I was so stuck in my little mommy world that when I first heard the term wanderlust, I actually googled it! I honestly feel so out of touch with reality sometimes. Wanderlust is "a strong urge or desire to travel." I had a feeling that's what it meant. So yeah, I have wanderlust. Makes sense that I'd have it considering that the place I "travel" most often to get a little time away is the bathroom! Yet even there, my toddler's tiny little fingers manage to open the door in search of me.
Our family carves out chunks of time from our busy lives to travel. And for the most part, our travel is with kids. Let's be honest here...as exciting as it sounds to leave the kids with the grandparents and go on a vacation, it isn't that easy for many of us. We don't all have grandparents living close by or babysitters that we trust enough to handle overnight stays with our kids. Maybe even just the mere thought of leaving little ones for an extended period of time causes mommy anxiety to hit the roof. Not that I know this personally or anything! Sometimes just a little change of scenery outside of our home is what we need to feel refreshed, even if that means we bring our kids along with us!
We like to make travel a priority for many reasons. There's something so sweet about the excitement a planned trip brings to our home. The chatter about the trip and the anticipation it brings, packing the suitcase, and then packing it again and again and again when your toddler throws the clothes out of the suitcase onto the floor. Doing some last minute shopping for fun, healthy road trip snacks. Adding a new activity to each child's backpack to keep them busy during the plane or car ride. Purchasing that brand new bathing suit AND cover up because the thought of wearing a bathing suit with your new "mom bod" makes you cringe. You just can't seem to get around to actually attempting that Whole30 yet huh? The thought of getting away from the "Groundhog Day" feel of motherhood activities is very much needed for most mamas. For many of you, vacation seems to be the only time you and your spouse are under one roof after temporarily putting aside all the crazy work schedules affecting family time. Whether it's a day trip to a local zoo, a weekend trip to Sesame Place, a family cruise, a visit to see our family in NYC, a short beach trip or a week long getaway to Disney World, ANY trip our family takes is very refreshing.
As stressful as traveling with kids can be, proper planning in the packing stages and during the actual trip itself can take the stress levels down a bit. I absolutely LOVE planning family vacations. I really think I've missed my calling of being a travel agent. I enjoy looking for the best deals, making packing lists and reading reviews to ensure that the destinations we choose will fit into our style of travel.
In our many years of travel with kids, I've had to learn some things the hard way. Though it's inevitable that you'll have to learn some things by experience, it would have been really nice if I had known at least some of these travel tips when I had my first little one!
So, here are 20 tips for travel with kids that will make your life and your trip a little less stressful and a LOT more fun!
#1. Packing Cubes -
One word...GENIUS! If you've never heard of packing cubes, they are basically durable, little organizer bags that you can use to store each person's clothes. They can fit A LOT in one little bag and the clothes end up getting less wrinkled because they stay in one place during the trip. Each of our children gets a cube. When we get to our destination, the older kids take their packing cube and unpack it inside a draw. It avoids everyone having to bring along their own mini suitcases that take up so much room! Prior to using these packing cubes, it was difficult keeping the family's clothes organized. The set I've linked to above is the one we have. It comes with a separate laundry bag with a drawstring that I hang in the hotel room for everyone's dirty laundry. I highly recommend them!
#2. Pack Healthy Snacks -
Packing some healthy, protein packed snacks can minimize the amount of stops you will have to make if you're driving in the car. They'll also avoid you having to purchase airplane food when hunger strikes. Healthy, nutritious snacks will have a positive impact on everyone's mood and curb hunger cravings until the plane lands or you make it to the next rest stop. Put them in a mini cooler bag to keep them fresh. If you have to do some last minute shopping for clothes on your trip, head to Marshalls. Surprisingly, they have some gluten free and paleo, healthy snack options so you can maximize your time prepping for your vacation. If you're a procrastination master like me, you save everything until the last minute! If you have a little one and make your own baby food, pack it inside these reusable snack pouches. They are great space savers when traveling and you can control the ingredients that go into them!
Some snack options perfect for travel are: fresh fruit, Rx Bars, Larabars, Chomp Sticks, Epic Meat Bars, Almond Butter Squeeze Packets, hard boiled eggs, Bare Apple Chips and other types of dried fruit.
(It's much better to munch on dried fruit than candy but be sure to avoid dried fruit when you are first attempting a whole30. You very well could awake that sugar dragon if you aren't careful. Dried fruit has high sugar content. Although it is naturally occurring sugar, it's still sugar nonetheless).
