Traveling with your kids can be such a rewarding experience. The gift of travel and culture, and the joy of exploring new places, whether abroad or in the UK, is something that can be treasured forever.
It’s no secret that family holidays are great for building bonds with your little ones, but scientists also believe that travel can be hugely beneficial to children’s brain development too. From exercising the brain’s limbic area to enhancing concentration skills, taking that much-needed break with the kids is about much more than just buckets and spades.
But nobody said that traveling with children would be easy. Whether you’re heading off on a weekend break, going on a family road trip to the coast or jetting off to the South of France, it’s important to keep the kids entertained and be prepared for every scenario.
Here are 49 tips for parents who are traveling with children.
1. Always plan ahead
Spontaneous travel may seem exciting and romantic when there’s just the two of you. But with kids in tow, it can cause all sorts of problems. So make sure you plan everything ahead of time.
2. Choose the self-catering option
Although we have a number of family-friendly hotels, we believe that there’s a great advantage to choosing self-catering accommodation. Not only is it like having a home away from home, but you will have plenty of space for the kids and you can rustle up all the family favorites to keep little ones pleased at mealtimes.
3. Look for family-owned properties
Many of our self-catering cottages or holiday homes are owned by parents themselves – and will often have personal touches such as kids’ board games, toys, or a selection of DVDs. Having parent holiday home owners who understand the difficulty of travel when you have kids will really make all the difference to your stay. They’ll have thought of all those important little things that only a mum or dad would know…
4. Set off in good time for road trips
Long drives can be tough so set off in good time to allow for toilet breaks, snack breaks, or just 5 minutes to stretch the legs.
5. Think of some fun car games
Never leave the house without a game or two up your sleeve!
6. Pack some car snacks
As simple as it sounds, sometimes a good car snack is all it takes to provide a little distraction. Packing longer lasting foods is a great way of occupying them for longer.
7. Take your time at airports
Rushing around at airports can be extremely stressful so always arrive early, and allow the family to take their time before boarding.
8. Invest in Trunki
Trunki ‘ride on’ suitcases are a great investment if you struggle to keep your little ones in order at the airport. Let them burn some energy riding around on their mobile suitcase
9. Plan your flight time in time slots
Work out what you need to bring by breaking down your flight hours into time slots. Click here to see more tips for flying with kids.
10. Give them their own backpack
Allow toddlers and children to carry their own miniature backpack to give them a sense of responsibility. This sort of inclusivity will make them feel much more invested in your travel plans and will encourage them to behave at the airport.
11. Don’t forget their favourite teddy
Whilst traveling light seems like the easier option, forgetting your child’s biggest comforts could cause big problems during long travel. So never leave home without teddy!
12. Bring travel pillows and blankets
The best case scenario is that your child with sleep through the flight/train journey. Help them along by boosting their comfort levels with travel pillows and blankets.
13. Book an evening flight
‘Red eye’ flights leave late at night – a sure fire way to ensure that your little ones get some shut eye.
14. Download bedtime music for kids
Sleep meditation or relaxation music can be really helpful for kids who struggle to sleep on planes, trains or on long car journeys.
15. Follow your child’s bedtime routine
To help your baby or toddler sleep on a plane or train, follow the same bedtime routine to prep them for a snooze.
16. Bring sleep-inducing foods
There are certain foods that can help children sleep. For instance – milk contains tryptophan, which is a sleep inducing substance whilst grapes contain melatonin, which can act as a natural sedative.
17. Install fun apps for kids
Apps can be a life saver when your little monkeys are playing up. Install games, puzzles, and movies on your phone or tablet to ensure that they have plenty to do.
18. Consider herbal sedatives for anxiety
If your kids are anxious when traveling, it could be an idea to try natural sedatives such a melatonin or valerian root supplements.
19. Bring sweets
Not only do sweets make great treats to keep them quiet (for a bit), but they can also help with popping ears for landing and take-off. But be careful not to give them too many – in case of the dreaded sugar rush!
20. Book a villa with pool
We have 5-star pool properties in some of Europe’s most amazing destinations, including the Canary Islands, the South of France, the Greek Islands, Italy and Spain. This is a fantastic way of experiencing a classic sun, sea and sand holiday with the privacy of your own pool – the kids will love it!
21. Book a farm stay
Our farm stay properties are extremely popular with parents because there’s always plenty to do around the farm. Kids will love feeding the animals and there’s so much space to roam around. Old Hall Farm in Suffolk, Holly Cottage in Devon and Hedgerows Farm in Cornwall all come with babysitting services too.
22. Find a family friendly holiday site
Some cottages/holiday homes belong to a cottage cluster or have additional shared amenities on site. This is extremely convenient for families traveling with children and there’s an opportunity to socialize with other holiday makers too.
23. Research local attractions
When booking your accommodation, look into local attractions in the nearby area. Having parks, playgrounds, museums, leisure centers, soft play or other activities within a reachable distance will make your vacation run smoothly.
24. Find a hotel with an on-site crèche
Parents need a break too and with so many luxury hotels offering crèches and babysitting services, families can travel together safe in the knowledge that the kids will always be looked after.
