Are you planning on travelling with your kids?
Whether it's by plane or car, family travel with kids is not easy especially for first-time parents. In fact, most parents become anxious about travelling with kids, even though a vacation is an opportunity to bond and relax.
Despite this, research shows that 44% of millennials travel with kids for their vacations. In another study, researchers found that 58% of US millennials who travelled in 2017/18 had children aged 18 years and below.
It's estimated that in the next two years, half of the millennials who plan to take family vacations will take their children. What you need to know is that travelling with kids can be easy.
Want to know how?
In this post, we'll discuss the top 20 hacks for families travelling with children.
1. Research Your Destination
It's crucial to research your destination pre-trip and during the trip, especially if your vacation is in a foreign country. By doing so, you become aware of the rules and regulations before visiting the country.
For example, do you know if your baby needs a visa to enter that country? Do you know if the authorities require a Yellow fever vaccination certificate? Do you know the crime levels in that country? Should you bring any medication for diseases such as malaria?
If you don't, researching pre-travel and during travel will ease your stay and ensure that you don't break any laws. Remember, have realistic travel goals. For example, you can plan to take a safari to the Serengeti or Masai Mara in Kenya with kids but not to climb the Great Wall of China.
2. Book Your Travel in Advance
More than 100 million Americans are planning to vacation with their loved ones this summer. Of these, 53% of families will go on a road trip with their kids. That's more than 50 million American families.
To ease your travel, book in advance. Not only will you take advantage of early bird savings. But you will also get seats that are close on the plane, better rental car options, and accommodation.
This is true whether you are planning your trip by air or road. What you need to remember is, give yourself lots of extra time. When you book early in advance, you don't have to rush everyone around, especially at the airport.
Also, you don't have to make use of the "secret short cuts." Early booking allows you to go with the flow.
3. Choose Where You Sit With Kids Wisely
Did you know that where you sit on a plane with kids is usually dictated by the plane's design? Some seats may have extra oxygen masks, while others do not. What you need to know is that this is not common in all planes. So, it's important to confirm when booking flights.
According to the Federal Aviation Authority, child safety seats are not necessary on a plane. But the FAA and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of car seats or child restraint systems when flying with babies.
What age can a child sit by themselves on a plane? The FAA recommends that a child must be five years old to fly alone. For children aged 1 to 4 years, they must always be with an adult.
Read more on Where to Sit on a Plane With Kids.
4. Make Use of Smart Packing Strategies for You and Older Children
One thing that most parents dread besides checking through the airport with kids is packing. As a first time parent, you can relax because we have got you. To make packing easier, pack all your clothes in one bag instead of separate bags for each family member.
That way, checking through the airport and the baggage claim area is easy. When you get to the hotel room, you don't have to worry where your stuff is because everything is in one place.
We recommend this for first-time families with kids 1 to 5 years of age. If you have older kids, get them a suitcase each. You can also buy suitcases for kids 6 years to 12 years. Encourage them to pack their clothes and goodies but remind them not to overpack.
While packing one bag is highly recommended, it should not be an excuse to overpack. At some point during your travel, you may have to carry one child. As such, you don't want to do so while also carrying a bag weighing around 100 pounds.
Remember, pack the essentials, especially clothes, shoes, and important documents. You can always buy the stuff you need at your destination. Also, buy a suitcase with four castor wheels on the bottom.
Read more on The Ultimate Family Packing List.
5. Organise Entertainment and Snacks
If planning a long road trip or flight, you can prepare a carry-on for your kids. Inside, pack some snacks such as Oreos, gummy bears, M&Ms, and more. You can buy one of those plastic craft organizer cases, which allows you to sort healthy, sweet snacks in different portions.
Don't forget about toys and entertainment. Packing toys and electronics will make travel with children very easy. We recommend that you pack quiet toys which help to keep boredom at bay. When it comes to electronics, we recommend tablets such as iPads and extra charging cables and power banks.
Pack headphones for each child. Wired and wireless headphones will do. If you have more than one child, you can pack a splitter that they can use with one tablet. To keep track of your kid's carry-ons, buy some colourful baggage tags.
6. Explain the Trip To Your Kids
If it's your first time travelling with kids on a plane, waking up one morning and bundling your family into a car and off to the airport can be overwhelming. Also, it can be uncomfortable for your children.
The reason is that you will be introducing your children to a new environment. As such, it will make them uncomfortable and unhappy. To avoid this and ensure all family members enjoy the trip, explain the trip a week or two before the actual travel date.
