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Tips + Tricks: How to Travel With Kids

Clif Kid believes that there is a whole world out there meant for the exploration of curious minds of kids. The outdoors are not only the best place for fun adventures and to let imaginations run wild, but it is also a place to discover, learn and grow. We partnered with the Cole family during their year of travel, or ‘global ramble’ as they like to call it, to share their experiences and advice as inspiration to embrace the outdoor classroom on your next family adventure – whether it be a road trip, simple family outing or extended international travel. Words and photos by Bryan Cole, former Clif employee and outdoor enthusiast.

Kids are curious, adventurous, and want to know what’s going on and where they are headed. So before making all of the decisions for them, be sure you get them involved in the planning process.

Prep and Packing

Where are you headed? Once you have considered everyone’s interests and your destination is decided upon, the adventure has begun. In experiential education, there is a concept that states no one is a passenger, rather everyone is crew. This is a great way to frame your experiences to engage every participant in the decision-making and the efforts it will take to turn your travel dreams into reality.

Maps, guidebooks, and the Internet are all great resources for family travel. The sooner you can engage your entire crew in the options abroad (or in your backyard), there are endless opportunities to prepare. Where to go, what you are going to do, and what you will need all become incredible learning and teachable moments.

With the options ahead of you, a developing list of what you will need to be successful follows.

Wildlife guide on table with Zbar, camera, and glasses


What will you need on the journey ahead? From backpacks to sleeping bags to tents and sport-specific needs, organization and gear lists begin to unfold. Depending on the age of your kids, the resources for rental, purchases, or borrowing are bountiful.

  • Think about the basics that everyone will need to be happy and comfortable, then you can fill in with the nice-to-haves to add more fun into the mix.
  • Tap into your community at home to get everything you can in advance.
  • Have any toys or gear already available to you to avoid time spent looking for rentals and dealing with sizing, costs, and returns.
  • Think about what will easily motivate your family before thinking about all the things you could possibly do. Less can be more; will you actually go backpacking or will you be better off simply planning for day hikes?

Beach Toys

Frisbees, fishing equipment, snorkeling gear, inflatable SUPs, surfboards, and boogie boards are all great items to have at the ready to maximize enjoyment once you have arrived at your destination.


Bikes, skis, snowboards, climbing gear, etc. are all great in mountain environments.


Digital cameras, binoculars, walkie talkies, field guides, etc. can all be excellent additions to any adventure and will only add to the ease of teachable moments on the go.

Nutrition and Food

Getting out of your everyday eating habits and routines is a great way to learn, grow, and experience new places, people, and cultural norms.

  • Get creative and try new things!
  • A little bit of comfort food can go a long way when blood sugar is low and you’re out of “home” range.
  • A box of CLIF Kid Zbars can be like gold while traveling, and one bar can make the difference between a meltdown and back to the stables with bells on.
  • Sharing a bar with new friends can be fun, too.

Taking a Road Trip

Long hours on the road or in the air leads to an endless desire to be doing something fun, so you’ll need to be prepared for anything at any time. We bring a healthy collection of the following to keep the wheels turning and the “how long ’til we get there” to a minimum.

Games and Toys

  • Puzzles and mind benders
  • Joke books
  • Animal trivia
  • Maps and legends
  • Quick games: Uno, cards, mancala, checkers, and more

On the Road

  • Pillows and stuffed-animal friends can go a long way when you’re far from home.
  • Depending on how you are traveling, it’s great to empower your littles to get what they want and need when they need it. Whether it’s a backpack, or what we call a “Kid Caddy,” a milk crate, or an on-the-road organizer, make it easy to get to a water bottle, Zbar, book, Rubik’s cube, or Hot Wheels.
  • Keep your kiddos involved on the road by giving them the map or the GPS.

Educational Add-Ons

Once you’re out in the world, there is no shortage of learning opportunities. Realistically, you will be hard pressed to minimize the moments of magic than to try to drum them up. With this in mind, we always find it helpful to have the following on hand. Depending on how long you are traveling, you may need to connect with your school back home to gather materials and homework for the road.

  • Bring maps, field guides, and travel destination guides.
  • Carry journals, pencils, and pens for writing, painting, drawing, or art journaling opportunities.
  • Use travel watercolor pencils, paints, and brushes.
  • Create a hobby/dream box in a basic tackle box or small plastic bin, with beads, mobile-making supplies, strings, ribbon, glitter, glue, and more!

Don’t have what you need? There’s nothing more fun than finding items in a new place with an unfamiliar language and culture.