Whether your family travels often or rarely, these are the hacks you need in order to have a smoother family travel experience. I have been traveling with my two kids since they were infants + there are a lot of ways to make the experience virtually painless. Here are my top 10 family travel tips for a better experience for everyone involved!
Pack at least a week ahead of time. Most often, you are traveling to a different climate so you rarely need to pack the same clothes that you’re family is wearing at home. Even if that’s not the case, if you’re in accommodations with a washer + dryer, you don’t have to pack all that much + can get by with fewer clothes for one week beforehand.
I have a set for each family member in a different color. It makes it so easy to open your suitcase at your destination + identify where each person’s clothes are. Not to mention, it’s just tidier. I used to tell myself I didn’t need cubes. And now I can’t go back. I’ve tried, but when I look at the whole suitcase jam-packed with clothes + items, it’s messy + downright overwhelming. These tidy cubes are everything.
I personally have cubes from Away. I did the 6-piece set for myself + the 4-piece set for each of the kids. but I have seen that AmazonBasics has them + anything I’ve bought from that line is great quality + very reasonably priced.
This is one of my favorite family travel tips! Wheel your suitcase to the FedEx store + they will overnight your bag to your destination. It can cost a bit more than checking your bag but if you value the convenience of not dealing with your bags at the airport, definitely consider this as an option. I’ve never had them lose a suitcase + not having to stand in line to check the bag or wait at the luggage carousel after a long flight is a gamechanger.
It is no secret that kids love to snack. Rather than paying a fortune for junky airport food, I always pack meals + snacks for my kids. We use State lunch boxes which have clips that attach right to the kids’ backpacks. I fill them with healthier snack options + also pack these amazing boxes with sandwiches, fruit, veggies, etc.
The kids love having their favorite foods on the trip + I love knowing that they’re not going to get hangry. I include their favorite water bottles + fill them up once we take off (that way they don’t leak with the pressure change). It’s also great that once you reach your destination, you have reusable containers for on-the-go snacks.
When you’re flying, you get to bring 1 luggage + 1 personal item (and that goes for the kids as well). So when I’m flying with the whole family, we get to bring 8 bags. We often have 4 personal backpacks that everyone takes to their seats. These are packed with anything you need to have within reach throughout the flight.
Then the other 4 bags are usually some combination of carry-on luggage, a cooler bag, a duffle packed with spare clothes for in-flight emergencies, + even a tote for the kids’ potty seat (see Travel Tip #6). We keep these bags in the overhead compartments because we don’t need them as much.
If you travel by plane often enough, look into TSA PreCheck. A lot of credit cards even pay for you to do this! You just need to pay for yourself + your spouse, the kids are covered under you! This gives you access to shorter lines + less hassle (keep your shoes + jackets on, leave liquids + electronics in your bag, etc.).
Even if you don’t do TSA PreCheck, there are a few things you can do to help. If your child can fit in the baby carrier, wear them through the security checkpoint, you don’t have to take them out! This leaves your hands free + requires one less watchful eye. Also, tag-team. Decide which person will be responsible for the kids + the other can tackle the stroller, car seats, etc. getting onto the scanner belt. And when you pack your carry-on bag, consider putting all of the liquids + electronics into the same bag so you can pull it all out at once.
Board early. Families are invited to participate in pre-boarding which allows you to get on + settled before everyone else. This also helps to guarantee overhead space.
One of the best family travel tips? Divide + conquer. Have one adult do pre-boarding will all of the bags + to santize the seats. The other adult can use that time to take the kids for one last bathroom stop. Wait until the end of boarding to get on with the kids because this means less time that they’re cooped up on that plane!
Seriously, my kids hated using the public + airplane restrooms so I would pack a potty go-bag with the chair, diapers swabbing the chair, disposable diaper bags, baby wipes + Clorox wipes. We’d use it in the airport, on the plane, in the hotel + keep it in the trunk for day or beach trips. It may seem strange, but when it comes to keeping potty stress low, this was a serious win for the whole family whenever we traveled with the potty go-bag.
There’s no denying that it can be really hard to keep the kids engaged during a long trip. Investing money in toys or apps/movies that will be entertaining will go a long way. Make sure they are new to your child so that they are novel, this helps make the fun last even longer.
You know I love open-ended options so think of some ways you can activate your child’s creativity because this will keep them busier for longer.
Also, if you have a child who struggles to keep their toys on the airplane tray, I cannot recommend this travel tray enough. I keep it in my backpack + strap it on after take-off for my 4-year-old. It is such a great way to keep everything contained.
I am ALL for screen time during travel. But do your best to entertain your kids with the new + exciting things that they have in their backpacks first. They’re fresher during this time + more easily entertained + willing to explore these new items earlier on.
Also, be prepared to spend the first part of the flight engaging with your child in play, reading + fun together. When you go into the trip with this mindset, you’re preparing yourself to be ‘on’ for the first part of the flight which will give your child the connection + attention they need.
As time goes on + everyone, including you, gets more tired. this is the time to pull out the tablet + let the kids enjoy some time to zone out + relax a bit. This will likely get you through the rest of the flight or road trip, so enjoy!
If you look back at all of these tips, the key here is to take a little time in advance to prepare for your trip. When you think through your plan + what you need to be successful, you save yourself so much stress + time. I know it can be challenging to wrap your head around preparing a week or so ahead of your departure, but following these family travel tips will help you get started. You’ll come to see it is to your advantage to do a little work in advance!
If you’re in for an especially long flight, don’t hesitate to check out my 2-part posts on long-haul flights with kids. I go into more detail about some of the family travel tips I’ve shared here so that you can be especially prepared + equally successful.
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