Top Ten Tips for Traveling with Kids

By: Erica I. Peña-Vest

I often get asked by nervous parents what tips I have for traveling with children.  After all, I have two small kids (a two year old and a seven month old) and I often talk about what great travelers they are.  I like to tell people that they were destined to be good travelers as children of a naval aviator and a travel writer, but in all honesty, it’s just good planning.

Follow these tips and your kids will travel happy too. 

First, always make time for naps.  This includes those fun days at the amusement parks when your children say “But mom, I’m not tired”.  If you have children that are napping age, a daytime interruption of fun for a nap is a must!  Even if your children are not at the napping age, a trip to the hotel for some rest and relaxation is always a great way to recharge ones batteries. Call it a “regrouping/planning” meeting – that way older kids are less likely to protest.

Second, travel with entertainment for the road or the sky.  Make sure that those hours spent getting to the destination are enjoyable too.  For young children, bring things that will keep them busy for increments of time – activity books, a portable DVD player with their favorite movies, coloring supplies, etc.  For older kids, remind them to bring their headphones, Ipods, portable game machines, books, etc. There are infinite amount of ways of getting creative in this area.  It’s your job as a parent and trip planner to make the ‘getting there’ experience just as enjoyable as the trip itself.

Third, make allowances for grumpiness.  Ever heard the expression “You look the way I feel”? Well, for kids of all ages, they act the way we feel.  Connecting flights, long waits for amusement park rides, too much sun, too much stimulation causes all of us to get fussy. We, as adults, have merely learned to hide it better.  Kids haven’t.  When they are cranky, remember that scolding, yelling or threatening isn’t going to make the situation better – but a nap or a quiet moment back at the hotel will. 

Fourth, sometimes a snack makes everything better.  Always carry water and treats for those moments when your kids are hot, thirty, a little bit hungry and tired.  Sometimes a snack is the perfect pick-me-up. 

Fifth, never leave the house without Tylenol or Motrin for kids (and you too).  Have you ever been so tired at the end of a day at an amusement park that you feel pain in places that had never hurt before?  Well, kids are no different.  If you have small children, they may not be able to tell you that they are in pain.  I’m not recommending you medicate your children without reason.  I’m suggesting that you travel prepared and a handy first aid/medicine kit is a necessity.

Sixth, be mindful of the weather and dress your kids appropriately.  I learned this one the hard way.  We are stationed in the North where it snows in the winter but have family in the deep South were there is no winter.  Traveling home for the holidays with children in turtle necks and sweaters in 100 degree weather will make a trip go bad FAST.  Visit online weather sites that will give you a predicted weather pattern for the days of your visit and plan accordingly.   Also remember that on vacation, dress for comfort.  Having your children in dress clothes to visit Grandma in South Texas makes as much sense as me wearing heels to go to Disneyland.  We all want to look good, but while traveling placing a high priority on comfort will insure a more pleasant trip.

Seventh, don’t overdo the ‘visiting’.  As military families, we often spend our vacations visiting family.  If your family is like ours, we go house to house and visit aunts and uncles, grandparents and great grandparents and try to fit it all into a short schedule.  This often times leaves kids frustrated, over–stimulated and overwhelmed.  Try doing a few visits a day if time permits.  If not, have a party!  Get as much of your family together at one event as possible.  Try a barbeque at the park.  That way, you get to see your loved ones and the kids are not confined to a house or multiple stops.

Eight, include your kids in trip preparations. Including your little ones in the planning helps them feel as if they are part of the vacation too, not just added luggage.  Remember that the anticipation of the trip can sometimes be just as fun as the trip itself if handled correctly. Order maps from the local convention and visitors bureau, buy books about your destination, check to see if the local tourist bureau has videos available, surf informative websites devoted to your destination.  All of these planning steps help get children excited about their upcoming adventure.  The more excited they are about their trip, the more likely they are to do their part to help make it memorable. 

Nine, the most important part of your trip is making a memory (not recording it).  The first thing I pack when I travel is my camera and Flip.  I love capturing those one of a kind moments like the first time my son saw Mickey Mouse…but I constantly have to remind myself that making the memory is more important than recording it.  Sure, pictures and videos are a great souvenir but we have to make sure that we don’t spend all of our vacation behind a camera.  Ask any celebrity and they will tell you that the worst part of their job is being followed, photographed and gawked at like a fish in a bowl.  Most children feel the same.  I know that after a couple of pictures my son takes my camera from me, takes me by the hand and leads me to fun.  That’s his way of asking me to not just record the memory but to be part of it.  Sometimes the greatest lessons we learn are from our children.  This, for me, was one of them.

Lastly, for my tenth tip – have fun!  Don’t get so busy with the planning, the schedule keeping, the baby sitting, the kid herding that you forget to enjoy yourself.  Vacations have a way of working themselves out if well planned.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy the trip.  Remember, if you think back to your childhood vacations, even the worst trip you took is one of the memories you cherish.  It’s about time with family, it’s about moments that you can never get back, it’s about exploration and adventure, it’s about bonding…but most of all it’s about making a memory. 

———– is proud to be featuring the travel articles of Erica I. Pena-Vest to our users. Erica is a travel industry veteran with over ten years of experience in public and media relations. Erica has worked with hundreds of travel writers before becoming one herself in 2004. As a Navy wife, Erica understands the needs of military families and focuses her research and articles to travel deals for those in the armed services. Erica’s travel column is appropriated titled “Sweet Land of Liberty”. works hard to bring a multitude of resources and information to our audience. This site has thousands of pages of resources and information. There is something for everyone. Users refer to, as the “the Go To Site” for the military and veteran communities. When the next tour is back home, it’s on MilitaryConne