Avoid Extra Stress During Vacation with These 35 Family Travel Tips

A man in a olive colored button up shirt is sitting at a table with a laptop on it. A woman in a cream colored sweater is sitting at the table as well. A little girl wearing a yellow sweater is standing between the two and giving the woman a kiss on the cheek.

Remember the days of our youth when going on vacation meant throwing clothes into a bag, hopping on a plane, and just GOING?

There was definitely no need to research family travel tips as a part of the process!

Well, once kids enter the picture, things become less lackadaisical!

Instead, you can expect an inevitable frenzy as you attempt to leave the house. You’ll need to pack clothes, snacks, baby gear, and, oh wait, have you seen the toddler’s favorite lovey? Then, you’ll hit the road and likely hear chants of “I have to go potty” mere moments after leaving the house. 

The chaos is enough to make some of us want to forego ever leaving our homes again. 

Don’t stress, though, there are ways to make your family vacation more Brady Bunch and less Griswold (although, who couldn’t use a little Griswold in their life?!) 

Children are creatures of habit. For the best chance at a stress-free travel experience, consider all possibilities before you leave the house to keep their routine as similar to normal as possible. 

The family travel tips below contain insights into streamlining your vacation experience. From packing bags early to scheduling your itinerary, we have suggestions to make traveling with kids a breeze.

So, before you book a hotel and hit the road, join us as we count down the top 35 travel tips for a fun, memorable vacation with kids.

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1. Consider Your Child’s Age During Planning

The other day, I was chatting with a friend about the “right time to start vacationing with kids.” They were interested in booking a trip but weren’t sure if their little ones were ready for the experience.

Unfortunately, you probably won’t find a chapter on travel-appropriate ages in your favorite parenting book because the “perfect” age doesn’t exist.

Instead, it’s about considering what your child can handle. 

Think about how long your little one might be able to handle sitting in a car or airplane. If they start to fuss after a 20-minute car ride, for example, an 18-hour road trip could be challenging. 

You should also consider whether a specific type of vacation would be overstimulating to little ones. Are they ready for a family-friendly vacation to Disney World, for instance, or should you save that until they’re a little older?

At the same time, some families believe in starting to travel with kids as early as possible so they get used to it–a valid point if I’ve ever heard one.

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to vacationing with your kids. Just focus on what’s best for your family and go from there.  

2. Pick the Right Location for Your Family Friendly Vacation

The world is a big place with lots of vacation options to pick from. However, before you take your screaming toddler to the romantic Tuscan countryside, consider whether that’s the best choice for family fun. 

There are many great spots for family vacations in the US, such as San Diego, Washington D.C., Chicago, Pigeon Forge, and Orlando, to name a few. 

3. Let Kids Help You Plan Your Trip

When my husband and I start our vacation planning process, one of the first things I like to do is ask our kids what they want to get out of the trip. 

It’s always interesting to see what’s most important to them. 

We’ll usually research where we’re going and see what activities and attractions are available. Then we’ll let them provide input on which looks like the most fun. Getting them involved in the process gives them something to look forward to and gets them increasingly excited about getting away.

4. Create an Itinerary but Make it Flexible!

Having a plan never hurts when you’re going on a big trip because it allows you to lay out your schedule and ensure you account for everything you want to do.

HOWEVER, we all know how good kids can be with schedules and routines; please tell me you can hear the sarcasm dripping from that statement. 

You can plan things out all you like, but make sure you allow for flexibility. Before you buy timed entry passes to three museums on the same day, consider whether a mid-afternoon breakdown caused by boredom or overstimulation is probably going to happen or definitely going to happen.

Create a basic itinerary with things you’d like to do, but just make sure the schedule isn’t too rigorous. 

5. Bring Along Some Fun Travel Games for Kids

Whether you pack a deck of cards, some travel activity sheets for kids, or a family trivia game, make sure to stuff some entertainment options into your bag. Whether you use them on the plane, in the car, or while lounging in the hotel, you’ll be grateful for something to distract your little ones

If you have infants who aren’t quite ready for family game time, why not pack some Montessori travel toys that will keep them busy while you’re on the road?


