After we almost swore off travelling with our kids for good, I reached out to several friends and asked if travelling with their kids made them also question their life choices.
The “good” news is the answer was mostly yeses all around, phew! Misery loves company, am I right?
Then in 2020, we took a trip to Whistler and somehow came home feeling connected and refreshed instead of rattled and shameful, as we had after our 2019 Whistler trip.
You can read about that travel nightmare here.
In an attempt to duplicate success for future trips and help other parents who want to get off the struggle bus, I’ve asked several friends to weigh in with their best advice for travelling with kids and included my best travel tips below.
We hope you find it helpful. 💛
The Panel shares their best tips and mindset tricks for travelling with kids.
Laura Irwin’s Travel Tips
One week away = two weeks you pay.
Everyone prepares themselves for horrible flights or sleepless nights when they travel with children, but I forget almost every time to emotionally prepare myself for the work that is required when you get back home.
Expect disrupted sleep schedules, and an extra workload (think extra laundry and general catch up from being away.) You wouldn’t expect to be away from work for a week and not have hundreds of emails waiting for you. The same applies at home.
Help yourself out by ordering groceries to be delivered the day after you get back, and leave a clean house (or hire someone if you can.)
Another hot tip that I always like to suggest is to order diapers online and have them shipped directly to your destination if it’s possible. Whenever we visit Grammie in Toronto you better believe I am not packing a week’s worth of diapers in my suitcase! That applies to any other essentials that you might need.
Shannon Sawicki’s Travel Tips
My kids are 5, 14 and 21. As you can imagine having kids of such varying ages can make it challenging to find activities that satisfy everyone. In our experience (Month in Europe), trading off and taking shifts was effective, but we also spent a lot of time juggling interests to keep everyone happy.
I recommend talking ahead of time before a specific destination has been planned. Ask each family member whether this destination and the possible activities could be of interest. Explain to each family member that they have a say but that there will be compromises from time to time.
Accept that disagreements will arise. Try to come to a consensus that can appeal to the majority. While there needs to be a set destination, allow for flexibility once at the location in terms of what activities are planned.
Above all and regardless of age, be sure to have lots of snacks and refreshments available.
When kids and adults are restless, it may be partly due to hunger. Make sure to have snacks easily accessible, particularly on longer drives or train rides. This can help to soothe a kid’s temper or help an adult feel less fatigued. Pack a variety of things like:
- Snacks such as fruit slices, carrots, nuts, and granola bars
- Sweet treats like cookies, candy, and fruit snacks
- Filling foods like sandwiches, cheese, and crackers and sandwich meat
- Drinks such as water, juice, and if you are travelling with babies or toddler milk.
Connie Hobbis’ Travel Tips
When it comes to travelling with kids, there is no such thing as overplanning, says Connie Hobbis, intrepid mom of 2 young kids aged 5 and 3. What I like to remember when adventuring with young kids is my 3 F Rule— Fanny, Fingers and Food.
When travelling with others who need support, more hands are better than less. For me, keeping my hands free and important items close is key to accessibility. I like to invest in a good swing fanny pack that can be worn in the front or the back. Depending on the style of the trip, the fanny pack might turn into a small backpack that carries only essentials. With that said, I would also invest in a comfortable baby carrier (depending on how young your children are) as there’s not enough bribery in the world that can stop a little tired one with jello legs.
Having new toys to entertain our littles on long-haul flights and car rides will keep them learning and focused. The keyword here is “new,” so they are extra inclined to play. I would also say plan ahead, and make-your-own activity book (a tip I learned from another mama friend, Tasha) is a great way to keep kids excited about what they will see in this new environment.
Lastly, don’t forget your snacks (and water)… and mommy snacks too, because when mommy is taken care of, the family is taken care of.
Susan Tran’s Travel Tips
If you’re not stressing, then you’re doing it wrong. Next year, we are taking the entire family to Vietnam, and I have fully accepted that it will be a complete sh*t show. Lean into it and accept that life is crazy right now and will be for a while. #noshameinmygame
Christine’s Tips for Traveling with Kids
Expect a crap night sleep the first night away.
The beds are weird, the lights aren’t quite right, and the excitement is high. In a decade of parenting, we have never had a restful first night’s sleep. Keeping this in mind prevents us from packing the first full day away with an itinerary that will send everyone into a melt downy spiral.
Keep your expectations low, low, low.
This is where I constantly get myself into trouble. What can I say? I’m a dreamer. I always imagine an epic love-filled, memory-making frolic in a new place only to get disappointed when one of the five of us are… well, human and not robots.
Don’t expect to lounge by the pool, read a book or flip through a magazine; This is not that trip.
This might be the hardest lesson to learn. We are so programmed to think of travel as restful downtime. There is no rest for you if your children are under the age of six.
As the saying goes, “If you’re going with kids, it’s not a vacation. It’s a trip.” Get your head right before the trip, and you’ll save yourself a world of heartache.
Pack all the snacks. Add more. Now add a few more for good luck.
I don’t go anywhere without my food bag. Once they eat the original “home” snacks, I use any Tupperware I brought to save leftovers and pack more snacks for other days. Yes, you now travel with Tupperware. 😅
Trust your Mommy senses and pivot accordingly.
Spending a ton of money on a family adventure only to have miserable children is never fun. The goals of our last trip to Whistler were a change of scenery and to experience the Peak to Peak Gondola.
The morning, we planned to do the gondola, the kids were all “off,” so we pivoted and took a stroll in the village instead. Cows ice cream has a way of perking up the grumpiest of kiddos.
Pay attention to when you feel burnt out and ask for help.
The captain of fun can’t go down, or the whole ship sinks. Keep lines of communication open. Ask for alone time if you feel snappy, and leave time allowances between events for quiet downtime.
If you are travelling on a plane, always pack extra clothes for yourself and more baby clothes than you think you’ll need in your carry-on. I swear every plane ride we’ve been on has ended in a diaper explosion. You’ve been warned.
What to Pack When Travelling with Kids
These are some of the must-have travel items for our family:
- Headsets for every family member
- Art supplies, small toys, travel games, stickers
- Clean snacks, just say no to cheezies
- Favourite stuffy or comfort item
- Baby Tylenol
- Creams or lotions, especially when travelling in hot weather
- Flip flops & robes for getting to the pool
- Earplugs, for parents.
- For extra points, bring along the tooth fairy box (if your family has a special one.) I’ve never actually used it but it makes me feel like a super mom for even thinking about it. 😘
If you’re headed somewhere sunny, don’t forget the sunscreen, hats and sunglasses.
Did we miss anything? Tell us in the comments what your best travel tips are?