8 Tips for Traveling with Kids

8 Tips for Traveling with Kids


Traveling with children is truly an art form–one that I have yet to master. I thought I would share a few tips that I learned from our most recent vacation adventure to the Mountains. Some of these things are what we did and some are what I observed other families doing while we were traveling (and wished we had done). :)


1.  Drive…if it is feasible.  Flying is overrated with young children (not to mention expensive) and does not allow the flexibility that traveling in a car does. Need 2 bathroom breaks in one hour? No problem. Want to stop and look at the World’s Largest Ball of Thread? Go for it.


2. Plan out your rest stops.  There is a rest stop about halfway between our house and the mountains. Not only does it have Starbucks, sandwiches, and ice cream…it also has a great playground and picnic tables! We like to stop here every time we make this trip because we know that (a) it’s relatively clean and (b) the boys can stretch their legs and get some energy out. If you are unsure of what stops you want to make ahead of time, you can use a free app like RoadAhead Highway Exit Finder or even this free website. If you’re the type of family that likes to see lots of offbeat attractions while traveling (like the World’s Largest Ball of Yarn or a 5-Legged Cow), you would also enjoy the Roadside America App ($2.99).

We found a rest stop with a playground!


3. Bring lots of travel activities, books, and DVDs. The key to traveling with kids is to change it up. For an hour, let them look at books. Next hour, have them play with a travel game. And next, let them watch a DVD. Find lots of ideas here and here.


4. Find lodging that has a kitchen.  You might spend a few extra dollars, but you’ll be glad if you’re spending more than a couple of days. One can live on junk food and eating out for only so long!


5. Bring your own frozen meals.  In the weeks prior to your trip, double you recipes and put half in a disposable aluminum pan. Jot down the baking instructions, attach, and then throw it in the freezer! Pack all of your meals in a cooler. All the hard work is done…just thaw and throw it in the oven! This means less dishes and MORE vacation for YOU. :)


6. If traveling with young kids, plan 1 activity each day. We like to get out early (especially since the kids are up at the crack of dawn) and do the majority of our activities in the morning. After lunch, everyone is ready for rest (parents included)! One thing we have found that works for us is to just be flexible and don’t over-plan. Most kids enjoy the simple things (like throwing rocks in a river or playing in the sand) just as much, if not more, than the big, expensive activities. Check the website of the place you are traveling ahead of time to see what activities they offer (and how much they cost). You can also check out the following websites for activities based on your destination:  Trekaroo.comKidsCanTravel.com, DeliciousBaby.com.


7. Split the kids up at night and naptime...at least until they fall asleep. Our boys sleep in the same room at home (most nights) but the first night of our vacation, they did not go to sleep until ELEVEN O’CLOCK because they were so excited and were in an unfamiliar environment. We decided to put one of them to sleep in our bed that night and then transfer him once they were both sound asleep.


8. Keep a picnic blanket, paper towels, and baby wipes in your car at all times.  You never know when you’ll need them. One traveling mother we met at a rest stop  had all of her “goodies” organized in clear plastic tubs. Another thing I have started keeping packed  and  ready (but not in the car due to temperature issues) is a small box with all the kids toiletries and Children’s Tylenol, Advil, Benadryl, and an extra thermometer. I don’t know about you, but inevitably someone gets sick almost every time we go somewhere. This way, I can grab it on our way out the door and I don’t have to make any 4 am trips to Walgreens in an unknown city (which I have done in the past). :)




What is your best tip for traveling with young children?



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  1. Thank you so much for the post! It came at the perfect time. Our first family vacation in a LONG time with four kiddos ages 18 months to 6 is in 10 days and today is the day I’m starting to organize my thoughts, make activity lists, menus, etc. Your post couldn’t have come at a more perfect time! The only other things I would recommend (and this is because our kiddos are special needs) is to make a plan for the duration of your vacation, with bad weather back ups etc. and share it with the kiddos before you go, to help lessen anxieties etc. Also, make a meal plan for vacation that includes snacks etc. It’s hard for some kiddos to eat in different places and try new foods they’re not used to. You mentioned to have a kitchen on hand, but our kiddos’ favorite foods and snacks are a must to make sure they’re eating right and to ease anxieties. Lastly, be sure to bring along their favorite comforts-stuffed animal, book, blanket, etc. to help them feel safe and at home. Vacations are so much fun and exciting for adults and some kids, but it’s also very different and scary sometimes too. The more the kids are involved in the plans, the better your chances are of having a successful time!

  2. When we went to CA for Christmas I put clips on the visor with the names of towns along the route. As we went through the town the clip came down. Everyone cheered and it was great fun! Best of all, they could see how many clips we had left before we got to our destination so we never heard “are we there yet?!”

  3. Thank you so much for this post! I read so many blogs with tips and info and this one by far has been the most helpful! I have 4 children under 7 and we have avoided holidays in the past due to having the terrible fear about them disturbing others on planes. You have given me so much food for thought….I think we are gonna DO IT!!! YAY! Holidays here we come. Thanks again

  4. Since the time my son was four months old, he is six now, he has traveled with me at least three times a year. Most have been by air but there has been a few long car trips, and one long train trip. What worked for him was involving him in the packing so that he could take his favorite items and I would pack a special package for him and not give it to him until he got on the plane or train or what ever. The package would contain one new toy, a new activity book with crayons or marker, a new picture or reading book and one book that I would make. This was especially helpful when he was young.