No, I don’t just mean one tiny bag of Goldfish crackers. Unless you want to endure the wrath of a hungry child, I’d suggest loading up your bag with various options to meet their diverse (and inconsistent) snack needs. 

There’s a solid chance your kids will suddenly develop an insatiable hunger at the worst possible moment during your trip. When snack machines are non-existent, and cafes aren’t fast enough, you’ll be glad you thought ahead.

Some popular travel snack ideas include:

7. Allow Kids to Help Pack Their Bags

Letting kids help pack their suitcases is a great way to reduce the items on your to-do list, get them excited about the trip, and teach them about personal responsibility.

Please remember, however, to check the items before you throw their bags in the car to leave, or else you could end up bringing an extensive collection of princess dresses, stuffy toys, a single pair of underwear, and three socks on vacation (I speak from experience).

8. Set Your Budget for the Trip

Sure, taking vacations with your family is supposed to be fun and relaxing. However, if you’re stressing about money the whole time, there’s a good chance it will ruin the experience. 

Make sure you and your partner set budgetary guidelines before you go. Account for things like daily food, souvenirs, attractions, hotel, and unexpected expenses.

9. Discuss Emergency Plans with Kids

Is there anything more terrifying than the thought of losing our children in a strange place? This is definitely up there on my extensive list of anxiety fears. 

With any luck, this is a reality you’ll never have to face. That said, it never hurts to have an emergency plan for such situations.

Ensure your kids know how to dial emergency numbers and teach them basic information about your family; real names (asking for mommy and daddy won’t cut it), phone numbers, and addresses are essential.

If you can find specific safety information about the areas you’ll be staying in, educate your children on those, too.

I know these are scary conversations, but preparing your children in advance will make a difference.

We also recommend writing your name and phone number on your child’s arm in Sharpie marker or using these cute, waterproof identification bracelets.

10. Don’t Forget Reusable Water Bottles

You know the section above covering the importance of snacks on vacation? The same rules apply to water bottles. Nothing makes a child thirstier than the possibility of being someplace without immediate access to a drink. Do yourself a favor and pack the reusable bottle!

11. Bring Extras

When you’re getting your luggage ready for a trip, many people will tell you not to overpack. If you’re traveling with kids, however, I politely disagree.

No, I’m not saying you should bring your entire wardrobe on vacation, but I am saying that packing some extras is always a good idea, especially when it comes to “kid stuff.”

From diapers to medications, think about anything you absolutely NEED to take care of your little ones and double it. This is especially important on vacations like cruises where you might not have convenient access to a pharmacy or store. 

A man is sitting on a while couch. With him are a boy and three girls. On the floor in front of them are two suitcases that are open with clothes and shoes.
Looking for family travel tips? We’re sharing everything you need to know for your next trip!

12. Research Vaccination Requirements

In our post-COVID world, researching vaccination requirements is more crucial than ever. You’ll want to know what limitations there might be if your kids aren’t fully vaccinated and plan to contact their doctor before you leave.

When our family went on a cruise last summer, for instance, our youngest wasn’t eligible for the COVID vaccine yet, and couldn’t go to the kids club on the ship. This wasn’t a huge deal for us, but we were glad we knew before we hopped on board!

13. Talk About Airports and Flying Ahead of Time

If flying is part of your travel plans, talking to your kids about what to expect before you leave is helpful.

Before our littles flew for the first time, they were understandably nervous. To try and alleviate their fears, I bought the book “Going on an Airplane” to read with them. The book covers the ins and outs of flying. From airport security to the noises they’ll hear on the plane, it’s a great way to prepare them for what’s to come. 

14. Pack Early

I like having time to mull over my suitcases before we leave on a trip. This way, I’m not rushing around, throwing everything in at the last second, and likely forgetting something. 

When you’re packing for yourself, babies, and younger children, getting an early start on packing is even more crucial.

15. Set Rules About Buying Souvenirs

Ahh, souvenirs–the great ruiner of many a family vacation. Whether you’re at a theme park, airport, or tacky tourist shop, there’s a good chance your kids will find something they HAVE TO HAVE. 

So, unless you want to deal with tantrums and the possible purchase of $30 stuffed animals that probably came from a factory somewhere, set a precedent for souvenir shopping ahead of time. 

