Everything you need to know about traveling with kids, from packing to meals to entertainment and more! Bookmark this one for every family trip you take with children.
Although many families feel overwhelmed by traveling with kids, I can’t recommend it enough! Traveling with kids creates rich family experiences that you truly can’t make any other way.
Travel teaches children indispensible lessons. Patience, appreciation for many cultures, pitching in to help, and being a good ambassador are all things that we talk about and teach our children as we travel the world with them.
This is not to say that traveling with kids is always easy. It’s decidedly… not.
However, it is incredibly fun and amazingly rewarding. And once we cracked the code during each stage of our kids’ lives, we were able to enjoy traveling ourselves, and not just feel like we were sherpas for a couple of tiny jet setters.
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Best Places to Travel with Kids
Before you dive into our tips, bookmark some of our past trips and city guides! The links below are filled with tested ideas and places that we took our own children.
- San Diego with Kids
- What Do To in Santa Barbara with Kids
- Things to Do in Morro Bay with Kids
- Cabo San Lucas with Kids
- Amalfi Coast with Kids
- Sorrento with Kids
- Rome with Kids
- Florence, Italy with Kids
- Kaua‘i with Kids (and a Packing List!)
- Palm Springs with Kids
- Tahoe Travel with Kids
- Things to Do in Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Tulum Guide
- Travel Guide to Puerto Vallarta
Traveling with Kids By Age
Before we get to FAQs, let’s talk about traveling with kids by age. An infant definitely will need different considerations than a 5 year old, and so on.
Read on for our experiences and hard-won knowledge, broken out by age group. These are some incredible tips!
Traveling with Kids Age 0-1
I think the key to traveling with infants is to try to keep their basic needs and routines (food, sleep, etc.) consistent.
We always tried to stay as close as we could to their schedules as far as naps and sleeping; I always think that a well-rested and fed kiddo is leaps and bounds ahead of a kid who is cranky from lack of sleep, or hangry, or missing his routine.
If you can stick to that routine as much as possible, it’ll make it so much easier on mom and dad.
Sometimes that will mean giving up a few precious travel hours to nap in a hotel room, or to find somewhere quiet to feed the baby. But the peace of mind that you’re giving the kiddo the best opportunity at staying healthy and rested while you travel is so worth it.
Then for the rest of baby’s waking hours, you can adventure! Here are some other tips for traveling with kids age 0-1.
- If you’re flying, try to feed or nurse on takeoff and landing to smooth over that tough transition.
- Use those naps! Get comfortable with baby napping in a stroller or in a carrier so that you don’t always have to be grounded while he sleeps.
- Once baby is a little older and more alert, it helps to have a couple of small toys that he’s never seen before, especially on a long car ride or flight. Try to spread these out if you have a long haul and not give them all to the kiddo right away.
- Snacks, snacks, snacks! As soon as they’re able, bring along some baby crackers or puffs for baby to munch on.
Traveling with Kids Age 1-2
To me, this is the trickiest age to travel with kids.
When they’re infants, they’re totally pliable and just go with the flow. Around the 2-year mark, they’re much more clear on what’s going on and can manage themselves a bit more.
But from age one to two, it’s a toddler crapshoot. So I recommend being ready with lots of tricks up your sleeve.
Again, we try to stick to a nap and meal schedule as much as we can, to head off any meltdowns before they even happen. But the truth is that they will probably happen regardless, so just keep your expectations realistic.
This is a tough age because little ones just want to run, explore, and exert a little authority. If you try to incorporate some free time for them in your schedule, they’ll get what they want and you can have a more relaxed time as a parent.
- Bring a bag of tricks. Make sure you have their favorite (small) toy or stuffed animal, and a few familiar things from home. At this age, I still bring one or two small new toys or goodies for them to get interested in. You can also start incorporating things like stickers, coloring pages, sticky notes, calculators, and more. Anything that will keep them busy on a plane, in a car, or at a restaurant. (We love the Imagine Ink coloring books for mess-free coloring on the road.)