You can even make your own trail mix with your favorite nuts and add some raisins for sweetness! If you have a Trader Joe's nearby, it would be the most economical place to purchase nuts and dried fruit. Best of all, each of the snacks I've listed above are Whole30 approved! Who says eating healthy isn't tasty?! 😉
#3. Pick Your Travel Time Wisely!
If you still have a little napper, choose a travel time that is the most optimal for naps. Our toddler naps around 1:00pm so if at all possible, we make sure to leave right at that time so that the first few hours of the trip, she will sleep. If you are driving, make sure you start the trip off with a full tank of gas! When a toddler is being lulled to sleep by the motion of the car, stopping for gas could wake them up! We've made this mistake before and it was not pleasant. Traveling overnight is another option that will allow kids to sleep, but it's not easy on the parents, unless you are a vampire like my husband and can stay awake at all hours with no problem! 😉
#4. Lollipops are your friend!
I don't always give my children candy but desperate times call for desperate measures. An organic lollipop will sometimes buy you an extra twenty minutes and could mean the difference between a meltdown or a smile of joy! It's also a good thing to give to younger kids if you're on a plane ride. It may help to ease any ear pain they might experience from the cabin pressure during take off/landing.
#5. Play something new on iPads and Portable DVD players & a toddler car seat travel tray is a GAME CHANGER!
If you normally avoid putting your kids in front of a screen for long periods of time on a daily basis, I'm right there with you! When it's vacation time though, we bend the rules A LOT. I like to think of it this way...I'm almost certain that a few hours of screen time will not negatively impact your children's development and I'm also certain that screen time in the car or on the plane will make me a better mom! ;-)
In fact when we do allow screen time, we try to put some educational media in front of them like Signing Time! TV. This is a digital media system that encompasses a complete library of Baby Signing Time, Potty Time, Signing Time, and TreeSchoolers Science videos which enhance early learning and teach important social skills through fun songs. Rachel and the Treechoolers was actually denied a spot on a top television station for being "too educational for mainstream television." Unbelievable!
We have the entire library of products and the best thing about them is that once they are purchased and downloaded to your device, you do not need an internet connection to watch them, making them a perfect option for Internet-less traveling!
Enter code "JackieC" at checkout for 5% off your one time purchase. SHOP HERE
Try out a monthly subscription package for $0.99 the first month with code "sign99" and you'll receive the entire library of products mentioned above. You can cancel at anytime. SHOP HERE
Now for the GAME CHANGING Toddler Car Seat Travel Tray. Car seats are super important for obvious safety reasons but it's so difficult for kiddos in a five point harness to work on activities and eat snacks without things falling on the floor. It's extremely frustrating for parents in the front seat to have to turn around and grab things all the time. This tray wraps around their car seat and has elastic holders for the ipad, cups, crayons, etc. Genius! We have the one pictured below for our toddler.
It will most likely not be feasible to allow your child to nap in a comfy bed everyday on vacation. Because of this, make every effort to ensure that "stroller naps" last as long as possible. Use a portable fan if it's hot out and a warm blanket that's not too bulky and easy to take with you, when it's cold. Little things like this can make a big difference in the length of time your toddler sleeps when out and about. Consider storing a lightweight, drawstring backpack underneath the stroller so that you can put some necessities inside without having to carry a big diaper bag around. When my first daughter was around 15 months, we went on a Carnival Cruise to Bermuda. When the ship docked, we strolled out and headed to the bus that would take us to the beach. The bus driver told me to fold the stroller up. I was so unprepared to do that! I had neatly placed so many things in the bottom of the stroller basket without even thinking about the fact that I'd have to close it up! Mom brain at it's finest! I embarrassingly spent the next few minutes handing each diaper, sunscreen, towel, wallet, etc. to my husband just to fold up the stroller as everyone behind me in line stared at me like they'd never seen a child before in their life! Having a drawstring backpack underneath the stroller enables me to take it out from underneath and fold up the stroller in a pinch. This is perfect for those Disney trips we take where we are constantly parking the stroller and taking our valuables with us on rides.
#7. Get your smoothie on!
