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Family Holiday Survival Guide: Tips for traveling with children

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststips, series, or news.

Today (September 18, 2015): Tips for traveling with children!

Family holidays can be some of the best memories of your lives. It just takes a little forward thinking and advance planning to steer your holiday from nightmare to wonderful. Minimise the screaming children, pulsating headaches, and tutting fellow passengers with these handy tips for travelling with children. So pack your bags, hustle the kids into the car, and enjoy a few weeks of quality bonding! In this article:

  • General tips
  • Pakcing tips
  • Tips for keeping the kids entertained
  • Safety tips
  • Travel tips
  • Hotel booking tips

travel with children



Family holidays are all about enjoying the journey more than the destination. Cliché travel quote or not, it’s still true. Allow plenty of time in your itinerary to stop and see, smell, hear, and taste your way through the new experiences. Be flexible – You don’t want to rush.

Plan ahead

While you could certainly be spontaneous on a solo trip, travelling with children involves a certain amount of advance planning, from where to stay, to where to eat and how to get there. Book your hotels ahead of time, map out your travel route, and book your transport – be it a taxi, train, bus, or flight – before you step out the door.

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Pack accordingly

Do some research on the climate ahead of time and pack clothes to suit the weather. Make sure you have a warm and waterproof jacket. If you’re travelling with a young baby, always pack more nappies and wipes than you think you’ll need. You’ll likely need two sets of clothes per day – but you can get away with less if you pack hand washing liquid so you can wash clothes in your hotel basin if you need to. Sun cream, hats, and sterilising equipment for baby bottles are a must.

Snacks on the go

Make sure you always keep a few healthy snacks at hand when travelling. Hunger can easily make children grumpy. Keep a few sweets too – a little bribery goes a long way and they’re great distractions for take-off and landings if you’re travelling by plane. If you’re going by road or rail, picnic lunches are great ways to split long journeys.

Comforts of home

When you’re travelling to a new destination, it’s important to bring along some familiar things from home, whether it’s a cosy blanket or your child’s favourite teddy bear. You’ll save yourself and your children a lot of tears.

Check your documents

Some countries require extra documents for parents travelling with children, such as birth certificates, visas, and adoption papers. If you’re travelling as a single parent, make sure you have a letter of consent from the other parent to bring your child along with you.

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Magnetic games

Magnetic travel games will change your life on holiday. Children will enjoy playing Snakes and Ladders or Ludo – and you won’t have to struggle with searching under the car seats for missing pieces.

Age-appropriate entertainment

Pack age-appropriate entertainment such as a colouring in book and crayons, an iPad with both educational and fun games, a disposable camera to take holiday photos, or audio books for the kids to listen to when you need a break. You can also enjoy some family bonding with a game of I-Spy!

Encourage travel journals

You’ll be surprised at how long journaling can keep your children happy. Get your kids to record their favourite parts of their holiday and collect souvenirs from the places they visit, such as stamps, ticket stubs, and fold up maps.

Travel games

Make the journey fun by getting your children to look out for passing landmarks. You can get them to count sheep or point out interesting landmarks.

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Fit your child with a GPS watch tracker or go old-school by writing your emergency contact details on your child’s hand before you leave for the airport or tourist attraction.

Devise an emergency plan

Set up an emergency plan for your family if you get separated.  Get your child to memorise an important contact number and set up a daily meeting point or landmark when leaving your hotel. Make sure you also tag your prams and bags with emergency contact details.

Practise the sandwich rule

Follow the Sandwich Rule when you’re travelling. Mum and dad are the bread and children get to pick their filling, such as peanut butter and jam. The aim? The filling always has to stay between the two slices of bread.

Medicine & vaccinations

Sick children are unhappy children. Make sure to account for any possible medical emergencies by packing cough syrup, chronic medication, mosquito repellent, hand sanitizer, as well as a medical kit with plasters, antiseptic wipes, bandages, etc. Check beforehand with your doctor whether you need to have any vaccinations or medications for the destination you’re visiting. These could include anything from rabies shots to malaria prophylactics.

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Family travel cards

When booking tickets on public transport, always ask for family deals such as a family travel card that offers discounted rates for families of four.

Regular toilet breaks

Take regular toilet breaks when travelling on long car journeys. It’s also a great chance to stretch the legs.

Car seats

If you’re using a hired car, enquire with the company beforehand whether they offer car seats. That way, you won’t have to lug yours around unnecessarily.

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Check in online

Checking in online at home will help avoid lengthy queues with fidgety children.

Dress for the flight

Dress your children in bright colours so it’s easier to spot them in the airport. Layers are great ways to match the changing temperatures as you can easily add on or remove clothing when it gets hot or cold.

Choosing seats

Book the seats closest to the plane’s engine as this creates white noise that makes it easier for babies to sleep. The bulkhead seats in the front row have the option of a basinet clipped onto the wall in front of the seat. It’s also advisable to pick seats that are close to the toilet for small children and nappy changing.

Kiddies’ deals

Pre-order your child’s meal when you book your flight online and find out from your stewardess whether they have any goodie bags available for children.

Family lanes

When going through airport security, check for a family lane. There are often more agents to help you and an open area for children to take off their shoes.

Airport play areas

Some airports have play areas in the boarding lounges that are great for tiring out children so they’ll sleep on the plane.

Fast boarding

Fast boarding makes it much easier to board the plane when you have small children. It allows you to get on the plane first so you don’t have to struggle past the crowds. 

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Where to stay

Pick a hotel with family facilities, such as babysitting services, kids’ clubs, and restaurants with kiddies’ menus. Consider places with lots of outdoor space, swimming pools, and playgrounds. Find out whether your chosen hotel has a family deal as this could make your holiday a lot cheaper than paying per person. Consider the room configurations and pick the one that best suits your family, from double or single beds, to added options of sleeper couches and cots – and make your needs clear upon booking. Consider an all-inclusive resort, a villa with fenced in gardens, or apartment rentals – so you don’t have to worry about bothering the neighbours with the noise.

Make use of the hotel facilities

Most hotels will have televisions with kids’ channels, as well as a variety of entertainment for rainy days, from board games to children’s books.

Take some time off

Get a babysitter a few nights during your holiday and enjoy some time off to yourselves. Most hotels will have these facilities available.

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Author Bio: Lauren Morling is a South African travel writer for the Best at Travel blog. Follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter.

*** Follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook for a daily moment of travel inspiration ***

1 Comment on Family Holiday Survival Guide: Tips for traveling with children

  1. Next weekend, I’m taking my two sons to a hotel to get some very much needed time away from home. I’m definitely going to be choosing a hotel with a pool, but I’ve yet to consider getting a hotel that has kid’s channels on their TV’s. Just in case, though, I think that we will go buy a few new DVD’s that my sons can watch at night.


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