- Temper your expectations as far as what you can accomplish in a day. With kids this age in tow, everything is probably going to be on their schedule. And that’s okay! Get into the idea of “slower and happier.” Maybe you can’t see three museums in a day, but you CAN see your kids explore somewhere new at their own tempo.
- Try to schedule at least one thing every day that’s for them AND you. Think cool children’s museums, beautiful parks, beaches, fun new toy shops, and more. Try to find a place that will interest them and will let them run a little wild to blow off some steam, but that you would find fun too.
- Don’t be afraid to schedule something for the grownups too! One small thing every day that challenges them to be a little patient or learn something new is a good guide. And it will start making great little travelers. Find a way to get them interested and invested.
- At this age, we start introducing a little bit of screen time on trips. At age one, we couldn’t expect Maggie to sit down and watch a whole movie, but we did start teaching her how to wear and use kid-friendly headphones, and how to sit still through a short episode of television. We don’t do a ton of screen time at home, but our rules are different on the road. A kids’ tablet is a great tool if you use it right.
- Again, pack the snacks! Allllll the snacks.
Traveling with Kids Age 2-5
I love this age! They’re adventurous, they’re curious, and they’re game for most things.
At this point, some kids start dropping naps, but still might need them while traveling because it’s just plain exhausting. If your kiddo still naps at home, try to get them to nap on the road, too. Rested kids = happy family.
My number one travel trick at this age range is mental preparation. They’re old enough and smart enough to start retaining concepts, so before we head out on a trip we talk a lot about what to expect.
The things we’ll see, what we’ll do, what we’ll learn, and more. That way, when they get there and see these things in real life, they’re more invested and more likely to enjoy and absorb them. It’s really amazing seeing them make those connections.
- At this age, we have a travel rule that before we pull out any screens on a car or plane ride, we visit/chat/sit patiently for about an hour. I don’t love the habit of getting in a car and immediately starting a movie, so we try to teach them a little patience. We’ll up this time as they get older.
- That being said, screens! For long hauls, we always let the kids watch moves or tv shows after that hour is up. Not the whole time, but we do rely on them much more than when we’re home. We also make sure to have a few kid-friendly apps loaded that the kids like. On travel days, screen rules are out the window.
- Bring a busy bag! Ours has a set of colored pens, small coloring books stickers, sticky notes, stencils, and more. I also have a few small toys that I keep in my bag for when we’re waiting around at a restaurant, in lines, etc. The kids are also starting to want to bring their own backpacks with a few of their favorite things, which we do for longer trips.
- Let them take the lead every so often, especially for the kids on the older end of the 2-4 age range. We find that when Henry and Maggie feel like they’re making some decisions about the things we’re going to see or do as a family, they are so much more invested, joyful, and open to what we’re doing.
Traveling with Kids Age 6 and Older
Traveling with older kids is such a joy, especially if you’ve laid some groundwork!
You’ll find that with kids this age, they’re able to start comprehending and enjoying their travels in new and exciting ways. They can contribute to decisions and conversations, they can make keen observations, and they can help with travel logistics.
We love traveling with our older kids.
- Try a kids’ travel guide, especially if your child loves to read. We used these books all throughout the various cities we visited in Italy and they were a huge hit! They help kids appreciate the value and history in their surroundings with games, secret missions, and interesting stories.
- Let them help make decisions! Look through menus with them, have them help plan the day’s events, and more. Older kids will find lots of joy in feeling a part of the family’s travel plans and they thrive with a bit of autonomy.
- For older kids who can handle the responsibility, give them a specific job throughout the trip — perhaps carrying a certain bag or reminding everybody to wash their hands before meals. Entrusting them with something like this engages them in the trip and the family’s wellbeing.
Traveling with Kids // Answering All Your Questions!
I recently asked on Instagram if you had any questions about traveling with toddlers or kids, and did you ever!
We’ve done a fair amount of traveling with our kiddos and have definitely found our groove, so I was excited to see lots of questions coming through that we have definitely struggled with and worked on figuring out.