Start by giving an outline. That includes the destination, form of travel - car or flight, and accommodation. You can also include details of places you will visit, such as the beach, parks, museums, art galleries and more.
It's essential to take this opportunity and explain to your children what to do on the plane, at hotels, and on tours. When your children understand what's expected of them on the trip, they will be happier and more comfortable.
7. Plan Your Travels Late Morning or Early Afternoon
If you plan your travel departure time to be early in the morning or late night, you will experience many challenges. First off, you have to wake up your kids very early in the morning, which is a recipe for meltdowns.
Second, you have to fight through the early morning rush. We recommend late morning or early afternoon departure times because the airports, trains, and bus stations are least busy.
Also, most airlines offer the cheapest ticket prices, which means more savings for you. Besides booking late morning departure times, avoid booking the first or last flight of the day.
In case of bad weather or unexpected schedule changes, airlines target the first or last flights. By choosing the first or last flight of the day, you will inconvenience your family and travel plans.
If you must take an early morning flight, we recommend booking a room at the airport.
8. Teach Your Kids How to Unclog Blocked Ears
If travelling by plane, the change in cabin pressure can cause ear pain. This is an awful experience for children. For adults and teenagers, sucking hard candy or chewing a piece of gum helps to prevent ears from getting blocked.
For your younger kids, teach them to chew fruit snacks and candy. Besides chewing fruit snacks, you can advise them to yawn or take a sip of water. Another method of unclogging the ears is to deflate a balloon.
All your child has to do is try to blow the balloon. We recommend this for car and train travel.
9. Ensure Your Children Have Your Contact Information
Before leaving for your vacation, ensure your kids memorize your contact information. Details should include:
For older kids - 10 to 18 years, memorizing the contact information is easy. But if you have aged 5 years or below, you can attach a note in one of their pockets. Besides the pockets, you can attach the cord to their belt loop or in their shoes.
Alternatively, you can buy smartwatches or make bracelets with your contact information for your kids. At your destination, keep track of your children.
Don't get wrapped up with the surroundings or activities around you and end up losing your child in the crowd. What you need to do is share duties. If you have two kids, let one person take the responsibility of buying bus or train tickets while the other watches the kids.
When walking around the station or airport, hold hands. You can invest in a small GPS tracker, which will alert you when your child wanders off.
10. Carry the Proper Identification Documents With You
When travelling with kids, you need their passports, visas, and vaccination certificates for Yellow fever. However, certain countries may require you to present your child's original birth certificates. This helps to prove that you are the birth parents.
It also proves that you have the right to enter and leave the country with your children. If you are travelling without one of your children's birth parents, having the proper work can ease your stay.
Here is what you need:
Original birth certificates of each child
Copies of their birth certificates
A note or notes from the non-present parent(s)
Signed parent permission forms and copies
These documents must be available in English and even the language of your destination country.
11. Check Weather Reports Regularly
A couple of days before your departure to your travel destination, check the weather reports. Even on arrival, we recommend that you check weather reports daily. Doing so will help you plan your outdoor activities.
To keep track of weather reports, download a weather app from the Google Play Store or Apple's App Store. Most weather apps are free and accurate. They offer real-time daily and weekly weather forecasts.
Besides weather forecasts, these apps have interactive radar maps and current traffic conditions. Some even have a widget and clock for your smartphone's home screen. This allows you to keep track of the weather and plan your day.
12. Buy Basic Medicine
Besides weather, illness can ruin your travel plans or vacation. It can get even worse while on your travel - plane, train, or car. When you buy basic medication from a pharmacy store, you'll be ready to make your family members feel better, fast.
Over the counter medication you can buy include:
Motion sickness medication
Medication for stomach upsets
You or a family member may be taking a specific prescription medication. You must pack the medicine as well as the doctor's prescription. In case you lose the prescription or forget it at home, you can use the original package to buy more.
During your research, check regulations for your destination to gain entry into the country with medication.
13. Use Language Apps to Break the Communication Barrier
There are several countries where English is not the primary language. So, if you are a native English speaker, you may find it hard to communicate with locals. Yes, at the airport, the staff may be fluent in English.
But once you gain entry into the country, you will realize that not everyone communicates in English.
For example, if you travel to Asia, where they speak more than 2000 languages, communication will be difficult. To ease the communication barrier and connect with locals, download and install a language translation app.
