Tips for Traveling With Kids
By Bryan Cole @bcolective
The ideas and suggestions written below are provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or care. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider before beginning any physical fitness or health- and nutrition-related activity.
Traveling with kids can be incredibly fun and rewarding. No one ever said it would be easy, but that’s all part of the adventure. Here are some of the hard and easy lessons for family traveling we’ve learned.
1. COMMIT to Travel
If you don’t go, you won’t know!
- Take the first step by committing to travel.
2. Get Your Kids Involved in the PLANNING
Kids are curious, adventurous, and want to know where they are headed. Involve them in the planning process to naturally foster excitement while keeping them engaged along every step of the adventure. Life lessons of decision-making, accountability, and the joys of teamwork won’t ever come more easily.
- Give your kids the map or GPS and the job to track and navigate your next stops. Keeping them involved in the actual adventure on the road will make the experience better for everyone.
3. Get to Know Where You Are GOING
With your destination decided, the adventure can begin.
Where you are headed, what to do, and what you need to take with you are fantastic learning opportunities for all.
- Engage your entire family in the research phase and they will quickly develop their own sense of curiosity and desire to see more.
- Maps, guidebooks, videos, and travel reviews are great resources that can be found at your local library, bookshops, online, or through friends who travel.
- Start a Google doc you can add to and access from any device. Fill the document with links to places, articles you want to read, booking confirmations, and anything related to your trip ahead.
- Hire a local guide to gain an incredible wealth of knowledge and connectivity to local culture and resources.
4. Get Your DOCS in a Row
Think about what personal documents you will need to make it home with all your ducklings in tow.
Domestic or International?
- Have official identification, passports, and birth certificates for everyone in your party.
- Be prepared for unplanned events that might require these docs.
- Check government websites and travel blogs to confirm where you are going is safe and what else you might need to watch out for.
Health and travel insurance is priceless for peace of mind.
- Confirm that your standard health insurance will cover you wherever you are headed.
- Take the medicines your family needs. Ask your doctor for refills in advance and recommendations for travel medications.
- Basic first aid, pain relievers, Benadryl, motion sickness tablets or bands, and anti-diarrhea meds are all common items in a personal kit. Customize your kit based on your family needs.
- If you are taking your own vehicle or renting abroad, ask your auto insurance if supplemental insurance is required.
- Travel health insurance is cheap and easily purchased online.
Different places have different requirements for immunizations and medical documentation.
- Have copies of all of your family vaccinations and immunizations ready to share.
Put important contact info (below) in your kid’s bags and make sure they know where to find them.
- Parents names and phone numbers
- Your address or hotel location and phone
- Phone numbers of family, friends, and embassies
- Photo copies of kids’ passports or IDs
- Take pictures of important documents before leaving home. Tag these pictures as “favorites” in your phone so you can find them easily when you need them. From passport numbers to immunizations, having everything at your fingertips for reference can save time and headaches.
- Know your credit card and benefits/requirements for travel. Some credit cards require you to tell them you will be leaving the country. Some cards also protect purchases made.
5. Getting There
Flying with kids can be a quick and easy way to get as far away from home as possible. Check-ins, boarding times, layovers, and late planes can all take more time than you might think. Plan ahead and develop a list of what you will need to be as successful as possible.
- Pick the flight that aligns best with your family biorhythms. Are you morning people? Then travel in the morning.
- Direct flights are often preferable where family travel is concerned.
- When working backward from what time you need to be at the airport, do the math and add at least a half hour cushion to your plan.
Where do you like to sit?
- The back of the plane is often better for traveling families. Sitting closer to bathrooms, having extra airplane snacks, and getting window seats can all be important factors.
- Cater to your family preferences.
Need a car seat, stroller,* or sling?
- Bring what you need for safe and easy transport. *Strollers double nicely as luggage carts for those long trips across the terminal.
- When airlines give you the option to board early when traveling with kids, take it!
- Airlines often check car seats and strollers for free. Find out from your airline, and save some cash and headaches.
Driving your own vehicle or renting a car affords flexibility. Extra stops are no big deal, and going overland allows for the freedom to do it your way.
Local transportation is an exciting way to see different neighborhoods and engage with locals to develop deeper connections en route to your next destination.
- Traveling overland from home? Bring your own car seat.
- Flying and renting a car? You may not need to bring your own. Car rentals often rent car seats for as little as $1 a day.
6. PACK as Little as You Can
Whether by air or overland, traveling light is a proven way to elevate fun and eliminate excess.
- Limit each person to one roller bag or carry on AND one small bag or backpack.
7. Stay HAPPY!
The comforts of home can go a long way in keeping your family happy in the unfamiliar surroundings of life on the go.
Bring some of the following to keep the wheels turning and the “How long till we get theres” to a minimum:
- Pillows, blankets, and stuffed animal friends are a must. Keep them handy.
- Eye pillows, neck pillows, and ear plugs can all be game changers.
- A backpack or a “kid caddy” is a great way to empower your littles to help themselves. Make it easy for them to get to their own water bottle, CLIF Kid Zbar® Protein, or favorite book.
- Games and toys.
- Books, magazines, maps and art supplies.
- Computers and tablets can be great on the go and helpful for research when you get where you are going.
- If screens are a part of your program, think about resources that might help your kids prepare more for the places they are going. From maps to audio books and regionally relevant entertainment, your devices can be used to enrich the whole family’s experience!
- Digital cameras, binoculars, walkie talkies, maps, and field guides
- Journals, pens, pencils, and paint supplies (great for writing, painting, drawing, and art journaling)
- A hobby box (create your dream box in a small plastic bin or tackle box. Beads, mobile making supplies, string, ribbon, glitter, glue, and more!)
- Give your kiddo their own camera and journal to capture their memories. And buy yourself some down time while they are working on it.
- Google Translate is a fun and educational way to learn the language of your destination.
8. Don’t Forget the SNACKS
Straying from everyday eating routines is a great way to try new things and experience new cultures. With that in mind, keeping calories in the tank is critical to the enjoyment anyone can have on a full day out or an unexpected delay.
- Put familiar and favorite go-to snacks in pockets and day packs before you leave your “home.” Handy snacks are the holy grail of happiness on the road.
9. Keep It FUN
Don’t forget that you are on vacation too!
When in doubt, take a step back and ask yourself if you and your kids are having fun.
If YES? Keep going!
If NO? Slow down or stop, make some changes, and get your vacation back on track. A late start, daily nap hour, or even a rest day for everyone can make a huge difference.
About the Author
Bryan Cole is an outdoor athlete, born and raised in California, who revels in taking in new locales, meeting new people, and gaining life experience through immersive travel. As a former CLIF employee, Bryan lives, breathes, and dreams all things adventure and advocacy, and he fully brings this to his vision of how he experiences the world today. Now living life to its fullest in Hood River, Oregon, Bryan runs his own one-man marketing agency, B.COLECTIVE, which focuses its efforts at the intersection of lifestyle sport and purpose-driven projects with passionate people. Follow @bcolective to see what Bryan is up to and @GlobalRamble to get a taste for how Bryan likes to travel with his family.