I condensed them all and now have the most extensive toddler and kid travel post we’ve ever done! Read on for answers to your FAQs.
How do you handle naps when traveling?
As much as possible, we try to keep a nap schedule. (This is obviously the hardest when they’re little and have two or three naps.)
But while we do try to get them to keep their naps, we’re not incredibly rigid about it. If it fits within our schedule, we’ll head back to our hotel or airbnb for a nap in the middle of the day.
Maybe when we’re traveling, a nap is more like a snooze in a stroller while we walk around. Or a catnap in the car while we drive an hour to our next destination. Or even just some quiet time somewhere.
In short, we try to make naps happen but don’t stress if they don’t.
Traveling during day or traveling during nap/night?
If we’re road tripping, we used to always plan part of the road trip during nap time so that we didn’t have to worry about entertaining the kids.
Now that they’re getting older and used to traveling, they’re pretty good on road trips so we just get going early in the day when they’re fresh and happy.
For flights longer than 5-6 hours, a red eye flight is the easiest on the kids (but hardest on the parents). For shorter flights, I find that it’s easiest during the day. Naps on planes are hit and miss for us because the kids are too excited to sleep!
Sleep. How do you get them to sleep when they are away from home?
We make sure to find accommodations that facilitate good sleep.
When the kids were little, this meant a hotel room or airbnb where Maggie’s crib could fit in its own area, and Henry had a bed or pullout couch separate from our bed.
We’ve been known to put the crib in closets, bathrooms, or alcoves.
We also try to keep our travel bedtime routine as close to our home routine as possible. I pack their favorite bedtime books, do a normal bath, and so on. We always talk leading up to bedtime about how we’ll lay with each of them for 2-3 minutes and then do lights out.
So we set that expectation, and follow through. Usually when we travel, they’re pretty wiped out by the end of the day.
So while they’re falling asleep we just lay quietly or read or something similar. They’re almost always asleep after about 15 minutes, and then we can turn on the TV or talk quietly, or work on our computers.
Multiple kids in one room. Tips?
Make sure everyone has their own space, or is used to sleeping together! (This ties in to the above question as well.)
Don’t try to stick a bunch of kids in a one bed who aren’t used to that. And don’t cosleep if you’re that’s not your norm. Nobody will be rested and everyone will be miserable.
Look for family suites or junior suites with fold-out couches, space for cribs, and so on. At bedtime, we each take a kid and are responsible for getting that kid to sleep.
How do you survive a long car ride with a three month old?
Use their naps! We actually love traveling when the kiddos are that little because they’re total potatoes. Leverage their nap times and do the bulk of your driving then.
Don’t be afraid to take a couple of extra rest stops to take them out, nurse, stretch, play, whatever.
Have a few new tactile or sensory toys that they’ve never seen before. Spread these out over time.
Be sure they have a travel mirror attached to the seat behind them so they can see themselves and you.
And if worse comes to worse, sit in the back seat with them to give them a little face time. We avoid sitting in the back with our kids at all costs (just because it’s uncomfortable), but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Car entertainment that is not a tablet?
Yes! We start every road trip with the goal of one hour of just driving. No entertainment, no toys, no tech. Just looking out the window and talking about what we see, or chatting with the kids, or even playing 20 Questions or I Spy.
After that hour is up, if the kids are antsy, we usually have a bag of tricks. Our kids love stickers and a new sticker book or packet will last them a good long time.
I also always hit the dollar store ahead of a trip (or the dollar aisle at Target) and grab a bunch of small, travel-friendly (read: not a million little pieces) toys or treats that we dole out little by little. If we’re on a long car trip (5-6 hours), the kids usually end up watching movies on a tablet for a portion of the trip.
Now that the kids are older, we also will listen to audiobooks together instead of having screen time.
Tips for flying with two toddlers, please!
When we’re on a plane, all bets are off.
