Holiday Travel With Kids

We will miss our KCCC families over the holiday break. Here are some great travel tips that will make your vacations easier with kids. Have a fun and safe break!

Photo by Brady Knoll on

Plan For Everything

Even the best-laid plans sometimes go awry, so try to go into your trip with a sense of flexibility. You’ve done all you can do to get ready for the trip, but kids are unpredictable. Know that however this trip goes, you’ll come out the other side. Your sense of calm and composure will also benefit your kids. If you are anxious and quick to react, your kids will pick up on it.

Divide and Conquer

Talk to your travel partner ahead of time to decide who does what. Can you trade off “in charge” shifts? If you have more than one, can you assign primary responsibility for each kid in advance?

Bring an Easily Accessible Bag of Essentials

This should include a change of clothes, any medications, some food and water, a light blanket, and anything else you may need in case plans change. Knowing that you have your “in case of emergency” bag packed can give you peace of mind in case of things like a vehicle breakdown or a missing checked bag.

Extra Snacks!

Who doesn’t love snacks? It’s perfectly reasonable to strategically relax certain rules during trips, and snacking (or eating meals) during trips can be a great way to keep kids distracted and entertained. Bring a variety, and include some new or favorite “special” treats as well.

Travel with Basic Medicines

One of the easiest ways to ruin a day of travel or possibly an entire trip is to have a sick family member. It can be even worse if the whole family gets sick. Whether your child has an upset stomach from the bumpy bus ride to your destination, or you find a new kind of tree pollen you’re allergic to, you want to be prepared to make the sick family member feel better as quickly as possible.

It’s always a good idea to take a few over-the-counter medications your family might need while traveling. Over-the-counter medications may include:

  • Headache medicines
  • Allergy medicines
  • Medicine for upset stomachs
  • Motion sickness prevention medication
  • Other medication that might apply to your family or the specific trip

If anyone in your family is taking prescription medication, be sure to bring it along. Whenever possible, take your medications in their original packaging, especially prescription medications. If you can’t take the original package, take a copy of the prescription from your doctor so you can show exactly what your prescription is and why you have it for border crossings and if your luggage is searched.

Before your trip, check regulations for your destination and confirm you’re allowed to enter the country with your medications without filling out additional paperwork or getting special permission.

Take Your Time

Leave extra time to get out of the house so that you don’t start the trip in a rushed or stressed frame of mind. If you can’t avoid a layover on your flight, try to get one that leaves some room for the unexpected. Tight layovers are risky for even the most seasoned traveler, and the travel scheduling variables only increase with kids.

Talk to Your Kids About Your Trip Plans

Talk to your kids in the days or weeks leading up to the trip. Tell them what to expect so it’s less intimidating when you’re actually doing it. Remind them about your talks, and recap the main points in the car ride to the airport or the day of the road trip. (This is especially helpful for younger children who may need more reminding than older kids.)

Discuss Sharing Space with Others

Have a conversation about how to be courteous to others. Let them know that they’ll be sharing space with other people, who may be trying to work or sleep or relax and remind them why it’s important to be respectful.  This is particularly important for plane travel, but also applies to being respectful of other family members in the car!

Games and Screens

Similarly, games or shows can help the hours pass quickly for kids of all ages. Don’t worry about screen-time. Allow your child to bring one (or a few, depending on the length of your trip) activity to keep them occupied when they’re not snacking.

Specifically for Airplanes: Headphones and Pressure-equalizing Earplugs

Headphones for iPad usage can help your child block out his surroundings, which can be particularly useful for kids who may be over-stimulated by the noise and activity of a plane. For kids with sensitivity to pressure changes on flights, earphones can be a godsend—make sure to get the children’s size. Also use gum, fruit snacks or sucker to help the little ones with ear pressure!

Pre-Book Everything You Can

Of course, you have your flights booked for your trip, but your pre-booking shouldn’t end there. You might be used to showing up at a destination, getting a feel for the town, and picking a place to stay. This doesn’t work with kids.

Pre-booking doesn’t end with flights and lodging. Anything you can book ahead of time is 1 less thing you have to worry about while trying to keep your whole family fed, amused, and happy on your trip.

Ask for Child Discounts

Asking for child discounts can really save you a lot of money every time you travel. Some people have a tough time asking for discounts, but I promise, once you’ve done it a couple of times, it will be much easier.

You’ll be shocked when you see how many places will give you a child discount when you’re traveling.

Ask for discounts on:

  • Transportation including buses and trains
  • Private guides
  • Tours
  • Attraction entrance fees
  • Restaurants (some have kids eat free promotions)

Sometimes you can find child pricing on the website of the company you’re dealing with, but just as often, there is no mention of a discount. Even when there’s nothing written, be sure to ask. A quick email ahead of time or a simple question when you’re buying tickets can save you as much as half of the cost when traveling.

Offer Travel Journals or a Camera to Older Kids

As soon as your kids are responsible enough, get them a small camera. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can get them a durable point-and-shoot camera, or even let them use the camera on an old phone of yours to take pictures.

Having a camera and trying to get the best photos will help your child focus more on the things they’re seeing all around them. It will help them see the beauty in the landscape, the amazing features in the architecture, and the details of the crowds and bustle of the city.

The photos they take will be great for showing friends and relatives when they get back home and for helping them remember the trip for years to come.

A great way to get older kids to think more deeply about their trips is to get them a travel journal. Give them a journal and time each night to reflect on the day. Have them write down what they did that day, what they liked, and what they didn’t enjoy along with any general thoughts about the trip or the destination you are visiting.

Keeping a journal will help remember the trip in more detail once they return home and will also help them start to get a better idea of what types of things they like to do when traveling. This knowledge can help with planning future trips if there’s a consistent pattern in what your kids enjoy and don’t want to do.

The journal itself can be anything. It can be a small notebook or a binder. If your child prefers, it can be electronic or recorded on a phone or laptop that they brought along. If you can find a cool journal early in your trip, your child can get a neat souvenir and then have a perfect place to record their thoughts about the trip. 

Photo by Pedro Sandrini on

Accept Things Will Go Wrong

When you travel with kids, THINGS. WILL. GO. WRONG.

Maybe your little one has to go to the bathroom and you end up missing a bus. Maybe your son will leave his iPhone in a taxi with no way to get it back. Maybe you plan a great restaurant for kids at your destination, only to arrive and find it closed for renovations.

There’s really nothing you can do to avoid these situations. The sooner you accept the inevitable, the less stress you will feel when it happens. Most of all enjoy time with your children.