There isn’t much that strikes more fear into the heart of a parent than traveling with kids. It’s pretty much seen as a nightmare situation that many parents consider a hilarious joke when it’s suggested. Go ahead, try to suggest a vacation with kids to the next parent you come across. The good news is that traveling with children doesn’t have to be terrible. In fact, if you are prepared, a parent can handle anything. Think about it. On a regular basis you handle vomit, lost homework, a shaved dog, multiple meltdowns, and a naked toddler who just tried to make a break for it out the front door…and that’s all before your first cup of coffee.
A prepared parent cannot only endure family travel, but they can make it the trip of a lifetime. Whether you are a dad or a mom, you have have it in you to plan a trip that you and your kids will talk about for years to come. As a dad who loves this stuff, I like to call it being a #TravelMANager. Here are a few tips that every dad and mom must know to pull off that incredible trip with their kids.
1. Pack a carry-on for each kid.
Every ticketed passenger can bring a free carry-on so take advantage of that. With many airlines charging for each checked bag, space can be tight and expensive. Not only can you put toys for your kids in their carryon, but you can also put a few extra light clothing items (shirts, shorts, etc.) in the bottom to help clear out space in your checked suitcases.
2. Load two-to-three sealable plastic baggies filled with toys, activities, and snacks.
A good #TravelMANager rule is to fill one zipper type plastic baggie per hour that you will travel. Fill it with toys, small puzzles, coloring books, etc. You can also put some special snacks in there. Every hour, take out another bag for your child to open and entertain themselves with. This way they don’t get bored with their toys before the plane leaves the ground, or your car leaves the driveway. Another plus is that they don’t have to spend the whole trip staring at a screen.
3. Bring a sealable baggie for garbage and wet wipes.
You can either bring some extra baggies or use ones that you empty out using the tip above. Have you
ever noticed that garbage seems to multiply like rabbits during a trip? Used plastic baggies are perfect to stuff your trash into. We all know wet wipes are pretty much gold to a parent. Ok, let’s be honest, they are more valuable than gold. Gold can’t wipe that sticky unknown substance from the car door handle. You can never have enough wipes on a trip, so pack extras in those baggies!
4. Organize your hotel room as soon as you check in.
Your hotel room should be your sanctuary, but for it to become one, you need organization. I know that when your family has a new city to explore, the last thing anyone wants to do is unpack. However, if you do it right away you will save time and frustration later on. Start by hanging up clothes, filling the dressers, and establishing an area to put dirty clothes. A garbage bag is also helpful to separate the soiled clothes from everything else.
5. Bring a sound machine for a better night’s sleep.
While you can pick out a fantastic family friendly hotel, like Homewood Suites or Home2 Suites, you never know how your kids will sleep in a new place. There are new beds, new sounds, and their brother with his feet in their face. Weird noises can keep your kids up all night, and the next day magically turn them into angry beasts, the likes of which are only found in horror movies. You can skip that trauma by bringing along a portable white noise machine. Some, like ours above, can also be hooked up to an iPod and doubles as a nightlight. They easily fit in luggage and can save your sleep and your sanity.
6. Discover local family friendly spots to eat before you go, but be flexible enough to ask locals for their favorite restaurants.
There are plenty of helpful websites that can show you the best places for your family to devour local cuisine, but remember to also ask the locals where they prefer to dine. I like to have a highly organized strategy for experiencing an entire area. Sometimes this works, but if I relax and actually ask people from the area what they enjoy, we find better places than we ever could through the internet alone. Also, always ask your hotel concierge where the closest drug store is. You never know when you might need cold medicine, diapers, or even a late night tub of ice cream. The ice cream is for you, not the kids. A pro #TravelMANager will just eat it under their covers at night so the kids don’t even know it exists.
7. Always take advantage of the included breakfast.
A family is always on a budget, but you don’t need to cut corners, just stay at a hotel with a free hot breakfast like Homewood Suites or Home2 Suites (pictured below). Eating at the hotel will save you time and money. With the extra funds you can splurge on a better dinner, fun souvenirs, or even afford admission to a fun local attraction. Eating a hot and tasty free breakfast doesn’t take away from the experience, it adds to the enjoyment!
8. Don’t forget the disposable toilet seat covers.
Any parent who has ever done the “public bathroom don’t touch anything” dance where you have to somehow place strips of toilet paper on the toilet, while making sure your kid doesn’t explore the tile floor, knows every second counts. When you are on-the-go, racing to different attractions and eating at different restaurants, you never know what supplies are in the next bathroom. So until you get back to your nice and clean Homewood Suites bathroom you should carry around travel packs of disposable toilet seat covers. The peace of mind, and spending as little time as possible in the public restroom, is worth it.