Updated March 1, 2018 . AmFam Team
Ready to embark on a fun family adventure? Being prepared will help ensure that your whole crew has a near picture-perfect travel experience, even when unexpected situations arise. If you're hitting the road or taking to the skies with kids in tow, you'll want to stow these travel tips.
Keep them fed. You never know if traffic or other unexpected circumstances might add to your travel time, so be sure to bring along ample snacks and drinks. Try to choose your children's favorite snacks that aren't too messy. Think crackers, string cheese, pretzels and sliced apples rather than crumbly muffins or sticky fruit snacks. And, of course, be careful about giving little ones anything that could be a potential choking hazard. As for drinks, choose small water bottles over juice boxes to avoid a mess.
Keep them entertained. Pick up some new books, DVDs and toys prior to your trip so your kids have something fresh to look forward to. It's also a good idea to take along a favorite stuffed animal or an activity that keeps your child occupied for long stretches of time, from color-by-number sheets to a deck of cards. Leave the toys with small pieces at home to avoid losing them when you’re on the go. Instead, consider getting the travel versions of classic games, like checkers, with magnetic pieces. If you're bringing a smart device or tablet, remember to charge it before you go and bring along a charging cable.
Be prepared with changes of clothes. Spills and accidents happen, and usually when it's not convenient. Be prepared and pack peace of mind with a full change of clothes, including a shirt, pants, underwear and socks, in your carry-on bag. A light jacket or sweater is a good idea, too, in case your little one gets chilly.
Prep a clean-up kit. From wet wipes and hand sanitizer to napkins and tissues, you'll want to be ready for any messes that might arise. And, if you think your child may get travel sick, don't forget to carry a couple of plastic bags.
Between the check-in lines, getting through security, flight delays, and the plane ride itself, air travel can be a lot for little passengers. However, there are a number of things you can do to help ensure a pleasant flight with your kids.
Minimize the wait times as much as you can. See if you can check in online, and consider investing in TSA PreCheck to help speed up that part of the process. Flying on weekdays and avoiding peak hours can also help cut down on the crowds.
Get there early and make it fun. Running through the airport with toddler and gear in tow to make your flight is way too stressful. Instead, build in extra time so no one feels rushed getting to the airport. Once there, you'll have time to kill, so plan to grab a bite to eat, check out the airport shops, and watch the planes take off and land. If you can find a spot that's not too crowded, let the kids burn off a bit of energy since they'll be sitting for a long time once you get on the plane.
Consider night flights. Many parents love booking late night flights so their children can easily fall asleep on the plane. You can even dress them in pajamas so they can go straight to bed when you arrive at your destination.
Explain security procedures in an age-appropriate way. A cranky toddler might not like the fact that he can't sit on your lap during takeoff and landing or that he has to put his stuffed animal through the X-ray machine. Minimize meltdowns by walking kids through the rules in advance and explaining why they're important.
Consider earplugs. Some children are sensitive to air travel and the loud airplane engines, so be prepared to help them block out some of the noise. Also, have your child drink or chew gum during takeoff and landing to help prevent ear popping.
Try to use the bathroom before boarding. The kids may still have to go during the flight, but it could be a while before you get up in the air and the fasten seatbelt sign goes off. And you don't need to rush to board the plane since that just means more time sitting and waiting.
Take a mid-flight stretch. It's hard for little ones to stay put for many hours at a time, especially on longer flights. Plan to let your tot stand up in your seating area and take a walk or two with you through the cabin.
Car travel offers a bit more flexibility than airplanes, but long rides with kids will go more smoothly if you plan carefully and set realistic expectations.
Get in some mileage while they sleep. For long road trips, plan to do the first long stretch of driving during overnight hours so you can get a nice head start while the kids are snoozing.
Make time for pit stops. With small kids, plan to take a break from the road every couple of hours. It can be for a meal or simply to get out of the car and burn off some energy before resuming. Before you hit the road, download travel apps to locate playgrounds or parks along your route.
Have a potty plan. Depending on their age, kids can't go too long without using the bathroom. But if you end up on a long stretch of road with no rest area in sight, you'll want to have an backup plan, such as a portable potty seat with disposable bags that you can use after safely pulling over.
Family trips are all about making memories and sharing a special experience together. By following these travel tips, you'll not only get to your destination with minimal stress, but you'll enjoy the entire journey.