If you and your family are eating fairly healthy on a regular basis, going on vacation will wreak havoc on your digestive system if you aren't careful! If you're like us, you will eat more food than usual and have A LOT more dessert! It is vacation after all, right?! The problem with this is that if your body is no longer used to this type of food intake, you won't feel very good and neither will your kids. I stumbled upon Daily Harvest* and thought it was a great idea! It's difficult enough to pack necessities for vacation, never mind having to think about prepping healthy food too! Daily Harvest has organic, fresh, pre-packaged smoothie cups, chia parfaits, overnight oats and soups. These are perfect to bring along on vacation and store in the fridge so that at least one meal of the day will be super nutritious! In fact, it could possibly help you save some money by going out to eat a little less often. What I especially love about the smoothies is that all you have to do is add your liquid of choice, no prep required! My plan is to try this company out on our next trip to Disney World! Breakfast or lunch can be substituted with a Daily Harvest smoothie blended with a portable Towabo blender.
*I am not receiving compensation from Daily Harvest for this plug. I just really love promoting companies that enable families to make healthy eating easy and stress free!
#8. Make a packing list.
If you're used to traveling and packing for a trip without kids, believe me, kids bring a whole new dynamic to packing. You'll want to make sure to make a list and check it twice. Otherwise you might end up spending $20 on Frozen themed underwear for your 4 year old at Disney World. Not like I'd know this from experience or anything!
#9. Portable Potty for car.
Not all restrooms are pleasant experiences. This portable potty has saved me many trips to the bathroom with my kids. It comes with absorbent potty liners. When you run out of those, here's a little tip - Save the diapers that your child has grown out of. You can use them to line the bottom of a plastic bag and create your own liners when you run out! This potty can be used as a stand alone potty or it can go on top of a traditional toilet seat too! We keep it in the car for our road trips.
#10. Reusable Water Bottles.
I carry my Kleen Kanteen water bottle everywhere but especially on road trips. A reusable water bottle helps keep everyone hydrated with fresh cold water. Plastic bottles can leach harmful chemicals into your your water, especially when the plastic is exposed to heat. You should never drink water from a plastic bottle that's been sitting in a hot car. Using a bottle made with stainless steel is safer, and as an added bonus it keeps the water cool for a long period of time. We usually buy a few gallon jugs of Poland Spring water when we get to our hotel and refill our bottles as needed.
Another option that we used on our last Disney World trip, is this Brita filtered personal water bottle. You do you not have to purchase water bottles for astronomical prices! I'd rather save my money and use it on a Mickey ice cream bar! Yes, I do indulge in unhealthy food too from time to time, especially on vacation. Any quick service food station will give you a cup of tap water for free. Pour it into your Brita filtered personal water bottle and you are good to go! You can have filtered water anywhere you go! This is also great for formula feeding moms that need filtered water for bottles.
#11. Don't forget to check the weather forecast and bring a long sleeved shirt or a hooded sweatshirt for each member of your family.
Just because it's summer, you never know when a rainstorm will hit, cooling the air down a bit. Someone could get struck with a fever and want to bundle up at night while sleeping, or the air conditioning could be a lot stronger than what you're used to! This is something I've forgotten far too often and when you're cold and uncomfortable, you'll pay the money for a sweatshirt. I find it so annoying having to unnecessarily spend money when I already have something appropriate at home!
#12. Bring the baby monitor.
If you have a little one, whether or not you'll have separate sleeping quarters in your accommodations, you might want to bring the baby monitor with you. Babies, oftentimes will wake up on vacation because they aren't familiar with their surroundings, even if they are usually great sleepers! We took a trip to Cape Cod, and stayed at the Green Harbor Resort in a cottage when my second daughter, Chloë, was under a year old. I really wish I had brought the baby monitor. We spent a lot of time that week on the deck outside watching my older daughter play with some friends she met. It would have been really convenient to not have to go in and out of the house to check on the baby when she napped! This video monitor has lasted us over 11 years and it's still going strong!
#13. Don't forget to bring your toddler's sleep essentials.
No matter where we travel we try to keep our bedtime routine as consistent as possible. My toddler sleeps with her "blankie" every night! It's super soft, made from organic cotton, and is lightweight. She also loves her "Pua." (We're big Moana fans.) Basically, anything having to do with Hawaii, our favorite travel destination in the world, is our jam! 😉 No matter where we sleep, we try and keep the kid's bedtime routine as normal and familiar as possible. This includes bringing their favorite bedtime story along with us. It really helps make their transition into sleeping in an unfamiliar place, a little easier.
#14. Bring a Baby Carrier
We love our Lillebaby Complete carrier. It has wonderful back support which is perfect for vacations in which you might be walking more than normal. It is easy to nurse in it on the go and also has a zipper function on the back to allow for more airflow when it's hot outside. Believe it or not, we've used this for our five year old in Disney World after a long day in the parks while the baby was in the stroller! She is on the smaller side for a five year old but this carrier can fit kids up to 35 pounds!
