Family travel can be overwhelming. From wrangling children to figuring out what to pack to planning your travel itinerary ahead of time, it can be a challenge to create that memorable experience you dream about. But being prepared and anticipating those challenges ahead of time will help make your family travel go smoothly.
With some preparation and know-how, you can make your next family trip the best one ever. Here are some tips to help.
The more you plan ahead, the smoother your trip will go. Make sure you know what you need to pack, where you’re going, and what to expect when you get there. You can plan for yourself or hire a planning service to do it for you. Vacation planning services are great for taking the stress of your plate, and they organize everything so that all you have to do is show up.
But even if you hire out the planning, be sure to create a packing list and bring along everything you might need, such as a passport or ID, appropriate clothing, money, and medications.
Be Prepared for Surprises
As with any trip, things can go wrong – so be prepared for the unexpected. Pack extra clothes, snacks, and toys in case of emergencies. Understand that your luggage may be lost, so keep anything important in your carry-on bags, along with an extra set of clothing, if possible.
While it’s most likely that everything will go to plan, you never know what could happen, and it’s always best to be prepared.
Divide and Conquer
If possible, try to split up duties with your spouse. For example, one of you can watch the kids at the airport while the other gets food or goes to the bathroom. If you have a large family, you can split the children so that each of you looks after an equal amount.
The same goes for planning and preparation. One can be in charge of packing, while another takes care of booking. Just be sure not to split any specific activities. Most issues arise when one person thinks the other took care of something, and they didn’t. For instance, when two people split packing duties, and each assumes the other packed the passports – only to find out too late that neither actually did.
The solution is to split jobs up equally, but let one person take care of the entire job themselves.
Pack Games and Activities For All Ages
Don’t forget that it’s important to plan for each member of your family – something that might be exciting for your 8-year old son may bore your 4-year old daughter. Luckily, in these days of tablet computers, you can create profiles for different kids with separate games, books, videos, etc. That way each child can have their own activities to work on at any time.
Trying to remain calm will also help your kids relax, so remember to breathe! If you’re having a rough time, ask someone for help before things get too bad.
Create Learning Opportunities
Even the laziest vacations can be made educational. If you can take your kids somewhere amazing AND help them learn something at the same time, you’re definitely on to a winner.
Taking a cruise? Take the opportunity to teach your kids about the engineering that keeps your ship afloat and allows it to zoom across the water.
Headed to the beach? There’s a whole world waiting under the ocean, and your kids will love to learn about it.
Keep Travel Time Engaging
Whether you’re driving or flying, the actual travel time to your destination can often be a big headache for you and your kids. Keep them occupied and distracted from boredom by making sure they have access to their favorite videos and games via tablet. Bring along a book or magazine that they like. And keep a few of their favorite snacks on hand for when they’re peckish.
One of our favorite family activities is to pick a book that all of us can follow. We simply download the audiobook and play it in the car as we go. Check out some of the best audio books for kids, and download a few before your next trip. Don’t forget the headphones!
Build Up Excitement
Whether you choose to tell your kids about your plans far in advance or surprise them last minute, getting the whole family excited is one of the best parts of taking a vacation! With little kids, it’s probably best not to tell them too far in advance, as otherwise they start to get upset when the trip doesn’t come soon enough. But even on a few days notice, you can start a super cool countdown to keep them on the straight and narrow until it’s time to set off on your new adventure. There are even a ton of awesome ideas to surprise them with fun announcements.
Make Sure You Have Everything Covered
Whether you’re traveling during school holidays or your kids have to miss a few days, make sure you plan for every eventuality. If they are going to be missing school, be sure to give the teacher a heads up and get all the missed work before you go. The last thing you want is for your child to fall behind.
It’s an especially good idea if you can speak to the teacher and find out what the lesson plan is so you can incorporate real learning opportunities into your travel plans. If you’re traveling during school breaks, be sure you have looked into house sitters, pet sitters, and mail delivery so you don’t have to worry about anything while you’re gone.
Don’t Miss Your Own Vacation!
One of the biggest things I hear people say when they get back home after a vacation is, “I’m so exhausted! I need a vacation from my vacation!” To keep yourself relaxed and in the zone, make sure you don’t put too much pressure on yourselves.
As much fun as snapping photos can be, remember to actually ENJOY your activities as you do them. Your memories of the experience are far better than pictures to show those who weren’t there. And don’t try to pack in too much. You don’t have to see every single sight while you’re there. Pick your top can’t-miss activities and explore each one thoroughly. Give yourself time each day to just relax and do nothing.
And it’s always a good idea to make sure you head home with at least 24 hours before you have to head back to work.
What other travel tips would you add to the list?
Katie Reed is a passionate writer and mother of four vivacious boys from Salt Lake City, Utah. Drawing from her own journey through TTC, pregnancy, and the joys of raising children, she offers a wealth of insight into the world of motherhood. Beyond her heartfelt tales, Katie delights her readers with family-friendly recipes, engaging crafts, and a curated library of printables for both kids and adults. When she’s not penning her experiences, you’ll find her crafting memories with her husband and sons—Dexter, Daniel, Chester, and Wilder.