Apps you can download include:
Besides using translation apps, you can try to learn the local language on the go. Learning basic phrases can help you connect with the locals. Language apps you can use include:
Don't forget to use hand gestures, prepare cards, and even carry the address of your hotel or Airbnb. The reason is that you may have to explain certain special needs like diets and allergies.
14. Rent Baby Gear
Instead of taking your massive baby stroller on the plane with you. We recommend that you rent the gear in your destination country. Most hotels can direct you to baby gear rental agencies to close by.
These agencies have cribs, strollers, and others. By choosing to rent baby gear, you get to save on luggage fees.
Other benefits of renting baby gear are:
Agencies clean and sanitize the baby equipment
Renting baby gear means more room in the car
Full-sized cribs mean your baby will sleep well
If travelling by car or train, we recommend buying strollers that double as car seats. As such, you don't have to spend extra to buy a car seat separately and the stroller.
Here is a resource to rent baby travel gear for you to get started.
15. Plan Your Downtime
Long flights and road trips will leave your kids fatigued. This is also true when visiting different attractions. While older kids can power through a long day of activities, babies and young kids cannot. In fact, they cannot handle several days in a row full of activities.
To ensure everyone is refreshed and ready to explore more attractions each day, schedule downtime. What you need to know is that downtime does not necessarily have to involve napping. It even does not involve heading back to the hotel or Airbnb.
You can lay in the grass at a local park, watch a movie at a local theatre, or even take a relaxing boat ride through the city. You also have the opportunity of taking a full day to just rest and relax.
Remember, tired kids are cranky kids. To ensure everyone has a great time, schedule downtime.
16. Avoid Hotel Hopping
There is a tendency among travellers to hop from one hotel to another. The reason for this is to maximize their loyalty points. If you are a frequent traveller who travels alone or as a couple, you can switch the city's different hotels.
But when you have kids, avoid switching accommodations, especially if you are not planning to visit another city in the same country. Staying at the same hotel during your vacation allows you to explore hundreds of attractions.
Also, it ensures your children enjoy a certain level of comfort, which makes your stay pleasant. As such, the longer they stay in one hotel, the better they sleep and relax.
17. Don't Overdo It
Planning ahead is highly advisable, but don't overdo it. That means do not schedule too many activities and sights per day. This will lead you to run from one activity or attraction to another. By doing, your stress levels will increase. Not only that.
You and your kids will get tired a lot, defeating the purpose of a vacation, resting and relaxing. Instead of booking several excursions, pick those that you and your family will enjoy.
This will give you a chance to learn about the country and full rejuvenation.
18. Take Toiletries, Medication and Other Essentials on Your Excursions
Before you go anywhere, sit down and list essentials to carry during your excursions. For example, take healthy snacks when travelling with kids. Dieticians recommend fruits such as apples, nuts like unsalted almonds, and even crackers.
These foods are high in protein and dietary fibre. You should also buy bottled water. If you or your kids get thirsty, you can take a sip. What you need to know is that tap water in most countries is not safe for drinking.
We recommend that you back extra baby supplies such as diapers and onesies. You never know when disaster will strike. Store these supplies in a backpack.
19. Be Flexible
OK, I didn't quite mean Yoga but whatever helps! One thing every parent should know is that no matter how well prepared you are, things can go wrong. You can forget your doctor's prescription, or your flight can get delayed.
To keep your family happy and avoid stress, be flexible, especially in your schedule. While you can visit a lot of attractions during your stay, you cannot see everything. If you forget something and things do not go your way, don't get upset.
Instead, go with the flow.
20. Enjoy Your Stay
It's crucial to enjoy your stay. Start by visiting places your kids will love. Instead of taking your kids to museums and art galleries, visit the beach. You can bring your nanny along. It will ease your responsibilities and ensure everyone has a great time.
Always travel within your budget. If you cannot afford a five star or seven-star hotel, stay in a four-star hotel or Airbnb. You will have a great experience without burdening yourself financially.
Lastly, avoid complaining every time. You can complain at home, but on your vacation, it's time to rest and relax.
Travelling is one of the best ways to open your mind and that of your kids. You can learn a lot about other countries, people, languages, and cultures. Also, you have the opportunity of connecting with the people and sampling the local dishes.
To make your vacation pleasant, use the tips above. While some things may not go according to plan, your family will have a great experience vacationing away from home.
Best of luck!