I hope we’ve proven that you shouldn’t listen to naysayers when it comes to traveling with your family (or anything at all for that matter!). If you are still feeling frazzled about booking a family getaway, here are some great tips to help you along the way. If you follow these, you should have the most memorable family vacation ever!
1.) Plan, plan, plan!
Even though you’ll need to throw your plan out the window sometimes and wing it, it’s always best to prepare when you can. You’ll want to plan out your destination, the best time of year to visit, your excursions, your budget, your meals, what you’re going to pack, etc. At least it’s fun planning! Consider what entertainment you’ll need for the kids during flights/car rides and what clothes you’ll be wearing for particular activities. Create a packing list well in advance so you don’t forget any essentials. Look up cheap places to eat as well as some fun and frugal activities for the kids so you aren’t surprised by prices when you arrive.
2.) Maintain an easy schedule
What this means is slow down! When you’re traveling with little kids, you’re going to need to take it easy. Don’t try to fit everything into one day (or even 3 sometimes.) Embrace all of those little moments together. Plus, kids need time to rest and recoup in between activities, and so do parents. Try to take those breaks into consideration when planning your itinerary to avoid crabby kids and adults.
3.) Look at it as an adventure
Although you’ll plan like crazy, things will always go awry. Like everything in life, there will be unforeseen circumstances but try to roll with them and enjoy the hiccups instead of letting them derail your trip. Get lost in a new city and consider it a grand adventure rather than a nightmare and you’ll be well on your way to a great vacation.
4.) Avoid the tourist traps
Usually the biggest and best sights to see often carry the most expense, as do the surrounding restaurants and gift shops. Stay away from the highly touristed areas by asking the locals their favorite places. You’ll get a more authentic (and cheaper) view of the city that way.
5.) Bribery works wonders
Kids will have meltdowns every so often. Instead of losing your cool, too, you can always bribe your munchkin with some ice cream, a souvenir or a lollipop when all else fails.
6.) Stay in a centrally located place
It may save more money to stay outside of the city, but when you’re traveling with kids it’s a better idea to stay close to all of the attractions, restaurants and activities to make the most of your time. It will save you travel time so you’ll get to spend more time at the places you love and a nap is never far away.
7.) Walk when you can
There are a lot of perks to walking when you’re on vacation: the strollers get some use instead of trying to pack them on trains or buses, you get to see more of the neighborhood culture, interact with the locals and the exercise never hurts!
8.) Get separate sleeping areas
No parent wants to call it a night at 8PM while on vacation just because the kids are happily sleeping in the same room. If you book a hotel with a suite option or 2 bedrooms, you can put the kids down in one room and enjoy the rest of your evening together in another. Airbnb.com is a great option for finding accommodation set-ups that will work for your family.
9.) Prepare for jet lag
If you’re crossing time zones, adjust your schedule to match your destination a few days before your flight to make it easier on your body when you land. Keep your first day free of activities so you can rest and avoid feeling like a zombie.
10.) Splurge on direct flights
When you’re traveling with small children, nothing is more important than getting to your destination as quickly as possible. Spend the extra money on direct flights to avoid connecting flight nightmares and wasted time in airport terminals.
11.) Sweat the small stuff!
Don’t forget the little things that help make the trip better: treats for good behavior, coloring books for downtime, small snacks, tylenol, band-aids, lots of plastic baggies (they always come in handy) and small bills for tipping & vending machines.
12.) Don’t scrimp on the travel insurance
It may seem like an unnecessary expense, but you should always play it safe when traveling with children. To save money, speak to an agent to get a package that covers only what you need and not a bunch of fluff.
13.) Ask for help
Traveling with kids can be tough sometimes. If someone offers to help lighten that burden, don’t refuse it. Flight attendants will often hold a baby if you need to use the restroom and you can reserve a baby bed on most international flights if you ask for it. The help is there, just ask and you shall receive!
14.) Know when to call it a day
Little ones get tuckered out quickly. If it’s been a busy day and your child is getting fussy, ditch the plans and head back to your room to rest. Remember to roll with the punches and make the most of it, even if you’re retiring earlier than expected. Wine usually makes everything better.