family sitting on rocks at sunset

Tips for traveling with children

Tips for traveling with children

Traveling is one of the best ways to create memories and bond with your loved ones. That’s especially true when you have children. When you ask adults about some of their favorite childhood experiences, you’re almost certain to hear about a family vacation.

Although the very thought of traveling with children in tow may make you cringe, rest assured that it can be done. It just takes a bit of flexibility and patience, and a whole lot of planning – and snacks.

Whether you’re traveling a short distance to visit family or embarking on an international family vacation, a bit of preparation goes a very long way.

dad taking family selfie at airport

Vacation destination unknown

Before having children, you probably decided on a destination and then planned your trip around it. However, when children are involved, it’s far easier to select a destination that will fit your family’s preferences than trying to adapt your family’s needs to the destination. Would your children be happiest at the beach or is a major city more their style? Decide what everyone will be most happy doing, then settle on a destination.

Beach trips and nature-centered vacations, such as visiting national or provincial parks, are ideal when you have children of different ages. 

If you’re even considering traveling internationally, know that children do need passports – even infants. If you’re based in Canada, find more information and requirements here whereas U.S. residences can see the U.S. Department of State website which has a very specific list of requirements and how to go about obtaining one. In addition to passports, be sure you’re aware of travel guidance and restrictions associated with travel outside your area. In summer 2020, most governments and health authorities are recommending local travel.

two kids playing on the beach

Family-friendly travel tips & tricks

It doesn’t matter if you have one child or five, or how old they are; these tips can take traveling with children from stressful to stress-free.

Stock up on snacks. This is truly the cardinal rule of successfully traveling with kids. Buy plenty of their favorite goodies and bring them with you everywhere: on the plane, in the car, and on outings.

Beat boredom. Even if at home you don’t usually let your kids have much screen time, allowing it on a trip can save your sanity. If you don’t want to invest in a tablet or gaming system, consider getting a good pair of headphones at the very least. This will allow your kiddo to plug into the plane’s in-flight entertainment system or, in a pinch, your phone.

Timing is everything. Many people choose red-eye flights when traveling with children, thinking that the kids are more likely to sleep. However, this sets them (and you!) up to suffer from severe jet lag. When possible, select flights that will allow you to get kids to bed as close to their normal time as possible.

Splurge on shorter flights. Flights with layovers are almost always less expensive than direct ones, but consider this: The more stops you make, the higher the potential there is for something to go wrong and for there to be delays.

Break up long trips. If you can’t avoid a layover, consider building in longer stops. Even though it’s less convenient, allowing time for a meal or even a few hours of sightseeing near the airport can work magic for children who have pent-up energy.

Seek out family-friendly perks. Some properties offer free breakfast or “kids eat free” promos, while others have in-room kitchenettes or refrigerators that enable you to prepare a meal or two in the hotel to cut costs. Your entire family will appreciate a hotel with a pool or even a waterslide.

Pack smart. Bring plenty of extra clothes for everyone. The last thing you want to be doing is searching for a new jacket or swimsuit in an unfamiliar city because one got left behind or someone got too cold.

Less is more. Having a more flexible, less-structured itinerary when traveling with children is essential. Build plenty of downtime into your schedule and include activities for family members of all ages.

Be flexible. Remember, this is a vacation for your entire family. Relax on bedtime, screen time, and other rules so everyone – including you – enjoys themselves.

Age-specific travel tips for traveling with kids

Toddlers have completely different likes and needs than teens. Planning for and catering to your children’s different ages while on vacation will help things go a lot more smoothly

Traveling with Infants

father holding baby in boat

From the newborn stage up until they’re two, babies are the easiest children to travel with. All they need to be kept comfortable is (mostly) sticking to their routine, and that’s simple since they’re so portable. Bring plenty of favorite toys, books, and blankets, and plan activities around meal and nap times.

Consider getting a lightweight, foldable stroller and leaving your bulkier one behind. Having a more portable stroller can be a lifesaver while you’re moving through airports, waiting in lines, or visiting attractions. There are many great options that are quite inexpensive! You may also want to invest in a high-quality child carrier that will be comfortable for you to wear often, especially if you’ll be doing a lot of walking.

Traveling with Toddlers

toddler reading map

Even the most mellow toddlers have short attention spans and need to release their energy every few hours. Prioritize some free time in your days and do some research on the locations of the closest parks or children’s museums. Before you head out for the day, pack plenty of snacks, more than you anticipate you’ll actually need.

Traveling with School-aged children

Getting older children involved is one of the best strategies to keep them happy. Allow them to plan part of your itinerary by offering them a choice between two or three activities you’ve already vetted. If they feel like they have a say, they’re far more likely to enjoy it. If you go on any guided tours or excursions, do some research on the company’s or guide’s kid-friendliness, as that can be a make-or-break detail.

Traveling with Teens

teen girl selfie

Much like school-age kids, when you’re traveling with teenagers, they appreciate getting to play a real role in vacation planning. Asking for their input, include a place or attraction in your itinerary that’s just for them. If you’re comfortable with it, consider letting teens explore somewhere nearby completely on their own. Just be sure to stay in regular communication and keep your usual family safety protocols in place.

With these family travel tips, hopefully you feel more ready to tackle traveling with your children. To help you choose a destination, consider Coast Hotels, which has nearly 40 family-friendly destinations to choose from. Many Coast Hotels have two-room suites, on-site restaurants, in-room kitchenettes, and year-round heated pools. Some even have children’s wading pools and water slides. When you’re ready to start planning, the No Place Like Coast blog is an excellent resource with destination guides and travel tips. Safe travels!