Traveling with kids is an enriching and enlightening experience. However, that’s not to say it isn’t overwhelming. For every new experience children encounter, parents must juggle the reality of unpredictable schedules, extra large suitcases, looming temper tantrums, and the inevitable, are we there yet?!
While traveling with kids is significantly different than traveling as an adult, it doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, there are plenty of tried-and-true ways to make family vacations a breeze. Keep scrolling, and we’ll tell you what those are, as well as some family-friendly vacation destinations.
Adjust Your Expectations
The first step to traveling with kids — regardless of their age — is learning to adjust your expectations. Once you’re willing to adapt your travel itinerary, you’ll have just as much fun traveling with kids as you did without them.
Be mindful that young children aren’t up for long city strolls and lengthy museum visits. And as much as you’d like to spend all day lounging at a scenic vineyard, it’s crucial to fill your schedule with kid-friendly excursions and activities. (If you need some inspiration, see below.)
It can be incredibly tempting to pack everything your child uses at home. However, we strongly advise you to resist the urge. Traveling with kids means extra baggage (both literally and figuratively), and packing as little as possible ensures those bags are light and portable. Remember that you can always purchase more of the essentials at your final destination.
Invest in Good Gear
Trust us when we say that you’ll absolutely not regret buying a quality compact travel stroller. We recommend purchasing one that’s lightweight, maneuvers easily, and breaks down for storage. Additionally, invest in a compact car seat if you’re traveling by road (even if you’re only hopping in an Uber). The best travel car seats are lightweight, portable, and approved for use on planes by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Instead of checking your stroller and/or car seat at the airport, hold onto them and use them to wheel those tired toddlers around. Then, you can gate-check them for free before boarding the plane.
Bring All the Snacks
You can never bring enough snacks when traveling with kids. As we all know, hunger can lead to crankiness, and crankiness is best avoided during long travel days. Because younger palettes can be finicky, it’s always a good idea to bring options. If you need some inspiration, check out these Protein-Packed Snacks for Moms (and Kids!).
Prepare a First Aid Kit
Preparing a first aid kit is one of our best tips for traveling with kids, as sickness is a surefire way to disrupt your travel day. Fill your first aid kit with basic over-the-counter medications for headaches, allergies, upset tummies, motion sickness, and the like. We also recommend tossing some electrolyte packages, bandages, antibacterial ointment, a thermometer, and any prescription medication in there as well.
Bring Some Toys
If your child is an anxious traveler, bringing one of their blankets or stuffed animals can provide a bit of comfort. Additionally, packing a brand new toy — that you can give them on the train or plane — is a fantastic way to keep them occupied and distracted during long travel days.
Note That Screen Time Doesn’t Apply to Airplanes
Keeping your children entertained can be the difference between a phenomenal travel day and a miserable one. And one ultra-easy way to do that is to allow them to use electronic devices during downtime.
While children’s screen time should be limited, using tablets and game consoles on airplanes, trains, and long car rides should be considered a special occasion. Not only that, but electronics are a fantastic way to keep your kids quiet while waiting in line or for performances to begin.
Ask Your Child to Carry Their Bag
Obviously, this doesn’t apply to babies or young children. But if your child is walking, have them carry a rolling suitcase or small backpack. Not only does this instill in them a sense of responsibility, but it ensures you have a free hand to carry souvenirs, push strollers, and delegate boarding passes.
Pro Tip: Invest in a kid-friendly suitcase (like this Rockland Jr. Kids’ My First Hardside Spinner) and let your child fill it with their favorite things – this will motivate them to carry it.
Family-Friendly Vacation Ideas
Now that you know the best way to travel with kids, here are some family-friendly vacation ideas to add to your travel bucket list:
The Outer Banks, North Carolina
The Outer Banks is a barrier island chain off the coast of North Carolina, and it’s a fantastic place to relax without breaking the bank. Each coastal neighborhood offers its own charm, and you’ll spend the week (or two) windsurfing, boogie boarding, exploring lighthouses, playing miniature golf, building sand castles, eating ice cream, and so much more.
As you can imagine, the beaches are most popular during the summer months. So, if you have toddlers at home, we recommend visiting in September for that relaxing beach weather without the crowded restaurants.
Located in the heart of Orlando, Walt Disney World Resort is literally designed for family vacations. Known for its timeless appeal, thrill rides, and creative performances, this amusement park offers fun for all ages. Even if you aren’t donning mouse ears, Orlando offers a handful of other theme parks and an all-inclusive day resort that will keep your kids (and yourselves) entertained all week long.
Grand Canyon National Park
If your family is on the adventurous side, Grand Canyon National Park is the ideal family vacation. With so much to see and do, your itinerary will be jam-packed with light hiking, mule riding down to the North Rim, rafting in the Colorado River, and so much more. And thanks to the Grand Canyon’s low admission prices, this is another budget-friendly vacation option.
Not only is Washington D.C. bursting with historical sites and educational opportunities, but the National Mall hosts loads of free, family-friendly attractions. Our personal favorites include the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. You can also take a day trip to Mount Vernon — home of George Washington — in nearby Northern Virginia (just 15 miles south of D.C. and eight miles south of Alexandria).
Acadia National Park
Located in Maine, Acadia National Park is the only Northeastern national park. Thanks to its many beaches, islands, rocky shorelines, and scenic walking and hiking trails, this family vacation destination is ideal for those who love exploring the great outdoors. While Acadia National Park is best visited in the spring or fall, daring souls who come during the winter months can cross snowshoeing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling off their bucket list.
Traveling with Kids
Traveling with kids is an adventure in itself. But as long as you keep these expert tips in mind, we’re confident that your family vacation will be unforgettable and stress-free. If you’re still unsure where to go, here are 10 Unique Ideas for Your Next Family Vacation. And as always, keep checking the parenthood section of our site for more tips and tricks.