25. Book tours and excursions
Give the whole family something to look forward to by pre-booking a few excursions or activities during your time away. This not only makes the holiday even more exciting, but it can help you build structure into your daily schedule.
26. Find your nearest toy store
Whilst most destinations will offer plenty to do for all ages, there may be some days (bad weather days or stopover days) where your family is left at a bit of a loose end. Plan ahead by researching nearby toy shops and treat your child to a new toy/book for good behavior.
27. Bring puzzles and coloring books
It’s important to bring a selection of solo activities for your kids when going away – even if there’s a whole group of kids to play with. Solo time is essential, especially for times when other kids are asleep/misbehaving /not around, or if you are trying to wind your child down for the night.
28. Bring a portable DVD player or tablet
Need something to do on rainy days? We can’t always predict the weather (especially in the UK) so bringing backup entertainment is essential.
29. Never forget sunglasses
UV protection for the eyes is important no matter the season. So always pack sunglasses for your kids!
30. Buy a child GPS tracker
Does your child have the tendency to wander off in crowded areas? Small GPS devices for kids are relatively affordable these days and they can be a worthwhile investment if you’re worried – it will certainly give you peace of mind when you’re walking around in an unfamiliar country.
31. Use public transport
Thinking of hiring a car once you land at your destination? Why not consider public transport instead? Kids love to ride buses, trains, trams or even boats. Sometimes, it’s the little things that are the highlights of their trip.
32. See your doctor two months in advance
When going overseas, speak to your doctor and find out whether your kids will require an appointment before traveling – especially if your child has pre-existing medical conditions.
33. Try to plan healthy meals
Holiday time is treat time, but try to plan healthy meals whenever possible to maintain a good diet whilst away. Fruit, veg, nuts and legumes, seeds and good fats can help to boost mood and enhance brain health, keeping kids happy.
34. Check for vaccinations
Use the Fit For Travel NHS website to check whether any vaccinations will be required for your chosen destination.
35. Set daily challenges
Worried that the kids will get bored? Daily challenges can be so much fun – from collecting shells and finding fossils to drawing the landscape, there are many ways to keep them occupied for hours.
36. Always bring a first aid kit
It’s tempting to travel without one, especially if you’re worried about space in your suitcase. But they can come in pretty handy for cuts, grazes or other unforeseen accidents.
37. Suggest a journal
The excitement of a holiday can be extremely overwhelming and can leave children very hyperactive. For older kids, writing a journal or having solo reading time at the end of each day can help them create inner calm and reflect.
38. Get travel insurance
Always research family travel insurance so you are prepared when abroad.
39. Be prepared for the climate
Try to pack for the extremes. For sunny destinations, consider UV protective clothing as well as sun cream to protect from the sun. If you are planning a beach holiday, remember that although it may feel cooler with the sea breeze, the sun is still just as strong, and suncream needs reapplying after going swimming.
40. Pack antibacterial wipes/hand gel
Keep little hands clean with antibacterial wipes or hand gel. Finding somewhere to wash hands when you’re traveling about isn’t always easy and wipes can ensure the best levels of hygiene.
41. Don’t let the kids pack their own rucksacks
Whether it’s a day trip/excursion, a walk to the beach, or a flight bag, it’s important to have control over what your child packs. Allow them to choose a toy but make sure they don’t pack unnecessary weight or items that take up too much space – otherwise, they could end up moaning about carrying their bags later on.
42. Buy insect repellent
Insect and bug sprays are essential if you’re jetting off somewhere exotic. Bites can cause extreme discomfort in children so prevention is the best tactic.
43. Plan a lazy day
Schedule in at least one lazy day for little ones to rejuvenate. Having activities every single day can be extremely tiring, so plan a day by the pool, a DVD night in, or some indoor playtime away from the crowds, busy tourist hotspots, and other outdoor elements.
44. Don’t forget antihistamines
Not only will antihistamine tablets help with a range of allergies, including hayfever, but they can be a lifesaver if an insect bite causes an allergic reaction. Different insect venoms can cause toxic reactions to the skin, causing a simple bit to be even more painful and swollen than usual.
45. Be prepared for upset tummies
Upset tummies don’t need to be something to worry about if you’re prepared. Bring sick bags, medication and always have easy access to spare clothes.
46. Give your child an ID wristband
ID wristbands and bracelets are easy to use and promote maximum safety when abroad. They can include contact details for when children are lost, or they can include allergy information for emergencies.
47. Make regular toilet stops
Take the kids to the toilet as often as possible (even when they say they don’t need to go) to prevent problems on long flights and car journeys.
48. Beware of the plane police…
Or that’s what you tell your children anyway when flying. Warn them about the ‘aeroplane police’ who are on the lookout for badly behaved children.
49. Book with Baby Friendly Boltholes
The first rule of traveling with kids is to book your accommodation with us at Baby Friendly Boltholes. We’ve done all the hard work for you, searching for all the baby, toddler and child-friendly places to stay in the UK and worldwide!
Hopefully now you are feeling prepared and ready to take on the world. Get in touch today to start planning your family holiday.