It makes sense that someone would be more prone to getting sick on vacation. Eating differently, getting less sleep, all while burning more energy in new places and around new people means new exposure to germs. Because of this, we try and do what we can to take steps to ensure that we're naturally boosting our immunity as much as possible. Sicknesses may strike regardless of what we do, but since these things have been scientifically proven to be immune boosters, I feel it can't hurt to try them!
Elderberry syrup has been shown in studies to not only boost immunity but actually reduce the duration of an illness. Giving this syrup to the kids in the morning can't hurt! In the winter, I order dried elderberries on Amazon and make my own syrup to give to the kids everyday as a preventative measure to ward off those winter germs! It's more economical to make your own, especially when you have a big family. Wellness Mama has a great recipe that we use!
Giving your kids a high quality children's multivitamin is a good to implement into your daily routine but it's especially important on vacation when kids' nutrition isn't exactly on point. We take these SmartyPants Kids Complete Fiber Multivitamin with wild caught fish oil. I've researched children's vitamins extensively. These are very high quality and affordable. Unfortunately, most of the vitamins in conventional grocery stores are made with harmful ingredients.
There's been a lot of buzz lately about the importance of gut health. Maintaining a healthy gut is essential to ward off germs. Because of this, we give the kids probiotics, especially on vacation. I sprinkle the recommended dose into a little applesauce in the mornings with their breakfast. Garden of life is a very reputable vitamin company. Their kid's probiotic powder is certified organic and is also gluten and soy free.
When sickness does strike on vacation, being prepared with a thermometer, dye free children's Motrin and some raw camu camu powder can help ensure you return back to health quickly! Camu fruit is the highest documented source of vitamin C and it's safe enough for the tiniest members of your family.
This is not something I thought about on our first long road trip to New York City. It was a little frustrating to hear separate movies playing from the tablets in the backseat of the car. When my husband and I wanted to listen to music, it drowned out the sound of the girl's movies and caused a lot of unnecessary griping that could have been avoided had we brought headphones for each of them. These headphones are the ones we have. They are foldable too which is a great space saver!
#17. Pack some disinfecting wipes.
Bringing these to your hotel room and doing a quick wipe down of the door knobs and television remote control can go a long way in preventing sickness. If you're traveling in the winter, this should be a priority. Germs can last on surfaces for a long time and I'm pretty sure that most hotel cleaning companies do not truly disinfect all surfaces prior to each new guest's arrival. We love Seventh Generation's disinfecting wipes. They sanitize surfaces without harmful chemicals.
#18. Bring soap and water sponges.
Pack these Pura Naturals Cleaning Sponges. They are infused with soap and make clean up easy! If you're going to travel with kids, you'll ultimately have to wash something during the week. Most hotels do not have a fully stocked kitchen, especially if you are traveling on a limited budget. Having something to wash bottles, sippie cups, pacifiers etc. will make your life easier. These dry Pura Naturals Cleaning Sponges are great and since there's no liquid soap involved they can go right into your carry-on, on the plane too!
#19. Bring along a portable charger.
You'll probably be taking extra pictures on your devices to document those memories you are making! This means that your cell phone battery will most likely conk out on you before your head hits the pillow at night. With this compact portable charger, when your battery needs a recharge, there's no need to stress about it! Just plug it in and get on with your day! We use this charger for our Disney trips because the My Disney Experience App we use to navigate through the parks tends to drain our cell phone battery pretty quickly.
#20. Last but not least, take it slow!
Prior to having kids, I loved seeing as many sights as possible during my vacations. Since I've become a mom, I've come to see that, as cliché as it sounds, sometimes less really is more! Stop rushing around and instead, enjoy every moment with your kids. Linger a little longer at the pool because your kids are having a blast, even if that means you'll have to cancel that dinner reservation and grab a quick bite to eat instead. It's not pleasurable when everyone is cranky and experiencing burn out because they haven't been able to unwind and rest. If you're like me and you LOVE seeing as many sights as possible, force yourself to slow down for your family's sake. When kids become teenagers, I'm sure they'll be able to handle faster paced vacations. 😉 They're only little for such a short period of time - savor these moments, let them be kids, and make memories that last!
I hope these 20 tips for travel with kids were helpful to you! Do you have any travel tips? I'd love to hear them. Share them in the comments!
*This post contains affiliate links. Read our affiliate policy here.