Let’s talk about how to prepare, pack, and do your best to ensure a smooth trip with your family. Traveling with kids isn’t easy, but you can avoid travel disasters with kids.
This one thing happened one time.
I tried to block it out. I tried to pretend it didn’t happen.
But it was unforgettable.
I got on a plane at 35 weeks pregnant. With my 2-year-old and 1-year-old. For 36 total hours of travel.
We planed, deplaned, waited, stood in line, broke down and opened up strollers.
I was so tired I cried. Repeatedly.
On our longest flight I kept dozing off for a moment and then – BHAM – baby would kick and wake me up. Then I’d cry because all I wanted to do was drug myself with Dramamine and sleep but alas… apparently Dramamine isn’t safe during pregnancy.
I’ve had a few kids since then and taken multiple trips and, after all this, there’s one thing I can tell you…
No trip with the kids will go perfectly, but you prepare, pack, and plan your way into a smooth and memorable trip.
Check off critical household, social, and hygiene skills for your child so they’re prepared (not petrified) of growing up!
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Tips For Family Travel
Whether you’re going on a road trip, a plane trip, a cruise, or camping these tips will help give you practical inspiration for your next vacation.
Do Research Beforehand
If you’re reading this, you’re already doing it.
With an abundance of travel blogs, you can find location specific hints for anywhere you want to go. Read about the places to avoid, places to go, transportation hassles, and even weather patterns.
We live in Florida and, I can tell you, many days it rains a bit in the afternoon. It isn’t enough to keep you at home, but it’s enough to pack a poncho if you’re headed to Disney.
Whether you decide to purchase travel guides or simply read blogs or magazines, doing a little research beforehand goes a long way.
When researching for our recent Disney Trip we learned a lot of time and energy saving tips that changed our entire trip plan. It’s worth taking some time to dig around and, as a bonus, it helps build anticipation!
- Put a call out on social media for people who’ve visited your destination.
- Ask friends who travel a lot for their “best tip” when they bring kids.
- Dedicate a few hours a week to intense research to help you feel confident and prepared.
- Hold your plans loosely in hand until you feel you know as much as you need to know.
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Plan How You’ll Pack to Avoid Travel Disasters with Kids
With 5 kids, we don’t just throw all their clothes in a suitcase and hope for the best.
If we did that, as soon as we got to the hotel it’d become a complete mess and we’d be unable to find what we needed.
You can create any type of packing plan you like, but decide whether you want to pack each individual child’s clothes separately, or pack by items or days.
- Example 1: Each child has their own bag with the week’s clothes in it.
- Example 2: All jeans, underwear, shirts, and jackets are packed separately as a category. Each child’s jeans are all in one bag, for example.
- Example 3: You have a bag (or cube for small children) for each day you’re gone with everyone’s clothes for that day inside.
The socks are in the small cube and the clothes in the large cube included in the complete bundle.
I created a packing list on my phone weeks before the trip so every time I thought of something to pack I could add it. This helps cut down on the feeling of “I’m forgetting something.”
Honestly, if my mother hadn’t reminded me of many little essentials in the months leading to our recent Disney trip… we’d have been toast. My mind is big and Let’s Go To Disney, but it doesn’t think of Band-Aids.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to pack. I do this on occasion for small trips, but never for big ones.
- A week prior to departure, make sure all clothes are washed, dried, and put aside so you don’t end up leaving things behind in the dryer.
- Pack a bag with easy access for diapers, wipes, and any toddler snacks.
Get A Details Person
I am a big picture planner. I don’t much care for the details. Both my husband and my mom (who came with us on our recent trip to Disney) are more detail oriented.
My mom thought of quite a few things I had not. If you are not detail oriented have a quick pow wow with your spouse or even a friend who has traveled to your destination before and see if they spark any ideas of what to pack or do that you’ve forgotten.
The more prepared we feel the less stressed we are. The less stressed we are the calmer we become.
Kids behave better all around if we’re able to remain calm.
Pack a Laundry Bag
In recent trips I’ve made a point to always pack a laundry bag. It makes things easier at the accommodation as well as upon the return home.
If you have a designated laundry bag it cuts down on clutter, dirty clothes mixing with clean ones, and keeps things more organized.
Then, upon returning home, you can simply put all the dirty clothes in the laundry and return the clean clothes back to closets.
I used to just pile dirty clothes up somewhere in the hotel and put them haphazardly in the suitcase on the way home.
This usually resulted in clean clothes starting to smell and I ended up washing a bunch of clean(ish) clothes alongside the dirty. A laundry bag is now a must for me.
You’ll be amazed how much neater it keeps your accommodation while away as well.
Add In Down Time to Avoid Travel Disasters with Kids
Depending on the ages of your children, you may want to plan in down time. If your children are preschool aged and under, you definitely will.
These are days when you nap, stay near accommodation, and don’t do strenuous activity.
- Take the younger kids back to the accommodation in the afternoon for some naps. This means that everyone doesn’t get To The Point.
- Don’t have 3 full days jam packed with activity. This means everyone misses naps and the vacation turns into a nightmare.
- Schedule activities for the morning, nap an occasional afternoon, and have in early bedtimes here and there. It will make the whole trip more memorable in a good way.
- We’re also fans of Sacrificing An Adult. This means that occasionally one adult will take the baby or toddler back to the hotel for a nap. The older kids can still enjoy the fun and the younger ones can have a quick rest before moving on to the next activity.
Remember, overtired babies and toddlers don’t sleep well at night either so keeping everyone as rested as possible (within reason) makes for a much better vacation.
- Schedule tours for morning
- For longer trips, create pockets where babies or toddlers can nap in a quiet place.
- Put a white noise app on your phone to use at your accommodation to drown out background noise.
- Go with the flow as much as you can, but be willing to nap babies and toddlers if it gets drastic.
Choose Shoes Wisely
It’s hard for women to pack few shoes.
The struggle is real.
For me, the issue to consider is not whether I should pack fewer shoes, but which shoes are most comfortable. Many trips require long hours on your feet and walking, so this isn’t the time to break in shoes.
Choose shoes you know are comfortable, well worn, and that won’t give you blisters on Day One.
Blisters can cause havoc on a trip with little kids.
Bring thick enough socks if you’re wearing tennis shoes, and bring band-aids in case little feet get blisters to avoid disasters when traveling with kids.
If we’re staying at the beach for a week I’ll just pack flip flops. Kids don’t care and it makes packing easier. If you have waterproof shoes that are also washable, those are a great option as well so you can only pack one pair of shoes instead of a few.
We don’t want to waste valuable suitcase space on multiple shoes per child so try and find shoes that multitask.
- Wear your bulkiest pair of shoes while traveling to save suitcase space.
- Choose shoes that can multitask like waterproof sandals for kids.
- Pack Band-Aids and extra thick socks if you are bringing a newer pair of shoes and will be walking a lot.
I packed a long weekend’s worth of clothes in one carry on with cubes like this.
Plan Well Then Go With the Flow
Traveling with kids is an awesome adventure, but one you can’t predict. You can do your best to plan so you are prepared, but in the end go with the flow.
Bring all the necessities, organize your bags and develop an attitude that welcomes the adventure.
“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton
Pull out these fun connecting questions to share some laughs with your precious ones!
Use them at:
- meal times
- car rides
- as a “calm down” trick
- for dinner time conversation
- or any time the day is getting chaotic or
- you need a reset to connect.