We were otherwise pretty tight about screen time when our kids were toddlers, but we definitely utilized it on a plane. It’s the same general plan as our car trips (see above), which is to try to pass some time right off the bat without any toys or tech.
We talk, sing, look out the window, play games, and so on. Pretty soon after that, Henry’s ready to watch a movie so we set him up with a tablet and let it rock out.
Maggie will usually watch for a while and then get bored, so I always have some new little toys for her to open and play with. We space them out so we don’t burn through them too quickly.
Whenever it’s snack time, we put all toys and tech away and focus on eating to pass some time.
Whenever our kids are using headphones, we use Buddy Phones — they have a limited volume for kids’ ears, are foldable, and wireless so they don’t get tangled.
Should we take a car seat on the airplane for a toddler to sit in?
In all the flying we’ve done with the kids, we’ve never taken a car seat on a plane.
I have friends who swear by it, and I definitely understand it for more squirmy kids, or for families with more than two kiddos. It can be a benefit to strap that kid in and not have him go anywhere.
We’ve always done okay without it, and honestly — if they’re under two you don’t have to buy them a seat, so we always just save that money and keep them on our laps.
When eating out how do you keep your kids entertained and seated?
I always have some entertainment in my purse when we’re traveling.
This one kind of ties in to the question above, as often I’ll stock up at the dollar store. The education aisle tends to have some great sticker books or coloring/activity books which are light, easy to pack, and good for hours of entertainment.
Our go-tos at restaurants are stickers, a notepad and pen, or Imagine Ink books. The Imagine Ink books are a little more expensive (about $3 each), but you can find them at dollar stores if you’re lucky.
We usually sit down at the table, encourage them to have some conversation, and then when that fails we pull out the stickers or books. All toys and books go away when the food comes so we can focus on eating and chatting.
How do you not end up taking a metric ton of stuff for them?
When we travel, we’re able to fit all four of us into one suitcase. This includes everybody’s clothes, toiletries, diapers, and a few kid toys.
When they were small, we also brought a travel crib, one backpack for each parent filled with snacks and entertainment, and a double stroller.
We’ve gotten it down to a science. The kids know that they can each pick 2-3 books and a few small toys to bring with us. I bring the bare minimum clothing for the grownups and one extra outfit for each kid.
What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled with kids?
LA is amazing with kids — it’s packed full of family-friendly stuff to do, and it’s relatively easy to get around. New York is also great, especially if you can wear your baby or if your kiddos can walk a fair distance.
We also love taking the kids to Mexico because it’s international so they’re exposed to new languages, customs, and more, but it’s an easy destination to get to.
And almost every single person we met in Italy was so kind and loving to our children. There are also some wonderful places to enjoy as a family in Italy.
How do you not lose your mind when traveling with two?
Set your expectations low! Haha! But seriously.
Traveling with two is neither restful nor relaxing, but it can be super rewarding. We always plan our activities so that they alternate between things that are fun for the grownups and fun for the kids (or both).
For instance, we’ll go shopping for a while and expect the kids to be patient, and then hit a playground. If they know that something fun is coming, they’re usually pretty well-behaved.
Also, plan to go slow and with the flow. Maybe your plans get messed up by an extra long nap or a tantrum or something. Shift focus and plan a new thing to keep the trip moving and happy.
Also, whatever happens, just laugh it off. Decide that nothing really matters that much when you’re traveling and you’ll enjoy it a lot more.
Just please explain to my boyfriend that it’s possible so we can have kids.
Haha! It’s SO possible and SO fun.
Look at this picture down below. It captures my feelings perfectly. In 2017 we took the kids to NYC, where we met and fell in love and started our lives together. And to see our babes looking around with wonder in their eyes at the city that we love so much filled my heart to bursting.
It’s so worth it to expose your babes to different places, cultures, people, sights, sounds, tastes. It makes them aware of the world and that it’s much bigger than just their own little bubble.
Also, if you start young, you make great travelers, so that later in your lives you can have fantastic family vacations with no worries. I can’t say enough how possible and rewarding it is to travel with kids!