We have enlisted the help of some top family travel bloggers to give us the inside track on happy family travel. These guys have all been there and done it before so with this handy list of family travel tips, you can take on the world, toddler tantrums and sulky teenagers…
From Travel Savvy Mom
Don’t wait to travel with kids. If your child is 9 years old, her time spent living with you is already half over! Too many parents worry whether their children will remember big trips. Go, and take lots of pictures.
Before you Go
From Have Baby Will Travel
Before your trip, get baby used to room temperature bottles and food. On top of everything else that you’re juggling, heating the baby’s bottle is a hassle you can live without. In preparation for your journey and while you’re en route, pre-measure your formula mixture so you can just add bottled water you purchase after clearing security.
When clearing security, everyone has to remove their jackets and shoes – baby included – and it’s already “fun” keeping track of your own stuff, never mind fiddling with tiny sweaters and footwear! Use pullover-type sweaters for babies and little kids, and a footie sleeper or jumpsuit keeps tiny toes warm without extra bother.
From Mommy Review
Our best family travel tip is to PLAN PLAN PLAN. Kids need structure so make sure you plan your trip around a schedule that will work for your kids and eliminate tired, cranky, bored kids!
From Have Baby Will Travel
Distribute all of baby’s things amongst all of your luggage; you don’t want the one bag the airline loses to be the one full of baby’s necessities. This is a good tip for all travel parties, as my dear friend learned the hard way after spending a week in her husband’s clothes and a borrowed swimsuit.
From My Little Nomads
Scan your passports and email them to yourself, along with any other important documents — e.g. green cards, birth certificates, visa pages of your passport. If you ever lose your passports abroad getting new copies would be hard enough for an individual but for a whole family it might well drive you over the edge. Even getting in the door of a consulate can be difficult without some form of I.D.
When travelling with young children two things guarantee best behaviour – control and imagination.
Give children as much choice as possible to make them feel as though they are in control of their day. “Which game would you like to play first?” or “What snack would you like first?”
When weary legs are tired of lugging little suitcases across an airport our favourite game is “What’s the first thing we’ll do when we get there?” Mum usually goes first to give some inspiration – “I’m going to get into my bathers and jump into the pool” or “I’m going to order ice cream and sprinkles from room service” – Grandma.
From Active Dad
Got a long car journey planned? The prospect of a day on the motorway with a car full of bored kids is not one that fills many Dads with joy but with our guide to surviving long car journeys with the kids, you might be able to make it without losing your head.
Plan your trip
- As the saying (nearly) goes, ‘proper planning prevents parental pain’. Have a think about your route and make sure you have a rough idea of when you are going to stop. Allow for emergency toilet breaks – your car seats will thank you.
- If travelling during the day, check the route for interesting sites that might make a better stop-off than motorway services.
DVDs and games
- How you feel about this will very much depend on how you feel about your kids being plonked in front of a screen for hours at any other time, but a portable DVD player(s) or handheld games consoles can be lifesavers if stuck in traffic. We recommend trying to ration them out, though – in our experience, kids (especially younger kids) will ‘zone out’ and be difficult to deal with if allowed to watch for too long.
- Car Bingo – make a list of car types and colours and tick them off when you spot them. The first to find the lot wins a prize.
- I Spy – always a favourite, though perhaps better played on A Roads with more varied scenery than the average motorway.
- Shopping list – The first player says “I went to the shops and bought…(a thing)”. Each player then takes turns to recite the list, adding a new item each time. If you forget an item, you are out.
- Legs – this only works if you are not taking the motorway: first person to spot a pub name can claim the legs. The King William = 2 legs, the Coach and Horses = 16 legs! And there will always be arguments over the Cricketers. Add them up as you go.
- The Eddie Stobart Game – spot an Eddie Stobart Lorry, get a point. Most points wins.
- Our favourite method with smaller kids is just to travel at night and let them snooze. Take blankets and pillows and get them comfy. Put on some relaxing music or talk radio on a low volume and drive off into the night. Take the second star on the left, then straight on ’til Knutsford Services.
Pippa from A Mothers Ramblings
We take a lot of trips where we travel by car and I have learnt the hard way that it is best to keep wet wipes, tissues, and a change of clothes for everyone handy! We always make sure our journeys are more comfortable by bringing a cool bag with drinks and snacks and a bag to put our rubbish in and the children pack a small bag with a few essentials such as crayons and paper to keep themselves amused on the longer journeys.
From Lil Muse Lily
My daughter Lily is 16 months old and my best travel trip is: snacks and books!