    The book would open with a picture of him, then a picture of his room, sister, brother, father, me, friends, the dog, and the cat. Then I would make pages with concepts he was working on, numbers, letters, colors, shapes, etc. I would print the book on 4×6 photo paper and tie it together with ribbon. Each page would have a simple explanation of the picture so that not only could he explain what it was he could also see the words that went with the letters.

    On one of the plane trips we sat next to a teacher. When I gave him his special package he pulled everything out, laid in on the tray, and proceeded to tell the teacher about each item. She loved the idea and especially loved the book.

    Out of all the trips, the train trip was his favorite. Each seat comes with an electrical outlet so I didn’t have to worry about running out of power for the tablet. He loved being able to walk around and visiting the dining car. He loves to travel and even though he has cut back to two trips a year because of school if you say “airport” he says “I’ll be packed in 10 minutes”.

  5. Your story of your children being awake at 11pm reminded me of our first camping trip after our adopted kids came home. We made the mistake of putting them in the same tent bedroom. Once. Oh, the fun they had until they collapsed around midnight before rising at 6 am. Oh, how the old people in the caravan laughed at us! It felt like they were never going to sleep and they didn’t realise we could hear them through the fabric. Every now and then they would go ‘Shh, we don’t want mummy and daddy to hear us!’

    We always take our own bedding on holiday as it makes them feel more secure and we stick to a routine for meals. Like the other special needs kids ours worry about food. We always put food in the cupboards in self catering places so that they can see they will be fed. It is cheaper to feed them at home anyway.

    We usually pack a picnic for the car as well so they don’t starve to death on the way. The running around thing is a great idea, we will do that on our way to our holiday next week. If we are going to be late arriving we bath and pj them before we leave as they are not great at being woken up. I.e. grumpy and grumbly. Best avoided.

    We buy them an activity magazine for in the car and make many loo stops, even if they say they don’t need to go because you can bet your last dollar that if you don’t the second the rest stop is behind us someone will need ‘to go right now.’ We travel with a plastic bottle and a regularly sterilised funnel for the times that we don’t find facilities. Fairly gross but better that nothing. We throw the bottle away after it has been used and it is only for emergencies.

  6. Road trips with kids are nothing new in my house. My son took his first at 7 weeks old and 2nd at 11 months 3rd at 13 months. … And so it continued. We now have 3 children and are beginning the adventure of a life time by moving into a 5th wheel to live. It is now nothing for us to drive 4 hours a day. Sometimes fir bigger trips we will do 8 but never more than nine. Everyone has a point when they are just fine being in the car. The biggest mistake anyone could do is try to get to the destination quickly. I recommend enjoying the journey. Stop frequently, not just for bathroom breaks but just to stop. Kids havea lot of energy if you make ita point to do every two hours and let everyone Hey out for at least 10 minutes everyone stays happier.
    Also my kids have back packs that they only see when it is time for a road trip. The pack gets pulled out and I pack things like flash cards and threading cards that they don’t always get to see and they pack things like their favorite stuffed animal and a few small toys to play with. They have travel blankets and travel water bottles (good ones that won’t spill).

  7. I love the ideas here – not just in the article but in the comments as well. Last summer when my best friend and I took a road trip to TN with her 3 year old daughter and 5 year old niece, we decided to travel as much as possible during the night. It was much easier on them as they slept for most of the trip and easier on us adults because we were able to keep rolling. By the time we got to our destination, they were wired and ready to play but thankfully, we were at my sister’s house where they had toys and children their own ages to play.

    Knowing the logistics that went into planning that trip with the two girls, I had a newfound respect for my mother who took her five kids on a trip to TN every summer. And many times she did so by herself.

  8. We are headed out to Colorado this weekend…would you mind telling me where that clean rest stop is with the fabulous playground??? Thanks!!!

    1. It’s in Colby, Kansas! It’s called the Oasis. I think it is the last exit off of 1-70 in Colby and it is on the south side of the road. :)

  9. Suzhou gardens or the venice of the east as it is also known is a peaceful
    place to visit when your in Jiangsu Province, China.
    You can easily arrive there from Shanghai or Nanjing two big cities that are close
    by. You can take the highspeed g-train, d-train,t-train or k-train. Its is also possible to arrive
    by bus if you are coming from a more remote place that doesnt have a train line.
    There are many gardens in Suzhou and we offer amazing local tours of this Unesco World
    Heritage Site with friendly local guides who have been well trained to give you the best
    possible experience. Afterwards we will take you to thhe local restaurant with good quality fresh food that you will find

  10. Wow I never really thought it was possible to travel around the world with young kids because of the hassle but you make a lot of great key points. Mostly them being free while they are young because I know once they reach that magical age the prices become sky high(no pun intended lol). Its awesome that you are getting to make memories that most kids or adults for that matter never get to experience. I definitely want to make this happen with my little ones!

  11. just in the article but in the comments as well. Last summer when my best friend and I took a road trip to TN with her 3 year old daughter and 5 year old niece, we decided to travel as much as possible during the night. It was much easier on them as they slept for most of the trip and easier on us adults because we were able to keep rolling. By the time we got to our destination, they were wired and ready to play but thankfully, we were at my sister’s house where they had toys and children their own ages to play.

  12. Your vacations looked like a blast. And I just love your photos! I think you did a great job!!! I want to get better at landscape photos someday, but one step at a time. I have never heard of Groupon before. I will have to check them out! Maybe hubby and I can book something for our 10th anniversary next year.

  13. If someone knows your name they are not a stranger. Wasn’t such a problem with my children but someone approached my Great Granddaughter (age 3) in the park, calling her name which was clearly visible on her bag.

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