Traveling with kids can be a rewarding and fun experience, but it can also be a challenging and stressful one. You have to plan ahead, pack smart, and be flexible, while keeping your kids safe, happy, and entertained. Traveling with youngsters has its challenges, but these tips help make for smoother skies. There is no question that traveling with kids has its difficulties, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare either. With a little careful planning and some creativity, embarking on a family vacation can be much more than a bearable experience. Here are 11 important tips that will help you travel with kids without losing your sanity.
1. MAKE PLANNING A FAMILY AFFAIR.
Let your kids help plan the trip, from sharing their wish lists for resort amenities to choosing special activities or excursions. They will be more helpful, patient, and positive with the packing and travel processes if they have some buy-in.
2. RESEARCH ACCOMMODATIONS THAT SUPPORT FAMILIES.
You will be astonished at the number of hotels and resorts that have designed memorable vacation experiences for kids. If you have littles, you might consider Azul Hotels by Karisma, which provides strollers, bottle warmers, baby food, baby monitors, and toys, or Generations Riviera Maya’s large family suites with swim-up balconies.
Finest Playa Mujeres goes beyond the typical Kids Club with its Baby Club concept, featuring family bathrooms, a kitchenette, a shaded outdoor play space, and a baby splash area. The Beloved Hotel Playa Mujeres has fun activities like water balloon games, cookie-baking lessons, and making traditional piñatas.
3. DON’T FORGET THE TWEENS AND TEENS.
These youngsters traditionally have gotten lost in the gap between kid- and adult-friendly vacations. No longer. For example, Ocean Blue & Sand in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, boasts a bowling alley and climbing wall on the beach. And Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort in Cancún, Mexico, has The Playroom Kids Club, Wired Teens Lounge, FlowRider wave simulator, and the Ultimate Dolphin Swim Experience.
4. CONSIDER PURCHASING A SEAT FOR YOUR TODDLER.
If you have a child under age 2, you are allowed to put her on your lap. That is certainly doable on a short flight and will save you money. However, if it is a longer trip, consider purchasing an extra seat. The child will have more room to sleep or play, and you won’t have a fretful, wiggling human on top of you for hours.
5. WALK THROUGH THE TRAVEL DAY AHEAD OF TIME.
This is especially important for the littles. Explain parking, shuttle buses, airport trains, the ticket counter, and, perhaps most importantly, security. You will avoid watching your child dissolve into tears if he understands in advance that all of his special belongings must be in a bin for a photograph, and then he will get them back.
6. FIND FLIGHTS THAT COINCIDE WITH NAPTIME.
Your child’s body will hit a natural downturn at that time of day, so plan to follow her naptime routine in the air. Encourage her to sleep by packing a favorite stuffed animal, blanket, and story to read.
7. SUPERVISE CARRY-ON PACKING.
As children get older, they want to pack their own carry-on bags. Encourage them, and let them choose a favorite backpack or kid-friendly wheeled case like Trunki, but be sure you keep an eye on what’s going into the carry-on and how heavy it is. At home, it will seem reasonable to your child to pack his entire collection of cars, Legos, or rocks. Walking through the airport terminal, it will become much less reasonable.
8. LAYER TRAVEL CLOTHING.
Airplane cabins are unpredictable in terms of temperature. Sitting at the gate or on the tarmac, it can get warm and stuffy, particularly if you are sitting in the sun. And at altitude, it can get chilly. Make sure everyone has a warm sweater or jacket that can be put away or used as a pillow if he or she needs to cool off.
9. PACK YOUR CARRY-ON WITH MESSES IN MIND.
No matter how old the kids are, bring along wet wipes, paper towels or rags, zip-lock bags, and hand sanitizer. If your child is potty-training or might be accident-prone if she can’t get to the potty immediately, put her in pull-ups, and bring extras. If your child is still in diapers, plan to use one diaper per hour. Just in case.
10. ENSURE ADULT CARRY-ONS ARE ONE-STOP SHOPS.
You will also want to pack snacks and a few surprise activities such as new coloring books, stickers, travel games, books, or tablet-ready movies or TV shows. Don’t forget pressurization issues during takeoff and landing. Pack gum, lollipops, or hard candy for older kids, and be prepared to breastfeed or bottle-feed infants.
11. BE STRATEGIC WITH TIMING.
Get to the airport early. Not only will you avoid the stress that comes with rushing, but your family can savor a sit-down meal at an airport restaurant, browse the shops, and enjoy all the colorful sights and bustling activities. Be active prior to getting on the plane — walk around, take the stairs, find a designated play area, and perhaps even come up with a scavenger hunt. Finally, before you board, make that last-minute bathroom stop.