Traveling with the whole family for the first time can be overwhelming. Take it slow and take your time.
When you travel with your family everything will take longer than you expect, including:
- Check-in at the airport
- Come through security
- Purchase of snacks and drinks
- Boarding the plane
Make sure you get to the airport early and have plenty of time in case something goes wrong. If you take kids for the trip, you may not be able to organize 4 museums, 3 restaurants, a walking tour and a bike tour in the same day. Keep your schedule loose and leave plenty of room for adjustments. Having a flexible schedule will mean less stress for you and your family and result in an overall happier trip.
Readjust Your Expectations
While as an adult you enjoy exploring the world and all it should offer, you should understand that your toddler needs routine and rituals to feel safe. When they are freed from their daily rhythm, the comforts of home and the certainty that it brings, the little ones can feel anxiety and stress.
Toddlers are unable to verbally share these worries and instead show us how they can – with their behavior. Her outbursts of anger, pouting, and breakdown on vacation are often her way of saying, “Help, I freaked out from all these changes!” Expecting this is critical. You will feel stressed and when you are stressed your toddler will pick up on your emotions and participate in your emotional chaos!
Families have a tendency to pack whatever kids use at home. Bringing familiar items with you will keep your routines consistent and you will be sure you have everything you need. However, at the end of a long day of travel, you may end up carrying at least one child, so you certainly don’t want to take 50 kg of luggage with you.
Pack as little as possible. The very act of travel itself will mess up your home routines so trying to get them all won’t work anyway. It will only lead to frustration and sore arms.
Children will also live in pretty much every travel destination. If you find that you are missing something you need, you can always buy it at your destination. There might be problems in underdeveloped countries, but most places will likely have the essentials that you need to take care of them. The less you bring with you, the easier it is to pack, the less you have to carry and the more space you have for souvenirs.
Plan your vacation more meticulously than without children
Book What you Can in Advance
Of course, you’ve booked your flights for your trip, but your advance booking shouldn’t end there. When you arrive at a new location, you will want to go straight to your accommodation, drop off bags and give the kids a chance to rest if necessary. This is especially true if it has been a long way.
Know where you are staying before you arrive. If you want a bit of flexibility in the location, book the first night or two in advance and once you’ve settled down, decide where to stay for the rest of the trip. The pre-reservation does not end with the flight and accommodation. All you can book in advance is one less thing to worry about.
In addition to accommodation and flights, you can also pre-book private and public transportation, city tours, private guides, and tickets to museums, theme parks, and other attractions. Book as many as you are sure you need in advance and you’ll have more time to relax and enjoy your destination when you get there.
Explain the Itinerary to Your Children
Introducing the children to the trip at an early stage is particularly important for first-time travelers. When children feel uncomfortable, they are not happy. When too many new things happen, children tend to feel uncomfortable. Providing an overview of the trip and what happened will help children understand their situation better at each point in the trip. You will know what to expect next, and therefore will become more familiar with what is going on around you.
The explanation of the trip can include telling them what to expect at the airport, on the plane and at the destination. Take this opportunity to review your expectations of their behavior throughout the trip. Describe how they should behave in airplanes, hotels and on tours. Once your kids understand what’s going on, they’ll ask fewer questions and they’ll be happier, more comfortable, and more excited about what’s next.
Have Small Snacks Close at Hand
To keep your vacation on track, do all you can to avoid a hungry family member. Bringing a few snacks with you when you are on tour can really help keep your family happy. Hungry kids can ruin a fun family outing in minutes. Hunger can make the difference between a happy family and moody children, so always have small snacks ready. Having a few small and easy-to-carry bars, fruit, etc. with you can make everyone happy, including adults.
Buy Good Equipment
You don’t always need the most expensive, but good quality equipment can be if the stroller can be folded up smaller and weighs half as much. The same applies to a travel car seat, for example. Also take into account how often you will be using this item. If it makes things easier and you’ll be using it a lot, it’s worth a bigger investment.
Ask About Child Discounts
Asking child discounts can really save you a ton of money every time you travel. Some people don’t dare to ask for discounts, but you get used to them and it’s worth it.
- Ask About Discounts
- Transportation including buses and trains
- Private tour guides
- Attractive entrance fees
- Restaurants (some have kids eating free promotions)
Sometimes child discounts are posted directly on a company’s website, but even if no discount is mentioned, you should ask. A quick email in advance or a simple question when purchasing tickets can save you up to half the cost of traveling.
Accept That Things Will Go Wrong
When you travel with children, everything can go haywire. Maybe your little one needs to go to the bathroom and you miss a bus. Perhaps your son leaves his iPhone in a taxi in Barcelona without getting it back. Perhaps you are planning to stop at a great restaurant for children and once there it is closed for renovation. The sooner you accept the inevitable, the less stress you will feel when it happens.
