traveling with kids guide

The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Kids

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Traveling with kids isn’t easy. There. We said it.

While you’ll see endless photos of perfect families with perfect kids smiling for the camera on Instagram or Pinterest or Facebook or wherever you spend your time online, let’s face it: the reality is a little different. There will probably be babies who won’t sleep, kids who get restless on long flights or drives, little humans who don’t want to do the things you want to do (or vice versa!), or at the very best – just some boredom to deal with while you’re stuck in the airport for a layover.

Travel with Monsters is all about making travel with kids less scary. We are two families with children ranging from one to eight between us, and Suzi and Kristin – the two moms you see writing articles on Travel with Monsters – both grew up in families that traveled due to their fathers’ jobs. We’ve spent a lot of time either being traveling kids or traveling with our own kids. We love it. And we want to help others learn that even though it can be a challenge, it’s totally worth it.

Below is a guide on how and why we travel to help you get started and tips on handling some of those travel challenges as they come up.

General Family Travel Advice

If you’ve never traveled with your kid or kids before, it might be easy to just stay home. In fact, it’s definitely easier to just stay home. But we believe that traveling is great for families. It takes you out of your element. It bonds you closer. It teaches flexibility. The best things in life are often the toughest, and traveling is no exception.

Money Matters

First and foremost, traveling takes money. If you don’t have extra money in your budget, there are often ways to tweak your spending habits and save a little. Maybe you can’t afford a trip to Hawaii, but that’s okay. Local travel can also be lots of fun and it’s a whole lot more practical (and no time zones to deal with because, let’s face it, jet lag sucks).

Once you’re away from home, dealing with money is also often a concern. Unless you’re independently wealthy and living the travel dream, you’ll likely need to stay within a budget. That gets tougher with kids, but it’s still possible if you follow a few simple tips.

Family passports

Passports

Getting a passport for your child is not the same as getting one for yourself. In fact, it’s a bit of a pain and has a few more steps (and in-person visits required of both parents) than getting one for yourself.

Getting Around

Traveling with kids involves daunting tasks: getting your offspring through airports and TSA checkpoints all in one piece, or surviving a journey across states while stuffed into the family car. It’s not as easy as it sounds and bringing along the right gear has a lot to do with it.

If you’re traveling with a child under about age three, a baby carrier will likely factor into your travel plans. Wearable baby carriers are WAY easier to tote around than a stroller and offer a lot more parent maneuverability through security and the like. But – like everything to do with babies – there’s approximately one gajillion baby carriers out there and not all are created equally.

Whether you take along a baby carrier or not, you’ll likely want to bring a stroller too. Strollers come in handy at the airport, but also at your destination if you want to get out and about at all. But just like with baby carriers, there are a ton to choose from.

Naps and Sleep

Maybe you’re lucky and you’ve got a baby who sleeps everywhere, but traveling with a baby means you’ll at least have to think about getting your baby to sleep along the way. And, yeah, it can be tough. And, yeah, you might be tired on your vacation. Whether you need a few tips on managing naps while traveling with a young child, you’re having trouble getting your baby to sleep in a hotel room, or your baby is dealing with a nap transition or sleep regression right in the middle of your vacation (whyyyyy??!!)…traveling parents are all in the same tired boat.

Food for traveling with kids
Organic gummy bears are health food, right?

Food and Snacks

Never let it be said that we here at Travel with Monsters don’t believe in bribery…because we do…mostly in the form of travel snacks. A snack can do wonders for a toddler or child who has just had enough of traveling. Oh, is that a tantrum about to happen? How about a lollipop? Tantrum averted!

Road tripping

Sure, you could fly with your kids, but where’s the fun in taking two hours to get somewhere when you could take FIFTEEN hours to get there?

In all seriousness, road trips can be the perfect way to save money as driving is usually a whole lot cheaper than flying with a kid…or two…or three or more. But make no mistake, road tripping is a fine art. Some planning can help ensure that your kids don’t go wild in the back seat or your baby doesn’t lose it halfway through Eastern Oregon.

How to Pack

Packing for family travel is like packing for solo travel…with a lot more bags. Not only do you need to pack things you actually need to wear or use, but you also need to factor in things to keep the kids occupied on the journeys. The best way to do this? Give each kid who is no longer a baby their own small carry on.

Toddler with iPad
When all else fails, iPads usually do the trick.

Plane Travel

Like everything, traveling with children on a plane is just a scooch more complicated than traveling without kids. You can wing it and learn as you go, but knowing a few tips and tricks before you go will help you avoid meltdowns both for kids and for parents!

Safety Issues

You could buy a generic first aid kit when you travel, or maybe you don’t travel with a first aid kit at all! (That’s living dangerously.) The best way to go is to assemble your own. This allows you to get a whole lot more bang for your buck, as well as customize brands and individual items to your liking. Travel with Monster’s Suzette Iverson is a medical professional by day and created a list of what she packs in her first aid kits for her family travels.