The longest trip we have been on was when we flew from Miami FL to Portugal where my family lives.On the way there it was night so Lily slept a lot of the trip however, on the way back it was morning and all the healthy snacks (fruit and healthy crackers) and books that we packed up for her really saved us from a super cranky and crying baby.
I also make sure that she is wearing something super comfortable like soft clothing and I always have two changes of clothes in the carry-on for just “in case” situations.
From angels & urchins
My top tip, particularly on a long-haul flight, is to factor in lots of things for the children to look forward to. We create a check-list of things for the children to find (with pictures for young children), and they get a small treat for every ten they find. We also wrap small presents and dole them out every hour (and every half-hour if things get really bad!). Ideal presents include comics, plasticine, boxes of raisins, toy cars, stickers and small books. A new company has just launched selling ready wrapped travel-appropriate toys – www.mytravelsurprise.co.uk. I always have a stash of chocolate coins to create impromptu treasure hunts with, a roll of sellotape, paper and crayons. Simply tape up pieces of paper in front of a child’s aeroplane seat and let them create their own gallery of artworks.
From Pit Stops For Kids
Preparing your kids for what they can expect to see and do helps them gain perspective and anticipate the journey ahead with excitement! Print a map of your route and allow younger kids to trace it with pens or decorate pit stops with stickers. Older kids can man the GPS or read fiction or nonfiction accounts of the destination in the car or on the plane. Audio book apps such as Tales2Go and trip planning apps like Trip Doc can help get kids involved!
A bag with age appropriate toys and some healthy snacks will help keep children entertained, especially if you are delayed while in transit. Trying to find a late night chemist in a foreign location is not fun so I now carry paracetamol, sunscreen, plasters and antiseptic cream whenever we travel. Most importantly if your child has a special toy they take to bed then remember to take it with you as you are sure to have tears without it.
Linda Jones from Have a Lovely Time
- It doesn’t matter if you choose a cheap and cheerful break or a luxury getaway to an island paradise, your kids will still want the same things; to have a great time of fun, laughs and you!
- Don’t assume your children won’t enjoy a kids’ club even if they haven’t been to one before — this is a great way to try new things and make new friends, not a cop-out for you, so don’t feel guilty about allowing them to take part and putting your feet up.
- You know when you are in breakfast and feel bad that you have your handbag under the table to fit a bit of lunch in from the wares laid out in the morning? Don’t! The food needs to be used and you will be guaranteed to not be the only one leaving the dining room with an extra bread roll or two and/or the teensiest selection of fruit.
From Four Down Mum to Go
If you are travelling with toddlers and don’t feel comfortable letting them near the swimming pool, buy a cheap, small paddling pool when you arrive at your destination. That way you can bring the pool to your babies, just blow it up, fill it with water and they will splash away happily next to you, while you lie back with a cocktail. Bliss. HostelBookers loves this tip!
Linda Jones from Have a Lovely Time
To avoid squabbles if you have more than one child, and to be fair to everyone, why not designate a day of the week to each member of the family to choose what you do? (On Mum’s day it might involve relaxing by the pool, on Dad’s a nice meal out and on the kids’, a water park – rather than trying to do all of these within the same 12 hours!)
From Wander Mom
When travelling with kids, make sure to pack all your patience and adjust your expectations about what you can see or do in a day in a new place. Aim for one sightseeing activity per day and take anything over that as a bonus. Enjoy experiencing a new city or country through your child’s eyes – where everything from the strange brands of candy in the store to learning about a different culture – is exciting and different.
From Mom Most Traveled
My advice is to go to the places that you want to go, but see them at a child’s pace. I feel that travelling with kids doesn’t mean you have to stick to theme parks.
From Four Down Mum to Go
If you are travelling with toddlers and don’t feel comfortable letting them near the swimming pool, buy a cheap, small paddling pool when you arrive at your destination. That way you can bring the pool to your babies, just blow it up, fill it with water and they will splash away happily next to you, while you lie back with a cocktail. Bliss.
From Outdoor Baby Network
Simplicity is the key. While travelling, spend time outdoors enjoying the simple luxury of seeing your kids play and discover nature. Pack a lunch and go to a park, rent a canoe and paddle on a lake, or plan a camping trip. Children love to play in the outdoors with their parents while travelling. It gives them time to grow, burn off energy, and learn.
Thanks to all our wonderful contributors and also to nerissa’s ring, Ernst Vikne, marvinxsteadfast, Rubbermaid Products, jinglejammer, erix!, ajari and ann_jutatip for the images off Flickr! Please note, all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting.