everything you need to take on vacation use our free printable Family Travel Checklist.
I find with kids snacks are the key to a great vacation. Even though you might limit them at home on vacation it will just keep everyone happy. You do not need a hungry kid having a meltdown on the plane or at an attraction.
I usually pack some small bags of goldfish, fruit snacks or pretzels in my purse for the plane ride or when at local attractions. If your driving pack a few bigger boxes of snacks for the hotel room. Then just bring a few reusable containers or zip lock bags and refill up the snacks in your room before you head out to an attraction.
This will also be a lot cheaper than buying snacks at the airport or local attractions.
Tip: Make a DIY Snack Container with an unused wipes holder. Kids can color it and fill it with snacks for your road trip. (pictured above)
Stroller or Car Seat
Depending on your child’s age you might want to bring a stroller on your vacation. I find strollers are great to have in airports to keep the kids moving to your gate plus it can hold some of your carryons.
One of our favorites is the lightweight and compact Summer 3Dlite Stroller. Unlike umbrella travel strollers, it has a large storage space, higher handles for parents, and a 4 position recline when they need to nap. Plus it folds up easily.
You can also check a car seat when you get to the airport so that you have one for the car ride to your destination. Before you go check and see if your transportation from the airport or rental car company can supply a car seat for you. If they can great you can skip this step.
If your child is in a booster seat we love the cool mifold Grab and Go Booster Seat. It’s a fold-up booster seat you can throw in your purse. The booster adjusts the seatbelt so it hits your child in the correct spot. A great option for traveling families.
Air Travel with Kids
Leave Extra Time
There are lots of things at the airport that will take up your time. Check-in, security, bathroom stops, food, and boarding. To reduce your stress level traveling with kids get there early. This way when the line at security takes to long you’re not getting anxiety about missing your flight.
Backpacks and Rolling Bags for Kids
With kids, you always have tons to carry. Make it easier by having your child bring with a small rolling bag or backpack to hold their items. Let them help pack their bag to get them excited about bringing it and carrying or rolling it themselves through the airport.
Many of the rolling bags are also backpacks like this cute Minnie Mouse Bag. Perfect for Disney Vacations.
If you want it to last longer choose a bag that doesn’t have a character on it like this cool blue rolling backpack.
Entertainment for the Flight
Keep the kids busy on your flight by bringing games and electronics for them to play. We often bring cards, magnetic games, coloring books, and wiki sticks to keep the kids busy. I find when their busy they are not complaining.
Get some nonelectronic entertainment ideas in my Must Have Family Travel Gadgets from Amazon.
If you plan to bring an iPad for the kids make sure to download movies or shows before you leave home. That way they will have something to watch even if you can’t get wifi. Also, don’t forget to bring earphones to listen to their shows. I like to get headphones that limit the volume level to protect their ears.
Bring Extra Clothes
We have had a baby or two spit up on us on a plane flight and it’s not fun. I would suggest throwing an extra shirt for you and a change of clothes for your child in your carry on. It’s terrible sitting wet on a flight for hours and there is nowhere to get new clothes.
Help Your Ears To Pop
When you increase and decrease altitude in a plane your ears tend to pop. Pack the following items to help your kids pop their ears.
- Gummy Bears or Fruit Snacks
- Gum for older children
- A bottle for babies – try to time it so you are feeding your baby a bottle while the plane is ascending and descending.
- Pacifier for babies
Road Trip Travel Tips
Another great way to get to your destination is a car road trip. This will save you tons of money on travel that you can use for a great hotel or attractions at your destination.
General Road Trip Tips:
- Start out the trip by getting yourself organized. I like to have a bin in the car with a top that holds all the kid’s toys. This can be placed in between them so they can easily get items by themselves. It also makes it easier to unload the car when you get to your destination.
- Have some type of surface for the kids to play games and eat in the car. We like to use a travel tray for their lap.
- Plan ahead where you are going to stop for the night to make sure you can find a hotel especially during the busy summer travel months. You’d be surprised how quickly roadside hotels fill up.
