Children make life more fun, but they also make life a little more complicated. The things you used to do before kids now take more planning and precise execution. Many people still want to travel after having kids (and it has many benefits for the whole family), but you need a game plan for family travel.
Every part of your family trip can and should be planned for. Having a detailed plan won’t make the trip any less spontaneous or enjoyable, but it will make the trip more successful. Consider everything from lodging, to packing, to family car insurance before you book the next vacation.
Tips for Traveling as a Family
Traveling is a great way to see the world and make memories as a family. In fact, many studies have shown just how beneficial traveling is for people. There are many perks of traveling that one can benefit from. The best way to experience those benefits, however, is to be prepared for the trip.
There are a number of tried-and-true tips for traveling as a family with kids. Keep these few tips in mind as you prepare for that next trip and see how much more enjoyable the experience is.
#1 – Research Everything
Research is your best tool in traveling effectively, safely, and enjoyable with kids. Doing a bit of research before embarking on a trip will help you plan and prepare for success.
You’ll want to research not only your ultimate destination but the areas you’ll be traveling through as well. You can plan more effectively and ensure you experience some of the more fun local spots before moving on to the next stop.
Researching areas and activities will also help you prepare your kids better. If you know what to expect in each place, you can pack the clothing or necessities and get the kids excited before arriving.
#2 – Have a Plan
It’s a good idea to have a general plan for your travels. You’ll want to have an idea of what stops you’ll make, when you need to get the kids down for naps, or what things you’ll want to do or see.
But don’t over plan. Leave room in your schedule for fun and flexibility. You might come across a pop-up event or new attraction you weren’t aware of beforehand. If you have every minute planned out, you could miss out on some cool experiences.
Maybe jot down a few must-see places or experiences, make reservations, or buy tickets. Plan the rest of your trip around those big activities to ensure you accomplish the most important things.
#3 – Pack Wisely
Packing can be tricky, especially when kids are involved. You want to be as prepared as possible without cramming everything from your house into your bags or car.
Make a list of the essentials for each person and cross them off as you pack them inside a bag or suitcase. This will help you feel prepared for the trip and will lower the possibility of forgetting something important.
When it comes to really young kids, consider what you will be doing on your trip. Would it make more sense to bring the stroller or a baby carrier? Will you be swimming? If so, will it be in a pool, the ocean, or a lake?
How you answer each of these questions will help determine what baby products you will need and will, hopefully, eliminate the need for others.
You’ll also want to make sure the things you need while on the road or more frequently are easily accessible. Don’t pack the diaper bag or snacks in the trunk of the car. Make sure each child has their own set of activities and books nearby. This will keep them happy and entertained without asking you for something to do every few minutes.
#4 – Add Time
Another good tip for traveling with kids is to add time to everything. Trying to get little people from one place to another or simply moving in transition can be challenging, so add in some extra time.
If you think waking up, getting ready, and getting out the door will take an hour, plan for an hour and a half. If you think eating lunch at an amusement park will only take 30 minutes, plan for an hour.
Adding in extra time will help alleviate some potential stress, and you won’t feel the need to rush from one activity to the next. It’s better to be proactive than reactive, as the saying goes. The best part is you can always arrive early at your next destination or activity if things move quicker than you expected.
#5 – Contingency Plans
It may seem a little pessimistic, but it’s a good idea to make a few notes about the worst-case scenario. Don’t go too extreme, but what would happen if you forgot the diaper bag? Or what would you do if the car got a flat tire on the interstate 6 miles from the nearest exit?
In each of these scenarios, don’t just think about the practicalities of fixing the problem or solving the issue. Try to think of how the kids might react or how you could keep them entertained if you need to wait for roadside assistance.
Of course, everyone hopes these things don’t happen to them on a trip, but it could. Having an idea in your head for these possible issues will help you cope better mentally. If you’ve thought about these situations, then you won’t feel completely unprepared.
#6 – Explain What’s Happening
Kids are creatures of habit. They enjoy stability, structure, and routine in their little lives. These elements can be hard to maintain on vacations or long trips away from home. To keep things as normal as possible, take an extra minute to explain what’s happening.
The explanation doesn’t have to be extremely detailed or overly in depth, but it is helpful to give your kids an overview of the day or the next few hours. Start the day with a quick rundown of the major activities. If it’s a travel day, give your kids the highlights of where and when they can expect to stop.
This may seem insignificant, but these explanations help kids know what to expect. They can more easily adjust to the flexibility of a vacation schedule when they have some guideposts to help them navigate. That small moment at the beginning of the day or after big events can really help set you and your kids up for success.
#7 – COVID Considerations
The world — and traveling — looks very different because of the coronavirus pandemic. The normal of the past has given way to the “new normal.” This reality has had a big effect on where, when, and how people travel.
Traveling with kids during the pandemic is a major concern for a lot of families. Most aspects of a family vacation have to be reevaluated to accommodate the changing recommendations and restrictions everywhere.
As you plan your next family trip, take the time to research the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations and the COVID restrictions in the areas you will be traveling. If you are traveling and stopping in different states, there will most likely be different mandates for masks, social distancing, and possible closures for activities or attractions.
Researching these things before leaving home will help minimize disruptions to your travel plans and keep kids aware of what is coming next. You can also choose lodging that has less foot traffic, such as a timeshare property. While the world is torn over whether or not timeshares are good or bad, there’s no denying that during COVID, they will at least be less crowded than your traditional hotel.
It’s also important to keep the more universal restrictions in mind as you travel. Make sure every family member has a mask handy for areas that require them. Try to maintain space between yourself and others to minimize spread and wash your hands often.
#8 – Have Fun
Perhaps the most important tip is to have fun! Remember that your plan is just that: a plan. Even with the most research and forethought, things will have to change in one or two areas.
Those changes and challenges often make the best memories. Your kids and family will simply enjoy the time together and the stories that will spring from that time. Keep things light and fun and you will be looking forward to your next big adventure.
Laura Gunn researches and writes for the car insurance comparison site, CarInsurance.org. She and her family love to travel. She is passionate about helping parents have fun while keeping their sanity.