Traveling alone can be stressful in certain situations. Traveling with a family, especially when younger children are involved can make your hair turn gray. The struggle is real. There is a ton of planning and preparation that goes into family travel. If you are drawing a blank as to how to best prepare or you want some pointers for help, consider these tips and tricks to do it successfully.
1. Booking Accommodations for Everyone
Not all hotels offer them, and you may have to take some extra time to do the research to find them, but rooms that have separate sleeping areas can make a world of difference for your trip. If you are able to find a room or, it may be called a suite, that has one or two bedrooms you can separate yourself from your children.
This is key because it will allow you to have some space when the day is done. You can enjoy a more restful sleep or stay up a bit later than the kids to enjoy other activities. If you want to enjoy a nightcap, it will be much easier to do so in your own space. This is specifically nice whether you are traveling for a vacation or to visit family. A bit of adult time—and downtime—is always a nice reprieve. Children will also sleep better than if your whole family was stuffed into a small hotel room with a bed or two.
Today, there are more viable options that can rival traditional hotel rooms. Airbnb, for instance, gives you the ability to rent a whole house which not only gives you the rooms but also ensures you have accommodations such as a kitchen. The ability to cook on the road and refrigerate snacks for little ones is a welcome bonus. Pack your child’s favorite down blanket so that they have a piece of home to help them relax and get to bed more smoothly.
2. Plan Your Activities and Purchase Tickets and Reservations Before You Arrive
It is easy to wing it when it is just you and your partner or you and a couple of friends, it is not so easy when you have little ones. Finding the activities ahead of time that will accommodate your whole family will make things go so much easier when you finally arrive. You will have a plan in place so you can set your day accordingly and add in the snack time or nap time you need for younger children. The amount of stress you can remove from your life and the amount of enjoyment you can have on your trip will be substantially increased when you take the time to plan and get set-up.
While getting tickets and reservations for activities is huge to help you have a plan when you get to your destination, the gear you may need while you are away should also be confirmed. If you are staying at a hotel, they may have cribs, cots, or high chairs. It is best to inquire about the place you are staying at beforehand so you can be sure you will have what you need. The last thing you are going to want is to show up unprepared and out of luck when it comes to the necessary baby and children gear you need.
3. Rent Equipment
Traveling by car or by plane with children that have a lot of needs such as strollers or bikes is a challenge no matter how you try to pack it. Be kind to yourself and look into rentals so you can reduce your baggage. Many times, hotels or even activities like amusement parks have strollers, cribs, etc. that you can call ahead and rent so that you don’t have to pack them yourself. The availability may be limited so inquire before you leave to ensure you can get what you want for your trip.
4. Travel Insurance
If you were just traveling alone or with your partner, you may not feel the need to put the extra money into travel insurance. When you are traveling with little ones, it is a whole different ball game. Anything can happen at any time. Children can get sick or get hurt, which may require a hospital visit. It makes sense to do yourself well and find a plan that will keep your family protected.
5. Keep Your Electronics Charged and Loaded
Nothing makes a better flight or drive than happy, occupied children. So if you pack fully charged devices loaded with child-friendly games and stories, you can reduce a lot of commotion from your impatient children. Minimizing the dreaded crying, fighting, screaming, and the all-too-well known “are we there yet” questions will help you keep your sanity. And by all means, do not forget charging accessories to help you keep those devices juiced up for emergencies. Nothing is worse than extra baggage packed that isn’t operational.
For smaller children who have difficulty sleeping, white noise is a beautiful thing. It is very common for little ones to need some extra soothing at night and white noise may do the trick! There are apps that you can download for free which offer white noise.
6. Pick a Family-Friendly Destination
Las Vegas is tons of fun, for adults. Not necessarily the best trip for families. Bouncing your baby on your knee in a smoke-filled casino while you try your luck at the slots all while drinking a cocktail isn’t the best look.
While you certainly don’t have to base your destination entirely off of what your kids can enjoy, you’d do right by yourself to book a location that accommodates the entire family’s interests. Most big cities have opportunities that appeal to children and adults alike. Taking the time to research what is available will help you make a better decision on what is most suited to everyone’s fun time.
Additionally, locations that are easier for traveling while you’re there is important. Ease of public transportation or walkable places that are suitable for strollers will make getting around a breeze. That makes for one less stressor for you when you hit the streets.
Likewise, crime data is also an important consideration. There are places you don’t want to take the chance with but there’s a big difference between what you will tolerate and what you are going to be OK with exposing your children to. All destinations are going to have some downfalls with the crime, but some are more apparent than others. A trip to Syria is probably not the best these days for anyone.
When you arrive or before you arrive, you can always chat with the hotel concierge or rental property owners to decipher which parts of the city are the safest and which ones you should proceed with caution. When my husband and I visited Amsterdam, we stayed at a private rental and the owners couldn’t have been more helpful. They let us know where to eat like locals, events happening during our particularly unique trip, which museums were worth seeing, how to travel about the city easily, and what areas were best explored during the day versus the night.
As such, don’t underestimate the wisdom and preferences of the locals. Their personal feedback can be invaluable. Talk with your Uber driver about where you can find the best food, ask your concierge or property owner what things are a must to do, where and when to find local deals, etc.
7. Treats, Treats, and Then More Treats
The first rule of thumb every parent knows is to pack up those treats. Children don’t do well when they are hungry and who can blame them? I certainly don’t like feeling famished. The difference between adult hunger pains and child hunger pains are two beasts of a different nature. For the most part, adults can at least manage their emotions when hunger strikes. Kids, not so much. A treat can make or break any time of the day or any activity. Even a fun amusement park experience can quickly go awry without the right sustenances.
Not only do treats help manage all out breakdowns in kids, but they can also help with behavior. A promise of a special snack is a great tool to have in your arsenal for well-behaved youngsters.
Treats can also come in the form of non-food items. You can find some affordable gifts associated with your destination that your kiddos can earn through good behavior. The best part is when they bring them back home, these items will be reminders of the fun trip they had as well as how they acted to earn them.
Now that you have the basics for successful family travel, get at it road warrior! Happy travels!