If you want to see as much of the world as you can, you may be worried about juggling kids and travel in the future — or you may be facing that conundrum already. Traveling is sometimes thought of as an activity for the young and childless, but many travel bloggers, including Feather+Flip, are proving that traveling well and traveling with kids do not have to be two separate categories. Successfully taking a trip with your children will require careful planning, choosing the right transportation, and packing the essentials. Here are some overarching tips for traveling with kids.
Get ready with the right documents. If you're leaving the country make sure all passports are up to date. Infants and toddlers require passports as well, so don't forget that!For more information about passports, passport renewal, or applying for your passport for the first time, visit the U.S. Passports and International Travel website.
- Passports for minors under the age of 16 must be renewed every 5 years.
- Minors ages 16 and 17 do not need their passport renewed for 10 years.
- Adults 18 years and older also only need to renew their passport every ten years.
For more information about passports, passport renewal, or applying for your passport for the first time, visit the U.S. Passports and International Travel website.
If you're not going out of the country, some airlines require identification of your child, so take a copy of their birth certificate just to be safe. Copies, not the originals, are key here.
Booking the Travel Arrangements
- Schedule in advance. You'll get better deals on hotel rooms and flights if you plan early and thoroughly.
- Booking early will help cut costs. The professional travel blogger Nomadic Matt suggests the best time to buy plane tickets is 6 to 8 weeks in advance, or 3 months in advance if you're going during a busy season.
- After 3 months, airlines and cruises often steadily increase airfare prices.
- Hotels will sometimes offer 21-day deals where you get a discount if you book 21 or more days in advance.
- Travel websites such as Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, and Orbitz are known for getting travelers deals. Check out Concur, to see all of these sites combined in one place to compare prices.
Choosing Your Destination
- Choose your destination, lodging, and activities to do while you're there. Websites like Feather+Flip specifically blog about these categories when traveling with children. If you're still having trouble getting started, check out this article about the top ten family vacation spots to get ideas.
- Check the chamber of commerce or visitor's bureau website for the location you are visiting to get ideas of what to do, where to eat, and even get tips of the best ways to get around the city.
How will you get there? Depending on the distance, flying might be cheaper, especially if you book your flights well in advance. Take your child's age into account when deciding the best method of transportation.
Cars, trains, buses and public transportation are generally easier for children that are older and don't need quite as much constant care or surveillance. Children that are old enough to not need a stroller are preferable so that you don't need to lug one around.
Remember, public transportation is public, which means other people will expect your children to behave a certain way. Public transportation also means you are at the transport's mercy; you should expect delays and possibly cancellations.
Look into trains and buses if you're really feeling up to an adventure. The Transit App and Roadify Transit are great apps to help you navigate public transportation. However, many large cities have apps specifically for their city transit. Check those out when you decide where you are going.
Flying requires early planning of which bags you'll want to carry on, which bags to check, early booking of flights, getting to the airport on time, and many more strict structured details you don't face when you're the one driving.
Flying is also more difficult with babies and toddlers because of the strict schedule, tight spaces, and possibly uncomfortable ear aches because of the pressure changes. If you do not like flying or if you are staying close to home, driving might be your best option.
Pros and Cons of Types of Travel
- Cars are private. You do what you want, when you want, such as deciding when to stop and eat, or shamelessly singing "The Wheels on the Bus" 400 times in a row to entertain your child without worrying that the woman three seats in front of you is going to lose it.
- You can drive right up to your final destination.
- You're on your schedule (your departure time won't be delayed or cancelled unless you want it to).
- You don't have to worry about packing regulations. If it fits in your car, you can take it. No liquid limitations like on the plane, either.
- Gas prices can hurt your wallet, not to mention other car travel expenses such as tolls, parking, and possibly oil or tire changes.
- While driving you have to stay focused and alert at all times — including staying on top of directions and the route.
- Cars are not as environmentally-friendly as public transport.
- You might have to deal with traffic jams.