For instance, our family rule is that Mommy and Daddy will buy one small souvenir on each big trip. If our kids want the option to get more, they know to bring along their own wallets. 

16. Don’t Forget Medications

While packing daily medications is crucial for vacations, think about the what-ifs that might arise, too. I usually add Tums, pain relievers, allergy medicine, and upset tummy meds.

If your child has a history of motion sickness, include some acupressure bands or nausea tablets, too. 

17. Consider Apartments or Vacation Homes Instead of Hotels

Hotels are undoubtedly great, especially considering all the amenities they usually include. When you have babies or toddlers, however, they’re not always the most comfortable and convenient. 

Many of our friends found that renting through Airbnb or VRBO provided more options when their kids were younger. Not only do they usually offer more space and separate bedroom spaces (great for maintaining bedtime routines), but they usually have full kitchens that are great when you want to make meals at home or need to warm up bottles. 

However, if you want to go the hotel route, consider looking for a place that offers family suites. That way, you can still enjoy the extra features with a little additional comfort. 

18. Find Out What Type of Baby Gear You’ll Have Access To

I don’t miss the days of having to pack up all our baby essentials every time we planned a trip. For those of you still rocking that era of parenthood, however, I have a helpful family travel tip for you–find out if the place you’re going has anything you can use!

The first time we stayed in a VRBO fully stocked with kid items, I was blissfully surprised. They had high chairs, car seats, bouncers, strollers, and more readily available. If you’re going to book a vacation home, ask the owner what they already have on hand so you have less to pack.

You can also ask hotels about possible baby items–many have at least cribs and high chairs available for guest use.

Baby gear rental sites like BabyQuip.com also let you rent local baby items during your vacation so it’s all there and set up when you arrive! 

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19. Set Up Bags with Kid’s Travel Activities

From coloring books to chapter books for kids, make sure you load up on travel activities for your little ones. While family travel games are fun, it doesn’t hurt to have solo options, too. This way, everyone can have a little quiet time during the trip. 

And remember to include plenty of snacks! (refer to section #6 on feeding ravenous children above)

20. Book Things Early

Don’t let the stress of wondering whether you can find a flight or a hotel get you down. If you know you want to take a vacation with your family, book everything you need plenty of time in advance. Trust me; you’ll be grateful to have one less thing to worry about.

21. Leave Time for Rest and Downtime

Remember what I said about creating a flexible itinerary? While doing that, remember to schedule some downtime into your days.

Sure, you want to make the most of your time in a new destination, but most families with young children aren’t going to enjoy jam-packed days that have them going from dawn to dusk. 

Give yourself a couple of hours to just hang out. Whether you return to your hotel for a nap or lounge in a local park, you’ll appreciate some low-key activities and stave off the inevitable late-afternoon meltdown.

22. Research Childcare Options

Visiting new places with your young kids and teens is fun. That doesn’t mean, however, that you wouldn’t appreciate having a few hours to yourself while you’re away. If you would like a date night during your vacation, you can research some options before you leave home.

If you have older kids, you can easily put them in charge of your littles. If not, check with resorts or cruise lines for childcare options. 

You can also look for childcare on websites like Care.com if you’re not staying somewhere with babysitting amenities.

23. Use the Bathroom When You Can

Finding a bathroom can be difficult when you’re out and about in a new place, and we all know kids require FREQUENT trips to the facilities.

Try to be logistical about bathroom usage on vacation. Take your littles to the restroom before leaving the hotel, restaurants, and other locations you know have a potty. 

This is especially important if you’re traveling with a potty-training youngster. 

24. Purchase a Great Travel Stroller

When you’re out and about, you’ll appreciate having a great travel stroller with you. These are the perfect solution for naps on the go, tired legs, and storage for all the crap you’ll end up lugging around.

25. Come Up With an “Ear Popping” Plan

Even as an adult, I hate when my ears start popping from airplane atmospheric pressure changes. Now, imagine how bad this sensation will feel to a little one who doesn’t understand what’s happening.

That’s why one of the best family travel tips I can offer parents flying with young children is to come ready with something to help. 

