The idea of traveling with children can make even the most daring parents shudder – but it doesn’t have to. Yes, those little rugrats can be a handful, but showing them the wonders of the world can be as much of a joy for you as it is for them.
If you are one of the millions who travel with tots in tow, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. The key to making your next family vacation go off without a hitch is being prepared to deal with the moods and restlessness of kids, travel delays, tummy aches, and everything else that comes with traveling with kids.
Don’t know where to begin? We talked to some of the best experts to guide you on the fun – but sometimes hectic – adventure of traveling with children.
Traveling with Children at Any Age
No matter where you’re headed – whether it’s to the Grand Canyon or Grand Cayman – have the necessary documentation for your child in hand. If you’re headed out of the country, you’ll need your kid’s passport, visa, and immunization paperwork (depending on your final destination).
In addition to gathering the necessary documents and paperwork, planning for how to pack your child’s suitcase is another thing you’ll be glad you checked off your list before you left the house. Keep in mind the TSA guidelines and airline carry-on restrictions as you pack kid-friendly items such as books, games, or downloaded movies on a tablet to help them deal with long flights or car rides.
Packing healthy snacks, medications your child takes, and spare clothing for spills or accidents will make your life easier. If you’re flying to your destination, keep these items in a carry-on. If you’re road-tripping it, make these items easily accessible to the kids in the back seat.
Advice from the Experts
We asked some experts – real parents traveling with kids – for their best tips. Francesca Mazurkiewicz, author of The Working Mom’s Travels, said the biggest mistake is when parents say, “Oh, we’ll travel when the kids are older,” or “Our kids are still too young to travel.”
“I say, wrong! If parents truly want to travel, having children should not stop them,” she said. “Just keep a loose itinerary and don’t over-plan. Kids get tired easily and will need downtime. Be flexible. Even with a loose itinerary, there’s always the possibility of a midday meltdown or the kids having so much fun that they want to spend more time at specific attractions. Just go with the flow.”
Realize that you’ll tend to move more slowly with kids than if you were traveling without them, and that’s OK. Slower travel allows for a closer look at destinations and attractions.
Mazurkiewicz gave her best three tips for traveling with an infant, toddler, pre-teen, and teen:
“For an infant, keep to the kids’ home routines and schedules when traveling. This includes trying to schedule flights around the kids’ sleep schedules, with the objective of the kids being asleep for most of the flight,” she said. “Depending on the length of the flight or car ride, have plenty of bottles and milk or formula on hand and allow the baby to have one during take-off and landing to help relieve ear pressure.”
For toddlers, stock up on cheap toys and activities. Don’t give them to the kids until you’re already on the plane or even after take-off. The “newness” of the items will keep them excited and occupied even longer.
“Also, don’t forget to save some for the return trip! I always say that travel is one time it’s OK to break the rules, meaning bring plenty of the kids’ favorite snacks and drinks and let them have as much as they want within reason on the flight to keep them happy,” she said.
For pre-teens and teens, they want to be absorbed in their electronics. Make sure they’re fully charged before departure and that you’ve got charging cords and, if traveling overseas, the proper electric plugs and adapters.
Finding the Perfect Kid-Friendly Accommodations
Where your family stays is important. Comfort, ease of booking, and getting the room you need should all be at the top of your checklist.
Several hotel chains are famously “kid-friendly” – by booking directly with them through Room Key, you’ll not only get the best rate, but the best rooms, too.
- Holiday Inn – The more than 1,500 Holiday Inn locations worldwide still follow the original founders’ dream of being a family-friendly hotel where kids stay free. Holiday Inn hotels also have free meals for kids 12 and under at onsite restaurants and fun amenities such as pools and fitness centers. Some locations even have special kids-themed suites. For instance, this Holiday Inn Express & Suites near Universal Orlando offers great rates for members of the IHG® Rewards Club.
- Hyatt Place – Yeah, you’ll pay a little extra for a Hyatt room, but the perks for kids are worth it. Hyatt has 17 family resorts in the U.S. and Caribbean that offer a “Family Plan” that lets parents score a second room for the kids at half-price. Check out this Hyatt Place San Antonio Riverwalk, located within walking distance to the King William Historic District, Convention Center, children’s museum, La Villita, the Alamo, a plethora of restaurants and shop along the Riverwalk, and much more.
- Residence Inn by Marriott – This chain was recently named the top hotel chain for “family appeal” in a recent Zagat reader survey. Named a “home away from home,” the suite accommodations are 50% larger than standard hotel rooms, with fully equipped kitchens and separate living, working, dining, and sleeping areas. This Residence Inn San Diego Mission Valley, for instance, is mere minutes from Sea World Adventure Park, Mission Beach, San Diego County Credit Union Stadium, San Diego Zoo, and more.
“When traveling, always try to pick your stopping and resting points before you start. That way, you can search around the area prior to arriving to find out what options they have for food and accommodations. When it comes to restaurants, there are a ton where kids eat free with an adult purchase,” said Thena Franssen, author of the HodgePodge Hippie. “If you plan ahead, traveling with kids can actually be really enjoyable. The more that you do to prepare, the smoother the traveling will go.”
When you’re ready to say “yes” to exploring the world with your kiddos, we can help you find our partner hotels in the area so you can research all of your family-friendly options before choosing the perfect hotel to fit your needs. Visit roomkey.com today to make a booking decision you’ll feel good about at a price that’s perfect for your family.