Keep Track of Your Child
Keeping track of your child may seem obvious, but you’ll be surprised how easy it is to get bogged down in buying train tickets in another language. The next thing to remember is that your son or daughter went to the little shop at the train station to buy candy bars. As soon as you turn around, they are gone. If you are traveling with another parent or adult, share responsibilities. One person buys the tickets and the other watches the children. If you are alone with the children, make sure that they always stay in view. If necessary, hold hands or let them sit in your line of sight.
Give the Children Your Contact Details
If, despite your best efforts, a child is lost, they should give them contact details.
Your contact information should include all of the adults on your trip so there are multiple ways to find your child.
Put Contact Details In Clothing
- Phone number
- E-mail address
- Local address
- Home address
It is best to put a note in one of their pockets for the small children. If they don’t have pockets, tie a small card to their belt loop or stick a note inside their clothes. Don’t be afraid to get creative, but either way, make sure your child knows where to find the address. Help older children remember the phone number and email address. It is best to write it down immediately and enter it on the mobile phone.
Travel With Basic Medication
One of the easiest ways to ruin a day of travel, or possibly an entire trip, is when a family member gets sick. It can be even worse when the whole family gets sick. Whether your child gets dizzy from the bumpy bus ride to your destination or you find a new type of tree pollen that you are allergic to, you should be prepared to make the sick family member feel better as soon as possible.
It’s always a good idea to take some over-the-counter medicines that your family might need while traveling. Over-the-counter medications can include:
- Headache medicine
- Allergy medication
- An upset stomach drug
- Drugs to prevent dizziness
- Other medications you may need for your family or travel
If anyone in your family takes prescription drugs, be sure to bring them with you. If possible, take your medication with you in the original packaging or a copy of the prescription from your doctor so that you can show pharmacists what prescription you have and show it at border crossings. Before you travel, check the regulations for your destination and confirm that you are allowed to import your medicines into the country.
Special Needs in the Respective National Language
If anyone in your family has special needs, be ready to speak about them while you travel. Things include allergies, special diets (vegan, vegetarian, soy-free, gluten-free, etc.) and special physical or mental needs. If you are traveling to multiple countries with different languages, you may need a few sets of maps. Make a set for each language.
Take your birth certificate and permit with you if you are traveling with unfamiliar children
Documentation for Identification
Often, but not always, all you need to travel with children is passport. However, in some countries you will need to carry each child’s original birth certificate with you to prove that you are the child’s parents and have the right to leave or enter the country with them.
Having the right documentation is especially important if you are traveling without your child’s other parent or if you are not traveling with your own children. In either case, some countries may require you to have documentation to show that you have permission to travel with the child.
Take the Children’s Birth Certificates With You
- Copies of birth certificates
- Confirmation from the child’s parents who are not present
Sometimes the documents have to be notarized and be available in German, English and in the language of your destination. It is always best to be prepared. If you have any problems during your trip and need an identification form, be sure to have it on hand. Take a Car Seat With You
At home, you would never think of taking your young child for a ride without a car seat. If you are planning to rent a car at your destination and you don’t know if you can get a child car seat there, take a child seat with you. Most car rental companies have car seats available with your rental, but you should confirm that they have a child seat before you travel.
Take Toys and Books With You
For long travel times you should take some toys, books, etc. with you or buy small items on site. A vacation doesn’t have to be like Christmas with a whole bunch of gifts, but a few little things can make all the difference. Also take something comforting from home to relax, such as your favorite plush toy. If your child has an item that they take with them wherever they go at home, don’t forget to pack it for your trip.
Encourage Older Children to Keep a Travel Journal
A great way to get older children to think deeper about their travels is to get them a travel journal. Have them write down what they did that day, what they liked and what they didn’t like, along with general thoughts about the trip or destination you are visiting.
Keeping a journal will help remember the trip as soon as they return home and will also help them get a better idea of the types of things they enjoy doing while traveling. Knowing this can help plan future trips if there is a consistent pattern in what your children want to enjoy and what they don’t want to do.
A travel diary stimulates, keeps memories for later and helps parents find out what the children want
Take Enough Diapers and Towels with You
If you travel with babies or toddlers who are not yet potty trained, you should always bring far more diapers and towels than normal. Even on an hour-long flight or train ride, you may need to change your child three or four times more often. It doesn’t hurt to have a few extra diapers at the end of the flight, but it’s terrible to have too few.
Take Enough Clothes With You
The same goes for additional clothing. When traveling with babies, always make sure you have an extra outfit packaged and accessible, not just for your baby but for yourself as well. From diaper leakages to post-feeding spittoons, there are many options for a baby To ruin your shirt or pants. You and your clothes become the backdrop for all foreign liquids as you hold your child.
Bring Earplugs and Chewing Gum For the Flight
Babies and toddlers have a hard time equalizing the air pressure themselves. Breastfeeding your baby during these times can help ease the pressure. The suction motion helps them naturally balance their ears. Feeding also distracts them from minor discomfort when their ears need a little more time to compensate. Chewing gum can be of great help once your children are old enough to chew it. The chewing motion can help your ears naturally counterbalance the vertical pressure.