- Have a general plan for your trip but be flexible for issues with traffic and how many times you may have to stop with kids.
Get more general travel tips in 15 Road Trip Tips to Survive a Family Vacation
Travel Apps to Help Your Road Trip
I love to use travel apps to help make our trip go smoothly. One of our favorites is the WAZE app which helps you find the best route to your destination.
It adjusts as you drive for any traffic jams or bad road conditions. What’s really cool is other drivers tell you what is happening up ahead so you know why you’re stopped in traffic.
Another favorite is the iExit App. This one tells you what is at all the upcoming exits along your route. Use it to find the restaurants you want to eat and gas stations to stop. It’s a great way to plan your stops and find restaurants for picky eaters or dietary restrictions.
Get all our favorite free Road Trip Apps for an easy ride.
Entertainment for the Road Trips
The key to a happy road trip is keeping the kids busy. There is a lot less whining and happier parents when they have things to do. Just like on the airplane ride you’ll want small games and maybe some electronics.
Busy Bags are a fun way to make the trip go faster. Create small bags to give out to your kids every few hours of the road trip. You can fill each bag with inexpensive small toys and coloring books. It’s more the excitement of something new rather than the price. Get inspired with our 15 Best Travel Games for Kids at Dollar Tree.
General Family Travel Tips
How to Save Money
- A great way to save money while you travel is with food. Save on food by packing your own breakfast to have in your hotel room. It will give you more time to get ready in the morning and save you money.
- Find local free events and free activities to do at your destination with the kids. You’ll be surprised how much you can find. Here’s a sample of Free Things to do in Naples Florida
- Travel at off-peak times when hotel and airline rates are cheaper.
Get More Money-Saving Tips in How to Travel Cheap on Family Vacation.
It’s important to remember when traveling with kids to schedule in some downtime. If you are constantly on the go kids can get overtired and pretty cranky. Make it easier on all of you by enjoying some time just hanging out at the hotel swimming, reading or watching a movie.
Make your stay at the hotel less stressful with the kids by using some simple hotel hacks. Here are a few quick tips but you can find more in our Ultimate Family Hotel Hacks.
- Bring a roll of masking tape or painters tape to baby proof outlets.
- Roll a shower towel under the door to block out noise from the hallway and light.
- Use the Ironing Board as a table for your kids to eat
- Make a baby changing station by a nightlight for quick diaper changes in the middle of the night.
If you’re headed to a beach destination you’ll want to spend most of your time hanging out at the beach with the kids. This can be amazing or make you a little crazy. Make your visit fun and memorable by doing a little pre-planning.
- Make sure to pack a blanket, sand toys, drinks, and snacks.
- Keep your cell phone protected with a waterproof case so you can take lots of pictures.
- Use a Pringles can to hide your money and keys.
- Get there early and stake our your spot
Get more ideas at 20 Beach Hacks to Survive A Family Day at the Beach. #4 is genius!
I hope these tips for traveling with kids have got your excited about your upcoming vacation. Just using a few of these travel tips will make your next family vacation less stressful and more relaxed and fun.
If you need some travel inspiration check out our Favorite Family Travel Destinations.
Do you have a great family travel tip? Please leave it in the comment. I love to hear from my readers.
Did you enjoy reading these tips? Join the Happy Mom Hacks community where we find ways to make a mom’s life easier and get our weekly newsletter. Bonus for signing up you get a free Ultimate Family Travel Packing List to be ready for your next vacation.
Don’t Forget to Pin this for Later
Fun Family Travel Destinations
- Epic National Parks to Visit Before Your Kids Turn 18
- Shenandoah Valley Virginia – Best Things to Do with Kids
- Luray Cavern Virginia – An Amazing Cave You Have to See
- 10 Best Weekend Getaways in the Midwest for Families
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Top Things to Do with Kids
- Best Guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio
- 10 Fun Free Things to Do in Naples Florida with Kids
- Top 10 Things to Do in Door County Wisconsin for Families
- Ultimate Guide to Chicago Attractions with Kids
- 10 Awesome Things to Do in Wilmington NC