These 8 family travel tips will help keep you less stressed, save money, and enjoy your vacation together - and who doesn't want that?!
The most important things for you to remember are to plan as much you can ahead of time, be cognizant of what each family member needs/wants, and to be present in the moment.
#1 - Start Early
No, I don't mean early in the morning!
Start researching, planning, and booking your vacation as early as you can. Studies have shown that the best flight prices are about 6 weeks before you plan to travel.
This is also the time to look into what discounts you get if you book for off-season times, if hotels offer free meals or stays for children under a certain age, and what activities you want to do around where you are staying.
The more time you give yourself to research and plan, the more smoothly your family vacation will go.
#2 - Ask for Recommendations
Who better to ask for travel tips than people who have already been to your destination?!
There are many forums dedicated to each destination you might be considering. The one I use the most is Fodor's Travel Talk Forum.
You may also want to ask around your personal family and friends to see if they have any destinations, hotels, or airlines they recommend.
Lastly, you can join our Facebook group to ask other like-minded, helpful moms (and dads) about their travel tips.
#3 - Make an Itinerary
After you've done all your research, make an actual plan of all your travel arrangements, reservations, and what you'd like to do each day.
Staying organized is one of the top ways to reduce travel stress. Print out all the documents you need including confirmation numbers and, if you are as geeky as me, put them into folders or (be still my teaching heart...) - a three-ring binder!
Nothing is worse than arriving to the airport after your vacation is over and not being able to find your confirmation number at the ticket counter.
It is also a good idea to have a general idea of what activities you have in mind each day. Then you won't waste time each morning asking everyone "What should we do today?" and getting 17 different answers...
Have those discussions ahead of time so that everyone has a clear expectation of what is going to happen. Children thrive on routine, and when that is thrown in the air (vacation), at least they can be prepared for what is coming.
#4 - But Be Flexible
Now having said all that, remain flexible! You may have made all these awesome plans, but on Tuesday little Jimmy wakes up extra early and is ready for a nap by noon, which is when you are supposed to join the tour....What to do?!
Traveling with kids is bound to throw some wrenches into our well-laid plans. Perhaps there is a way to change the tour time or date, or maybe Jimmy can nap on mom's shoulder instead of back at the hotel.
The key is to stay calm, think of solutions, and be willing to change those plans around as needed.
#5 - Packing is Key
Have you ever been on a trip and forgotten something important? Now imagine being a kid and not having the emotional ability to deal with it!
One of the most important travel tips I can give is making a packing list of all needed essentials weeks before you leave and start gathering up what you can so you are not rushing the night before trying to find enough pacifiers and diapers.
Traveling with kids adds in a whole new set of essentials and even just "really nice to have" items. Check out this post about the best travel bassinets if you're traveling with babies!
I recommend bringing something comforting from home that they can bring - just to give them something that smells and feels like home when they are not there.
#6 - Find Your Balance
No, not in yoga - but if that helps, go for it! I'm talking about the balance in being active and having downtime in your travel plans.
If you pack your schedule with museum after museum and then walking around downtown and then seeing this monument and then visiting these friends - phew, I'm tired just reading all of that! Just think of how the kids will feel.
It's important to "schedule" or just be cognizant of the fact that you all need breaks and downtime during the day.
#7 - Take LOTS of Pictures
Of all the family travel tips, this is one I can't stress enough. Yes, you don't want to be that parent that is only focused on taking pictures of every minute, but DO capture these memories because the children might be too young to remember all the details.
When we went to Florida for the first time, my kids were just barely 2 and 3. They don't remember much but they LOVE to look at pictures from that trip and have me tell them what we were doing.
Another great tip is to have your child participate on taking those pictures. You get to see things from their perspective and who knows - maybe you have an Ansel Adams in the making!
#8 - Remember Your Why
When all is said and done, remember WHY you are traveling. These moments, these experiences, these times with your loved ones will never be lost. They are now part of your family's history.
Everyone loves to reminisce about those family vacations - whether they be fond memories, or laughing about some "mistake" that happened, or (hopefully not) bemoaning over something bad that occurred.
So when you are standing in the middle of a foreign city and Susy is throwing a tantrum because she wants a hamburger and Tommy is having a meltdown because he needs a nap, remember why you decided to take this vacation.
In the end, creating those family memories is what travel is really about. So go out there and make some!
Tell us what has helped your family when you travel!
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