Strollers and Baby Carriers
The debate between traveling with a stroller or a sling depends on your personal preferences and those of your baby, but it’s best to have both on hand to be prepared for different weather conditions and road surfaces.
Plan flight times according to bedtime
Plan Flight Times Strategically
Small children have fixed bed times. If you can’t pick and choose suitable flight times that work with your kids’ sleep schedules, either make sure there is enough time to rest before or after your flights, or try to adjust their plans as you get closer to the trip. Changing your bedtime or lunch break an hour or two before your trip can make a huge difference in flight time.
Long stays mean a little more waiting, but they also mean a lot less stress when getting on the plane. No one rushes, nothing remains, and everyone in your family is ready to settle in for the ride to your next destination.
Let Your Children Take Their Bags with Them
Even small children can pull hand luggage on wheels. Letting your children share the burden means you have to take less with you when you travel. When you check in your baggage, it will be easier for you to get the children to take care of their hand luggage themselves. Get them to wear what they can ASAP. Your children will take a little responsibility for your trip, and your back will thank you.
Take Comfortable Headphones With You
Most airlines only offer very poor headphones. Finding a pair of headphones that fit your child’s ears and are comfortable for an extended period of time is something that you can do well before your trip. Whether you’re watching on-board movies, playing games on your phone, or listening to music while trying to fall asleep, a comfortable set of headphones will make everyone happier.
Schedule Rest Periods
The amount of time out you need depends heavily on the age of your children. Infants and young children are likely to need a daily nap. Older children may be able to last a long day, but they likely won’t be able to do so for several days in a row. If your days are packed with activity, the adults could probably use a siesta on the second or third day, too.
Use Public Transport
Public transport is fun for the children. Trains, subways, buses, trams, monorails, funiculars, tuk-tuks, car pools, public bicycles, etc. Each type of public transport offers a whole new type of travel. Using public transport in large cities is often faster and cheaper than getting from place to place by taxi or private car. You save some money and time and your children can experience something new.
Let Older Children Choose Activities
As your children get older, they will likely want more of a say in what you do when you are on vacation. They should! This trip is not just for the parents but your children as well, and if there are things they are interested in, be sure to include them in your plans.
Better Not to Change Hotels
When traveling with your family, do your best not to change your accommodation more often than you have to. There’s a lot more to pack and unpack when you move with kids. Children are good at putting their belongings around a hotel room, and you don’t want to look around every day. After all, there is some level of comfort that your children will develop with each place they live. The longer you are there, the easier it will be to relax, fall asleep, or relax in your favorite spot.
Choose Your Vacation With Your Toddler in Mind
While two weeks of lounging on the beach can be appealing to you, chances are good that after ten minutes your toddler will be bored and a bored toddler will be neither happy nor calm. During your own youth, you may have visited countries with the hottest, tropical climates in remote destinations in five start hotels. Taking a toddler on the same long-haul flights and to the same destinations isn’t the smartest choice you can make.
What Should You Watch Out For?
The shorter the flight, the better, flight times that coincide with napping rather than bedtime, family-friendly areas (and especially family-friendly food), air-conditioned bedrooms, lots of shade, lots of entertainment, and countries with as little time zone difference as possible are crucial. And last but not least, think about the right accommodation for your toddler. It might be worth booking a vacation rental instead of opting for a hotel room – the extra space and privacy means your kids can run around freely without getting stressed out with other guests.
Toddlers and adventurous eating aren’t words that usually go together. All toddlers are naturally neophobic. That means they are genetically trimmed to reject all new foods. Nature protects young children by reluctance to eat something unknown that could be poisonous. Even if the delicious local paella or goulash isn’t toxic, your toddler’s genetics won’t know. Don’t stress your food while on vacation. It is okay for them to only eat white or yellow foods for two weeks. When you are older and the neophobia naturally subsides, you still have enough time to pamper your palate with local delicacies.
What to do if the Children Have Tantrums?
Hopefully by now you have accepted that your toddler will have tantrums while on vacation, it’s not about “if”, but “when”. So what should you do when the inevitable happens? First off – keep calm, you are not the first parent whose toddler has tantrums at the resort and you will not be the last. Make sure your toddler is safe and not in immediate danger and try to find a quiet place to hug them and talk about what happened. When the tantrum is over, go ahead and enjoy your vacation together again.
What to do When you are Upset
Tantrums are not only common in toddlers, but also in parents. Holidays, especially those that don’t go as planned, are a breeding ground for stressful relationships and struggles. Parents can quickly lose their temper, not only with their toddlers, but also with each other. Ultimately, you can’t control how your toddler behaves while on vacation, but you can control how you behave. If you want your toddler to be calm and polite, you need to exemplify this behavior yourself. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is change your behavior.