Family travel hints, tips and tricks for a smoother, more FUN ride to your destination! From the experts at TravelingMom.com and VolunteerSpot, you'll love these time and sanity-saving ideas for your next family trip!
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11 Expert Secrets to
Better Family Travel
01 GET QUIRKY
Come up with a family travel tradition you can
revisit with everytrip. The quirkier the better.
Search for the silliest postcards, then paste them
in a scrapbook with a note about where (and why)
you bought it. Take a funny photo at each
destination (same pose, different background;
same outfits, different background, etc.) Make a
game of looking for places with the most unusual
names. Bucksnort, Tennessee, anyone? How about
Bug Tussle, Alabama? When you spot a town that
fits, stop for food or a bathroom break and pose
for a family photo in front of the sign. It makes for
great photos and fun memories.
02 DON’T DO IT ALL YOURSELF
Even relatively young children can help plan the family vacation. Let them make small choices:
Should we go to the zoo on Tuesday or wait until Wednesday? Older kids, meanwhile, can be in
charge of planning a day or an outing, then becomes the leader for the day. (Just be sure to set
some limits and give them a budget.) Letting kids take the lead teaches them responsibility and
takes some of the pressure off of you. Best of all, you don’t have to take all of the blame if
something goes wrong.
03 BE NICE
You might be surprised at how much mileage
you can get out of a well-placed “please” and
“thank you” or a sympathetic word to a
harried front desk clerk. If you would like that
ocean view room or are hoping for an upgrade
to a junior suite, your chances increase
exponentially when you ask nicely rather
than demand rudely. Besides, you’ll be
modeling polite and empathetic behavior for
04 MAKE KIDS PULL THEIR OWN WEIGHT
Even preschoolers are used to wearing backpacks
these days. Have them pack their own backpacks
with toys and games they will use to keep
themselves busy during the trip (subject to your
oversight, of course). Children as young as 4 likely
can pull or push one of the new light-weight 4-
wheeled spinner roll-aboard suitcases. Take the
kids with you when you buy your suitcases and
have them give the bags a test push. This also is a
good way to teach kids to pack light. And it will
save you from: A) figuring out how to pull ALL of
the bags yourself, or B) paying $25 or more per
suitcase to check the bags at the airport.
05 BUY A BOX OF ZIPLOC BAGS
Ziploc bags (or the cheaper store brand) are your best
friend in travel packing. There are tons of ways to use
Ziplocbags, but the best is forparents of littleones still in
diapers. Pack several smaller zip-top plastic bags with
one diaper and several wipes each. Pack another large
bag with the diaper changing accoutrements—changing
pad, powder and ointments. When you have to change
the baby in one of those impossibly small airplane
lavatories, you won’t have to drag the entire diaper bag,
just two Ziplocs. Then, before tossing the dirty diaper,
zip it and its nasty smells into the empty bag that held
the clean diaper and wipes. Your fellow passengers will
06 DON’T WAGE ELECTRONICS WAR
Unless you only plan to vacation in some remote area
that is so far away from cell service that no one can
hear you – ever – just give in and accept the reality
that kids (and adults) will not want to give up their
electronics altogether. So don’t fight it. Instead, get
everyone to agree to a certain time each day when the
devices get turned off and everyone tunes into family.
That might be during an afternoon hike, over dinner,
or between 3 and 4pm every day. Whatever works
best for your family and your travels. (If you think this
will be easy, watch this Mom vs. Electronics video to
see just how challenging it can be.)
07 MAKE THE MOST OF MEALS OUT
Travel means eating out, which can be a challenge
with little ones. Make some practice runs before the
big trip. Head to your family-friendliest local
restaurant so you can teach the kids how to stay
seated while eating and why it’s important to use
their inside voices. Then tip big and get out quick.
When you’re on your trip, make a reservation for a
larger table in the corner (book the reservation for 6
even though there will be only 4 of you eating). That
means you’ll have plenty of room to park the stroller
and spread out with crayons and paper while you
wait for your food. Before you go, read all 8 tips for
eating out with kids.
08 GET APPY
What did we do before we had smartphones?
Travel must have been much more challenging.
These days, there’s an app for whatever travel
challenge you face. Are you driving? Download
Gas Buddy so you can find the nearest gas station
and cheapest gas. Managing a complicated trip?
TripIt will keep all of that info in one easily
accessed spot. Traveling with little ones? Get 123
Ninja - The First Numbers Slicing Game for Kids to
keep them busy and learning while you drive.
Check out this full list of travel apps
recommended by travel bloggers.
09 DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Kids will get more out of a trip if they know what to
expect before they go. Go online or head to the library
to find books about your destination. If you’re going
someplace with a strong historical claim to fame, learn
something about that history. If you’re going to a big
city famous for architecture, learn about the architect
who designed one of the buildings that dominates the
skyline. If you’re going to a Caribbean resort, learn
about the ocean and the fish you can expect to see
while you’re there. After you get home, head back to
the library to rent movies that were shot on location in
the place you visited. It’s always fun to see places in reel
life that you have seen in real life. You’ll be able to say,
“I was there!”
10 KEEP TRACK OF THE KIDS.
Few things are more terrifying than losing sight of
your child in a crowd. To make it easier to spot
your kids in a crowd, dress them in bright colors
such as neon green t-shirts. Snap a photo of them
each morning so you have an updated picture that
shows exactly what they look like and what they
are wearing; if the worst happens, you can share
that photo with the authorities. Securely attach a
luggage tag to a child’s shoe. If the kids are old
enough, show them a designated meeting spot
where you can meet if you lose one another.
Check out more tips for keeping kids safe in
11 DO THE FREE STUFF
This might be the best-kept secret in travel. Everyplace
has great, free, family-friendly things to do. From a fab
museum to a season full of summer concerts, there are
free things to do wherever
you go. How do you find the best free things
to do with kids? Stop at a playground in town.
While the kids run around, ask the other
parents for their recommendations.
They can tell you where to find free things,
which restaurants are affordable and kid-friendly and
what you shouldn’t miss while you’re in town. Or you can
check out this map of free things to do in all 50 states.
About the Author
Cindy Richards is a Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist
who serves as Editor-in-Chief of TravelingMom.com.
She’s been traveling with her kids, now college students,
since they were tiny tots.
She and the 68 family travel experts who make up the
TravelingMom Writers Network know that not
everything goes right when you travel--especially when
you travel with kids who complain, get crabby, barf, hit
one another and sometimes screw up the plans you made.
Sign up for our newsletter so we can help make your trip
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