25+ tips for the perfect family vacation

family on a pier during sunset

I’ve collected a set of amazing tips that will make your next family vacation so much better. Let’s start.

Pay Extra Attention To Safety And Security

Pay Extra Attention To Safety And Security

I’m not referring to the security process at the airport. I’m talking about making sure your kids, no matter their age, are safe during every step of the trip.

Never lose sight of your loved ones – when you lose your child and don’t know where he is even for a second, it’s the worst feeling anyone can imagine. So make sure you always know where your kids are, whether it’s at the airport, museums, parks, streets, and any other place you travel. Yes, you should explain to them, as part of the trip ground rules, that they should always pay attention and stay with one of the adults. But they are kids, and kids might easily lose attention looking at a shiny new toy and get lost.

When busy with logistics, even buying tickets to the amusement park, you can easily lose track and get distracted. When traveling with another adult, always make sure one is busy with logistics, while the other keeps an eye on the kids. If you travel alone with kids, make sure that they stay within your view at all times. If possible, hold their hands.

Another tip that can help to keep things safe, especially in crowded places, make sure your kids have your contact information. Even if they can’t call you, other adults might help when needed.

The contact information should include:

  • Full name
  • Phone number/s
  • Email address
  • Local address (hotel, family)

The easiest way would be to put the not in their pocket. No pockets, be creative. Tie the note to their belt loop, give them a necklace, put it in their shoes or you can order bands designed especially for these, such as those found on Amazon. Just make sure they know where it is.

Plan Your Flight Strategy

Girl on rocket

First, you need to plan your flight times during the day. Most destinations will have few options throughout the day. This and other factors such as non-stop or connection affect the price but also affect your trip. Should you fly at night time? Should you plan to arrive at your destination in the morning? Should you go for the shortest flight time?
If you have smaller kids, they probably have a bedtime routine. Keeping them several hours past their bedtime and wandering around the airport will probably not be a fun place to be. If you can get them on the plane around their bedtime for an overnight flight, you hit the jackpot.

Pro Tip

If they have nap time, it’s also a great time to fly and let them relax when they used to.

Pre-Book, Pre-Book, Pre-Book

pre-book

I’m sure you booked all your flights, including the internal flights. Now you should do the same with everything you can. If you’re used to booking a hotel room along the way, that’s not recommended when traveling with kids. When you arrive, you wanna go straight to your lodging, drop off your bags and give everyone some time to rest, especially if it’s after a long trip. If you still want some flexibility, at least book the first few nights in advance.

Now go and book everything else you can. You will have fewer things to worry about, save time during the trip, and usually, booking online in advance costs less than booking at the venue.
Pre-book events, shows, park tickets, museums, public transportation, tours, and even a restaurant table if there’s a specific restaurant you’d like to go to.

Pro Tip

Remember to leave time to relax and some flexibility (see tip called "Take it Slow and Leave Plenty of Time").

Public Transportation Brings Different Perspective

Public Transportation busses

Depending on where you go, public transportation could be the perfect way to move around. It’s cheaper, it’s easier than driving a car in the big cities or counties driving on the other side of the road, and it can be faster. Most important, it can bring a whole new perspective to your trip, especially to young kids.

There are many types of transportation on air, water, and land. Try them all. It’s fun!

Going on a fairy, riding a tuk-tuk, taking the subway are all-new ways to get around, experience the local atmosphere, and get around easily. You will also find out that since you’re not driving, you got time to look out the window and see the views yourself.

Pro Tip

Remember that most cities or countries offer public transportation tickets that offer different transportation types, and you can buy bundles for few days to make transportation even cheaper.

Remember Your Here To Enjoy

clocks

One of my first tips for traveling with kids was about “Take it Slow and Leave Plenty of Time“.

This tip is here to remind you of that. Each trip has its ups and downs. Not everything will go as you planned. Places will be closed, things take longer than planned and people will get cranky. This will sometimes go wrong, so remember to take things easy and stay flexible.

Don’t try to make and see everything. If you like a place you can always visit again. The important thing is that you and your family have a great time and enjoy your trip.

Pro Tip

If you're going on a long trip, you would appreciate the option to have some time off from each other.

Schedule Longer Layovers

dog in airport terminal on vacation

When traveling with kids, things take time and hold many surprises. Suppose you booked a non-direct flight and have layovers at the airport; schedule longer layovers. With kids, you’ll move slower, you have more equipment, one of them might have to use the restroom, or they might be hungry, so keep it relaxed and take flight with longer layovers.

Pro Tip

Yes, it means a longer trip, but it's a more relaxed one.

Schedule Some Downtime

hammock by the beach

Having a packed schedule, running from one activity to the other, can be hard even for adults. If you’re traveling with kids, make sure to give them some time to relax. If they’re young, they probably used to have a nap during the day. Preventing this might cause tired, angry kids who are not fun to travel with. Even if they’re older, they might be ok with a long-lasting day or two of ongoing activities, but even they need to relax after a couple of busy days. Depending on your family habit and kids’ ages, plan to have some downtime at least every couple of days. This helps keep your family refreshed and ready to explore, and it keeps everyone happier throughout the trip.

Pro Tip

Downtime can be anything that helps you and your family rest, relax and regain their energy. You could take a nap or TV time at the hotel; you could relax by the pool, go to the movie theater, sit at the park for a few hours, and anything else that works for you.

Stay connected with your family

Stay connected

It is completely ok to take a couple of minutes to speak to a friend, family members, or relative. That will help you become normal and regulate your blood pressure. Also, it will increase your confidence and efficiency. This is particularly handy when you feel stressed out or lonely.

Pro Tip

With today's technology, a good internet connection is available almost everywhere. Go for video calls. It's much more personal and fun.

Take it Slow and Leave Plenty of Time

Take it Slow

When I’m talking about time, I refer to spare time everywhere:

  • On the way to the airport
  • At the airport (check-in, security, buying food, snacks, drinks, bathroom breaks)
  • At each attraction you go to
  • The time you had planned for breakfast
  • Every activity you do

To avoid scenes and frustrated kids, be sure to get to the airport early and leave plenty of time for things to go wrong. You don’t want to miss your flight because it took extra time to pass your kids’ bottles through security.

Plan your days with time to get organized, relax, play. When traveling with kids, don’t plan to visit a park, two museums, a restaurant, and bowling on the same day.

Pro Tip

Keep your plans and schedule loose and enjoy your family time.

Things Will Go Wrong Sometimes

1+1=3 handwritten with white chalk on a blackboard

Be prepared to deal with your kids when things go wrong. Flights may get delayed, you might arrive at a great water park and find out it’s closed for renovation (yes, their website says they’re open), they may lose a precious item they brought from home, and many other things you haven’t planned for.

Well, life happens. Be prepared for things not to go as planned. Just accept it and move on to the next item on the list.

Pro Tip

Remind everyone that you are on a trip, an adventure, and things aren't always going as planned. This doesn't mean you won't have an amazing time for the rest of your trip.

Travel With Basic Medicines

sick teddy bear

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 you infect each other, and then the entire family gets sick.
You know your kids and their potential ways not to feel well. They might have sensitive ears, and they might often suffer from an upset stomach, perhaps sensitivity to specific foods, etc. Ensure you’re prepared and have what’s needed to make your sick family member feel better as quickly as possible.
So, take some Over-The-Counter (OTC) medications, and if you know one of your family members has specific medical needs, make sure to ask your doctor for a subscription before the trip. Some OTC medications may include general pain relievers, back pain paste, headache medicines, allergy medicines, medicine for upset stomachs, motion sickness prevention medication, and any other medication that might apply to your family or the specific trip.
To avoid any issues in border control, in case you’ll get your luggage searched. Try to 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.
Some countries’ regulations forbid entering specific medications, so it’s always a good idea to check this before your trip.

Pro Tip

Adults can get sick as well so take medications for them as well.

Waiting In Line Is Not For Kids

6 line drawing characters Waiting inline

No matter how patient your kids are, waiting in lines is not the fun part of the trip. Your trip will include lines. There are lines at the airport, buying tickets, waiting for a ride at the amusement park, and many more. Let’s try to minimize them.

At the airport

Airport lines are usually at the security check, at the check-in (when you drop your baggage), when boarding, and on border control.

If you’re flying in a premium class (First, Business, Premium economy), most of these lines usually automatically reduced.​

 

You can even reduce the check-in/baggage drop line by doing the check-in online the day before. Then you can skip the line and travel with your carry-on bags.

One more thing to remember is to sign your entire family for TSA Pre-Check to speed through security.

It will give you access to a shorter (usually much shorter) line with an expedited security scan. It will also save you from having to remove laptops, liquids, shoes, or light jackets.

If you haven’t signed up for TSA Pre-Check, here are some tips to go through the airport security process.

You can speed up the process a bit more by enrolling your family in the Global Entry program for border control. It’s useful when landing in the US but read more to learn about similar programs that might fit your needs.

 

 

Events, museums, shows

This one is straightforward. Almost any event, venue, museum, show, etc., lets you buy tickets online.

Buy tickets in advance, save time, usually save some money. Just note that if you buy for a specific date, it means you’ll be less flexible with your plans.

Sometimes, e.g., buying Broadway tickets, it’s cheaper to buy tickets on sale. For NY Broadway, you can register for lottery or buy on a few locations in New York, which offer discount tickets. Here you risk that you won’t have the tickets you wished for so it’s not the best idea when traveling with kids.

 

Amusement parks

Again, buy the tickets online in advance. You’ll get much better rates and save a lot of time on the line to buy tickets.

In amusement parks, you can even save time waiting in line for the rides.

Pro Tip

If you got some extra miles, this might be a good time to use them to upgrade your family. You'll travel more comfortably, sleep better and arrive fresh to your destination.
Some credit cards might give you priority boarding. It depends on the airline you're flying with so check it out.

Last update: April 2023

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