The one thing I have never shied away from telling MTM readers is that travelling with children is not without multiple challenges. Yes, it’s rewarding on so many levels, and if you’re a passionate travel enthusiast like me, let’s face it, having children will never stop you from exploring the world.
From packing conundrums to fussy eaters, problems arise when particular problems are magnified when you’re in unfamiliar territory and away from home comforts.
However, in order to gain an understanding of what works and what doesn’t, you have to actually put methods into practice. I’ve had some epic fails over the years, but the great thing is, I’m now wiser and can share my insights to those who need it – a whole list of family travel hacks to help travel better.
Travel Hacks for parents and families
The one thing parents ask me – who are concerned about travelling with kids – is if there was one piece of advice I would give them, what would it be?
There are so many hacks I could suggest from making sure you have packing lists (read here for the ultimate checklist) to not putting too much pressure on your kids to be as excited as you are about a particular event or place because ultimately they won’t be.
But if I had to offer just one nugget of gold it would be: Try to relax and go with the flow. Rigid routines are just not going to work when you’re away. And being tied to a baby’s nap and feeding times at specific-on-the-dot timings will only cause you stress and anxiety. The whole point of getting away from it all is just that – so bear with one week or even two of unusual eating habits and up and down sleep times, because they will soon be put right when you return home.
And as an added bonus, instead of just getting my answer, I thought I would gather together all my wonderful family travel blogging buddies to also share their pearls of wisdom, too, about travel with kids. You’ll be hard-pressed to find such good advice from people in the know all in one place, so enjoy and take note as below are not only top travel hacks for parents, but toddler travel hacks and baby travel hacks, too.
Jenny Eaves from Monkey and Mouse
If you are travelling with a baby or toddler I would ALWAYS have a baby carrier with me, the thinner material carriers such as Connecta Solarweave are always the best.
Daisy Huntington from Dais Like These
Always pack an endless supply of snacks!! Because when the battery runs out on the tablet or mobile phone, a biscuit or Bear YoYo does wonders to console a travel weary kid.
Natalie Ray from Plutonium Sox
Remember it’s their holiday too. Say yes more than usual, there’s plenty of time for healthy food and routine when you’re home.
Helen Wills from Actually Mummy
Don’t sweat the usual routines, and definitely, don’t aim for a balanced diet. My daughter once ate nothing but fries and baguettes for a whole week! It did her no harm and it was better on holiday than fighting with her over food.
Kirstie Pelling from The Family Adventure Project
Plan to do just one thing a day. If you have little ones do it in the morning and factor in a sleep in the afternoon. Then if you all have leftover time and energy you can do something spontaneous later in the day and congratulate yourselves on your sense of adventure.
Cathy Winston from Mummy Travels
When they’re little, have a back-up plan – spare clothes, snacks, potentially places to eat/toilets and so on, as it makes it less stressful than suddenly being in a situation where you really need whatever you’re missing. But be ready to abandon all plans too and just enjoy the holiday away from routines.
Sarah Christie from Extraordinary Chaos
Build a holiday survival kit for the journey packed with snacks and activities to keep them busy and entertained for the whole journey. We used to give these to the boys on the way to the airport and it became a big part of our travels and something they got so excited about.
Nell Heshram from Pigeon Pair and Me
Plan for the trip home. The better the holiday, the more dreary the journey back to real life. So try and keep the magic going a little longer by saving something for the way back – a brand new sticker book, a fresh CD for the car, or a game they haven’t played before on the tablet. You could even gift wrap a small toy and hide it under their pillow for a special welcome home on their first night. Don’t forget to do the same for yourself, though!
Erin Ek from Yorkshire Tots
I put away their Kindles for a few days before we fly so once I pull them out (with new films downloaded on them) on a long flight they’re a novelty and keep the kids entertained for longer.
Zena Goldman from Zena’s Suitcase
If you are taking a road trip with kids, snacks and drinks are essential. I’d recommend only giving the children water though as they are probably not going to guzzle it. This means you are less likely to have to stop for emergency toilet breaks. It’s a small thing, but it will help you get to your destination a little bit quicker.
Katy Stern from Otis & Us
I always pack a small separate bag with nappies, nightwear, comforters, bottles/cups, wipes and other essentials so if we arrive late, I’m not frantically looking for everything!
Lisa Jane from Travel Loving Family
To help my boys settle into their new environment on holiday I always get them to unpack their belongings so that they know where they are and it feels like home. They are so used to this now as soon as we arrive at our holiday accommodation they put their pjs under pillows, teddies on the bed, books on the bedside table. It gives me a couple of minutes of peace too to unpack my own things!
Jenny Lynn from TraveLynn Family
My absolute essential tip is to ensure you travel at a slower pace to what you perhaps did pre-kids. New places, people and cultures can be a sensory overload for little minds. Don’t try and cram too much into your day. Otherwise, you may end up with grouchy, stroppy, overtired kids… and parents. You know your own kids, don’t push them too far.
Claire Hall from Tin Box Traveller
If you’ve got a long car journey ahead of you plan in lots of stops to get out and stretch your legs. A bit of fresh air and exercise will mean less wriggling, arguing and whines of ‘are we nearly there yet?’ from the back seat.
Laura Hitchcock from Have Kids, Can Travel
Once your kids are older, remember it’s their holiday, too – have them involved in the choosing – if they fancy some sunny beach then you’ll have a miserable two weeks on the mountains… and consider their needs when booking. Wi-Fi for teens is a non-negotiable life essential, and NOT sharing a bed comes a close second!
Laura Sidestreet from Side Street Style
We only keep tablets for when we travel or eat out – they are packed away at all other times, this may not work for everyone but it does mean they are suddenly happy to sit for a 4hr car journey just remember to pack at least two power banks. Also, plan the trip with them very much in mind – I know my partner often wants to check out shops etc as he loves clothes but I have to remind him it’s just not practical when we are travelling – the itinerary has to be practical while offering something for both child and parent.
Carrie Bradley from Flying With A Baby
Don’t forget to pack ziplock bags. They are handy for ice cubes to keep drinks and food cold whilst travelling and you can ask cafes and cabin crew to refill on the go. Ziplocks are also handy for having changes of clothes in for little ones – so you can just grab and go if there is a ‘code brown.’ They are also useful for organising travel toys and so much more!
Jennifer Howze from Jenography
When you think of on the go activities remember the motion of the car/train/plane. You don’t want to spend your time picking up toys/amusements/snacks. So instead of crayons which roll, pack sticker books. Raisins, no. Fruit leather, yes. And if you put down a muslin or square of cloth (like part of an old pillowcase) over them or on their tray table, you just have to gather it up to tidy.