Kids Health suggests breastfeeding or bottle feeding during take-off and landing for babies. For older kids, lollipops and gum are great options. I once talked to a mom who said Ring Pops were her children’s favorite “flying snack.”

26. Don’t Be Afraid of Screen Time During Travel with Kids

I know–we’re not “supposed” to use devices as electronic babysitters. As long as you’re paying attention to screen time guidelines and utilizing YouTube safety tips for kids, there’s no reason you can’t put on a movie for your little ones during long road trips or flights. 

A little girl is sitting in a seat on an airplane. She is wearing red shoes, jeans, and a white sweater with pompoms that are red, green, blue, and pink on it. She is watching an IPad.
Don’t be afraid of letting your little one have some screen time while traveling!

27. Get Your Little Ones a Camera

While buying your kids a digital camera for your trip won’t necessarily make things easier during travel, it is a lot of fun! I love seeing what our kids think is exciting and looking back at their memories with them after we get home. 

28. Print or Download Boarding Passes Early

Are you flying on your next vacation? Don’t forget that you’ll need to get your tickets! While you can always wait until you get to your airline’s kiosk to print them, it’s just as easy to check in early and get them ahead of time. 

Another helpful airport tip: Get there early! This will ensure you have plenty of time to check bags, go through security, and find your gate while steering your kids through the airport. 

29. Grab Yourself Some Packing Cubes

We’ve already established that traveling with kids involves a fair amount of “stuff.” One way to streamline your luggage experience is to use packing cubes

The first time I heard about these, I thought it was some sad attempt to get me to purchase one more thing that wouldn’t work, and I wouldn’t need. 

Then I got them, and let me just say: MIND BLOWN. 

I was impressed by how these bags helped me make the most of the space inside our suitcases. If you’re on the fence about getting a set, I say go for it. I also like to label them so kids and parents alike can find what they need.

30. Consider Your Child’s Sleep Environment

The hustle and bustle of vacation can make getting your kids to bed challenging, especially if you’re sleeping in a hotel room.

One way to combat this issue is by doing anything you can to “normalize” their routine and sleep environment. 

Do they usually go to bed with the same stuffy every night? Make sure you bring it!

Do they have to listen to white noise to go to sleep? Pack that sound machine!

Do they want the safety and comfort they feel from their crib? Consider bringing or renting a Pack-n-Play.

Do what you can to bring home with you on vacation. It will put your children at ease and help them get a better night’s sleep. 

31. Bribery Can Be Effective

Mid-breakdown, it can feel like nothing will calm your kids down. When a tantrum threatens to ruin your precious vacation moments, the parenting stress can feel worse. 

Here’s your permission to bribe your children when need be. If giving them an extra piece of candy will save your relaxing boat ride or a trip to the museum, just do it.

32. Pack a First Aid Kit

Trips come with a diverse selection of adventures and activities. There’s also a possibility you’ll get some boo-boos along the way. Go ahead and throw a first aid kit in your suitcase. Hopefully, you won’t need it, but you’ll be glad it made the cut on the off-chance you do. 

33. Prepare Your Kids Ahead of Time

Depending on what type of vacation you’re taking, your kids will face lots of brand-new experiences. Why not talk to them about some of those things ahead of time?

Whether it’s conversations about safety, jet lag, language differences, using public transportation, hotel etiquette, or more, it’s beneficial to let them know what to expect when you get where you’re going. 

34. Don’t Forget Breastfeeding Essentials

Nursing moms on vacation have a whole other packing list they’ll need to consider. Before you leave home, please remember your breastfeeding supplies, such as breast pumps and nursing pads

35. Lower Your Expectations and Enjoy Your Family Vacation!

And finally, the #1 family travel tip we have to offer all you lovely mamas: have fun! 

Sure, taking trips can be stressful and unpredictable, but you have to remember what you’re there for in the first place–to have new experiences and create memories with the people you love most. 

Before you leave home, accept that things won’t go perfectly. You might not see every site or eat at every restaurant, but that doesn’t mean your trip won’t be successful.

It doesn’t take much to entertain children. Pack a calm mentality and low expectations, and you’ll be good to go!

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Do you have any other family travel tips that we forgot? Share yours below!