- Driving can take longer to get where you want to go — especially compared to flying if you're going long distance.
- You could get caught in bad weather.
- Relatively inexpensive.
- You don't have to worry about driving (hands-free).
- Short check in-time — you don't need to be too early.
- More luggage allowance/leeway than on trains but not as in control as with cars.
- Not private — children may disrupt/annoy other passengers.
- Could be on a bus that doesn't allow you to book seats and you could get separated from the rest of your party.
- Can take much longer than planes or trains to get you to your destination if it is a long distance.
- Won't get you completely to your hotel/final destination.
- If the buses are running off schedule you're at their mercy.
- You get to enjoy the scenery.
- Fast and direct between many major cities.
- Like a bus, you are hands-free and can entertain kids or read without focusing on the road.
- Can get rail passes in some countries to ride the train frequently for a deal.
- Can pay a little more for a bed on the train if you're traveling overnight or long distances.
- Schedule might be inconvenient
- In the U.S. especially, the train might not even go where you want to go or might not run very often (this isn't really a problem in Europe)
- Could get delayed or cancelled
- Won't take you to your absolute end destination
- Tickets could be pricey if the seats are desirable (especially in the U.S.)
- Extremely fast — ideal for long distance
- You can travel internationally much easier than other modes of transport
- You don't need to stay alert or in control like in a car
- Is thought to be one of the safer modes of transportation
- Going through security
- Kids cannot move freely on a plane
- Ear aches may occur with children in pressure changes
- Packing restrictions
- Could get cancelled or delayed
- Not private — children can irritate/disrupt other passengers
On Route: Being a Prepared Packer
Take the essentials. In their article Essential Summer Travel Gear, Feather+Flip recommends packing certain gear that looks ingenious. For example:
- The Yoyo stroller by Baby Zen because it folds up to fit in an overhead compartment on a plane (saves you space in the car, too)
- A harness for your kids to fly in so they are safe and also can't wiggle out and escape
- A nice diaper bag with lots of pockets that is also lightweight
- An inflatable bed with rails if your kids have a habit of falling out of bed
Take things to stay entertained, especially for kids, such as DVDs, handheld games, portable board games, puzzle and word game books, coloring books, and books like the Little Miss/Little Master Series by Baby Lit to keep kids entertained while also introducing them to classic literature at the same time as suggested by Feather+Flip in the article mentioned above. Letting your child be in charge of packing what they want in order to keep entertained will help give them a sense of usefulness and responsibility — just keep an eye on what goes in there.
Take snacks. Keep in mind that you don't want anything that will require a clean-up or sticky fingers — beware of things like dips and peanut butter. For 25 awesome ideas kids will love, ranging from a munchies necklace and sandwich sushi to apple cars and caterpillar kebabs, click here for the best snacks for a road trip. For 5 more creative and fun ideas click here.
Take breaks if you aren't flying. From something as local as a farmer's market to as touristy as the world's largest ball of twine, there is always something to stop and see and places to stretch your legs. This might make the drive time longer, but it will help break up the drive and will make sitting in the car much more bearable.
Check it Out
Traveling with kids can be a complicated subject and you're going to need many more tips and tricks than what we've listed above. Feather+Flip is a family travel blog that believes "trip planning with kids shouldn't be harder than sleep-training your baby." They provide an excellent travel blog that includes interviews with interesting people, reviews, tips, and Friday Featured hotels.
Feather+Flip is for parents, by parents, and sends the message that traveling with kids doesn't have to mean compromising your travel dreams. The site will be fully launched in September with online bookings and hotel reviews. Until then, the travel journal and their social media profiles are worth a look for any parents with wanderlust.
Links to Feather+Flip:
- Website: http://www.featherandflip.com/
- Travel journal: https://www.passported.com/travel-journal/
- Twitter: @FeatherAndFlip / https://twitter.com/FeatherAndFlip
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/featherandflip
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/featherandflip
- Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/featherandflip/