You’ve picked your destination, you’ve booked your flights, you’ve booked your hotel, and you’ve planned your summer vacation to a T. If you’re a parent, you know that the planning doesn’t stop there because traveling with children requires a lot more than hopping on a plane and arriving at your destination without a care in the world. There’s the gear, the entertainment, the travel documents…the list goes on! We know this can feel overwhelming, so consider this your go-to source for everything you need to travel with children this summer. Regardless of where, how, or when you go!
1. Get organized in advance.
Gather any travel documents needed, and put them in one spot (for domestic travel, the parent’s ID is sufficient for children under 18; children will need a passport if traveling internationally). Have a baby or toddler? Set aside their gear and be sure it’s packable and regulation size (check with your airline for dimensions and specifics). Make piles for each child with items they’ll need, either in the car or on the plane — books, fidget toys, games, etc — and check that they won’t take up too much space. Below are our favorite organizational items for road trips that you can shop by clicking right on the photo!
2. Pack their bags ahead of time.
Doing this in advance will save you from so much stress, not to mention last-minute loads of laundry! Involve your children in this so they can feel ownership over the trip, too. Lay out outfits, shoes, any special items specific to where you’re headed (swimsuits, jackets, etc.), hats, and toiletries.
3. Choose activities for travel days.
For toddlers and preschoolers, this might look like busy boxes, sticker books, books from our book club, or simple arts and crafts. Older children can enjoy books, coloring, games, and puzzles. Pack entertainment that your children will enjoy! Many of these items can be brought to restaurants, too. Tip: Give your older child(ren) a new notebook and a few colored pencils and have them draw the scenery from your vacation. Planes, views from the air or car, things they notice or love at the hotel — it not only keeps them entertained, but also serves as a keepsake “album” of the vacation itself!
TRAVEL ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN
4. Set expectations for travel days.
As much as they might tell you otherwise, children do best when you set clear expectations and boundaries for them. If you’re traveling by car, set a few rules for your road trip — limitations on screen time, how many stops you’ll make before arriving at your destination, how long you’ll be in the car, what to do with snacks or spills, being respectful toward siblings.
And if you’re flying on a plane, this is a great opportunity to teach your children about virtues like patience and being respectful to others. Talk through appropriate noise levels, keeping hands and feet to ourselves, how long the flight will be, and having good manners while flying — and hold this loosely, as we all know that flying with children is unpredictable! Remember that grace abounds to families with little ones on flights.
5. Bring lots of snacks.
If you only listen to one piece of advice in our list, then let this be the one! There’s something that happens to children when traveling — they become ravenous! Pack twice as many snacks as you think you might need, whether you’re headed on a road trip or on a plane. Many grocery stores have pre-packaged “mini meal” snacks (think crackers, grapes, cheese) that are perfect for on the go. Granola bars, pretzels, popcorn, and string cheese are always a good idea, and you can pack food in Ziploc bags to carry with you. Avoid anything messy or sticky, and be sure you pack hand wipes and paper towels in case of spills. A spare change of clothes is a good idea, too!
6. Download audiobooks.
This is a great way to pass the time in the car as a family, and you can reserve audiobooks at your local library or purchase on Audible. If you have younger children, try Winnie the Pooh with Judi Dench narrating, Paddington, or Peter Rabbit. Older children will love The Chronicles of Narnia or Peter Pan!
7. Buy as much as you can ahead of time.
Pool floats, sunscreen, beach towels — if you have the room to purchase these items ahead of time, not only will you save money but you’ll be ready to go when you arrive! Don’t forget goggles, beach toys, and beach hats either.
POOL & BEACH FAVORITES
8. Follow a routine.
It’s easy to let routines fly out the window on vacation, but it can often benefit everyone (children and parents alike) if you stick to your home routine as much as possible while you’re away. Sure, bedtimes might be a little later than usual. But do try to incorporate routine so that your children know what to expect. If they usually take an afternoon nap, try to keep it (aren’t vacations the perfect time for naps, anyway?!). If your family eats dinner at a certain time, try to stick to it. Bedtime stories, baths, and other things that children know to expect at home are little things you can do to keep everyone on some time of schedule so that they can be at their best when it matters most.
9. Bring a few comforts from home.
Homesickness can strike even on vacation — so bring a few things your child loves from home to help keep it at bay. Their favorite blanket or stuffed animal, a pillow, or even a sound machine. These little things can often be overlooked in the packing process but can make all the difference for quality of sleep in a new place (something that little ones often struggle with).
10. Involve your children in the planning.
What better way to build excitement for your vacation than to allow your children to pick a fun activity that’s meaningful to them and fun for the whole family? For one child that could look like a morning spent going down water slides together. Another might want to visit a museum. If everyone gets an opportunity to do at least one thing they what they want to do, this can help mitigate tears and tantrums.
For more travel ideas, be sure to read the following DoSayGive posts: