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If you’re even considering taking your children on vacation this year, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing conflicting emotions right now.

On the one hand, you’re excited for the trip, and the opportunity to spend quality time as a family exploring new places. On the other, you’re slowly filling with dread, nervous of the logistical nightmare that lies ahead.

I’m here to tell you that traveling with children needn’t be a nightmare – as long as you’re prepared to put in a little planning…

Tips For Preparing for a Family Vacation

Preparing for Your Trip

Pre-children, there’s a chance that your best vacations were your most spontaneous; you’d wake-up with little idea what you’d be doing tomorrow, and spend long, lazy days exploring wherever your mood took you.

Nowadays, as I’m sure you’re aware, the best way to enjoy that getaway is to prepare, and to have a good idea of everything you’ll be up to ahead of time.

Do Your Research

First thing’s first, it’s essential to conduct your research before you even think of heading on vacation. This will enable you to choose the right location, the best accommodation, and even the easiest form of transport to suit your family’s needs.

Take a good look at online reviews before booking a particular destination or activity. Does it have everything you’re looking for? Is it suitable for your children’s ages?

These days, it’s easier than ever to get a good idea of what you’re booking, thanks to online forums, social media, and reviews.

It’s imperative to plan your trip well in advance.

Make Lists

The best way to ensure you don’t forget a thing, is to create a vacation planner, with lists of the items you’re going to need, your itinerary, and other useful travel information.

Start your planning early, leaving plenty of time to add to your list and gather the items you’ve yet to buy. Familiarize yourself with the route, and the exact times you need to be places.

You’ll also want to factor in stops. If possible, plan your journey around your little ones’ naps and feed times, and take the time to consider how you can break up the journey if need be.

Search for Travel Essentials

The most astounding thing about traveling with young children is how much stuff they can accrue; from diaper bags, clothing, and strollers, to pacifiers and toys, your children could probably do with an entire airplane to themselves just to accommodate all of that luggage.

Since that’s not going to happen, it pays to pack sensibly. Start by looking at what’s new in the world of new baby products; is there anything likely to lighten your load?

Next, take into consideration the things you absolutely cannot travel without, such as your diaper bag, a stroller, clothing, medications, feeding accessories, and a few toys. Packing won’t feel half as daunting once you’ve wrapped your head around those essentials.

Start Packing Early

It’s usually wise to start your packing well ahead of time, particularly if there are items that you must buy. Take a look at your list; what could you afford to pack now? What will need to remain in use until you’re almost ready to depart?

Be sure to create a comprehensive packing plan so that nothing gets forgotten. A week prior to your trip, choose a room that you can keep off limits until you go away. That way you’ll be able to set out vacation essentials without ever being disrupted.

Bring Snacks

A well-fed and entertained child is a happy child, so ensure you’ve got plenty of snacks, drinks, and travel-friendly toys for the trip ahead.

If you’re going by car, you’ll have a little more space to play with than if you’re flying, so choose a few of your children’s favorite toys to accompany you – making sure they’re not too noisy for the road ahead. A car backseat organizer can be a great way to keep everything in its place.

If you’ll be flying, consider loading a tablet with age-appropriate games and activities, and make sure you’ve got some chewy sweets for the descent. Treat this journey as an adventure, rather than a chore, and you’ll all have a far better time.

Always have a Backup Plan

As a parent, you’ll know that it’s always best to have a backup plan, whether you’re heading on vacation, visiting the store, or simply planning an afternoon’s activity. Indeed, you no doubt live your life with a backup plan.

Weather, sickness, and childhood tantrums can alter plans at a moment’s notice, so make sure you’ve considered alternative activities you can do instead.

Always need a backup plan where weather is involved!

The Key is Getting Organized

Heading on a family vacation needn’t become the stressful endeavor you’d feared. In fact, you might well find that you actually enjoy yourselves!

The key to enjoying a family vacation is getting organized, and ensuring you have everything you need in advance of your trip. Embrace every moment; you’re going to have a blast.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

If you enjoy getting social, you can follow their journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.

    22 Comments

  1. Thank you for all these innovative tips,Megan! Really helpful. Not a mother but a guardian, and I really liked your speculations. Keep posting!

    • Thanks Ushmana, I’m really glad you enjoyed the post. Hope you have a wonderful week ahead & happy travels!

  2. Actually my vacations are always pre-planned in advance even if we don’t have kids!!! I don’t think I’ve almost never experience a truly lazy trip in my life. In fact I do most of the things you suggested for our trips even now, from packing early to making lists (which is VERY important). Sometimes I lack of a backup plan but that’s not the end of the world, right?

    • Awesome Dany! I grew up with my father saying “Prior planning prevents piss poor performance” so I’m a big planner too. I have spreadsheets and graphs and lists lol the whole sha-bing! It’s probably a bit OCD, but it works!! And it’s nice knowing that we have all bases covered for a smooth trip :)

      As long as you’re flexible and can adapt to situations on the move, not having a backup plan isn’t the end of the world. The more you plan though the less chance you’ll need that plan B anyway :)

  3. We don’t have any children, but I think this post gives really good tips for parents! From the time when I was a boy scout leader I know exactly how important food is :D When we had a camp for a week and the food was bad, the mood of the whole camp was terrible.

    • Thanks Tom – Traveling as a boy scout leader in charge of a whole pack would be more difficult than parenting I think! Lol so huge kudos! But totally see how bad food would totally ruin the mood. People are at their worst when hungry. Food helps every situation run smooth!

  4. I don’t have kids but I do follow a somewhat similar checklist for my trips. And that includes (and especially!) bringing snacks! Lots of them in fact, haha! :D On a more serious note, I do think families travelling with kids do need a backup plan and be flexible about it, apart from planning a more leisurely itinerary rather than a packed one. Chances are, there _will_ be changes in plan whist on holiday.

    • Snacks are always the big one – we’re at our worst when hungry, and combine that with the stress and exhaustion of travel – nightmare trying to deal with any kind of spanner in the works.

      The flexibility in an itinerary is a big one, when traveling with a family, or really any type of group. The more people you have the more accommodations you have to make for timing. So it’s definitely a good idea not to pack too much in.

  5. This is such a useful post for those that are planning a trip with children. I do think it’s become easier than when I was little, thanks to tablets keeping kids entertained for hours! Planning back up activities for rainy days is a great idea.

    • Thanks Susan, technology has definitely made it a lot easier to travel in recent years in terms of options for keeping kids entertained. Between books, movies, and games, they’re set for hours! Also comes in handy in terms of back up activities if you’re stuck in the hotel on a rainy day :)

  6. I can so relate to this. We’ve been travelling with our son since he was very small and learnt the hard way how important proper planning is. Fortunately, he loves travelling and has been all over Europe and South Africa with us. Here is one more tip: do research about public parks before your trip and try to stay as close as possible to one. Instead of sitting in restaurants, they are great for lunch time picnics or late afternoon drinks and snacks. Even for resting while the little ones take a nap.

    • Really great tip on finding and basing yourself near a public park Linda, thanks for sharing!

  7. Ugh, I find it exhausting just reading this, so I guess I’m not super ready to have kids, leave alone travel with them, haha! My sister has four however and that’s always her excuse for not travelling anywhere. I’ll pass this her way for sure… On a side note, I had no idea you could type “everywhere” in Skyscanner to see the cheapest deals! That’s just changed my life a little! <3

    • Haha yes, the thought of traveling with kids can be overwhelming, but once you master a couple of trips, it becomes second nature. Your sister is more than welcome to email us if she has any questions about planning a trip.

      And the everywhere feature on the Skyscanner app is my favorite – love it to death! :)

  8. Forwarding this guide to my friends/family members traveling with kids. Hopefully, it should help them with their planning. Hearing about their experiences and anxieties makes me grateful that we are not in this category ;). Though, of course, common sense topics like bringing snacks (Ha! I am not a kid, but it works for me too) or having a backup plan apply to any traveling audience. Thank you for sharing!

    • You’re more than welcome to reach out if you do find yourself in this category and you’re after tips Elena … it doesn’t have to be an anxious time at all, and after a while you get it down to a fine art where traveling with kids feels like the normal thing :)

      Appreciate you forwarding to family and friends – they’re welcome to reach out if we can help in any way also.

      Happy travels!

  9. Great tips! I think especially the part about having a backup plan is really important. Most people are so rigid with their plans they don’t allow for much flexibility. When you’re doing this type of trip you need to be flexible!

    • Thanks Nathan, yes the backup plan is so important, because things ALWAYS have a way of going wrong, and it’s nice to be able to whip something out your back pocket, that you’ve already planned for in advance.

      And being rigid in your plans doesn’t help when things do go wrong, so especially with kids, there needs to be a lot of flexibility.

      Happy travels! Glad you enjoyed the post :)

  10. Every time I talk to or hang out with my friend Kevin from the Wandering Wagars we talk about how he and his wife travel with their kids and I’m always impressed. Even though I work with children professionally and child development is in my wheel-house I don’t think I could handle travelling with children. Your right planning really is key, as is any trip but with kids it’s a little more effort. For me I have enough problems trying to get my own ishhh together I could handle another little person too hahahaha.

    • I love their family blog! Traveling with children is definitely a skill, but after a while it feels so natural, and you forget what it was like to travel without them!

  11. Some sound advice, planning and research are essential when it comes to travel with kids.
    I would also research if there are any baby hire companies available at your holiday destination. It may be cheaper and easier to hire the bulky baby paraphernalia than carrying and possibly paying excess luggage for too many items eg pram plus cot plus car seat. Try and choose one and leave the rest behind.
    I would add remain flexible. When on holiday kids may not follow their routine as they are away from the familiar. Suddenly being spontaneous is back on the menu :)

    • Thats a great tip on hiring baby equipment and paraphernalia in your destination Sally – definitely makes the transit and luggage handling a lot easier to manage.

      And flexibility is definitely the biggest key – trying to force an itinerary when circumstances often have a mind of their own is disastrous.

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

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