30 Best Family Travel Tips and Hacks You Need to Know

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Alex Kroeger, contributor of ViaTravelers, hiking in Italy with Toddler Daughter

We know you want to make this family vacation a memorable adventure. But, even after all the planning, you still can’t help but wonder if all will go well. To guarantee that it turns how you want it, here are some unique family travel hacks and tips you might incorporate into your planning.

Family vacations are meant to be fun. You’ve planned this too long to have it spoiled by some little avoidable mistakes.

While traveling with kids can be daunting, there are so many adjustments you can make in your planning that can turn your trip into an incredible adventure. Whether traveling by air, rail, or road, these family travel hacks will save your day.

They might seem simple, but even the slightest mistake, like forgetting to pack some chewing gum, can turn an unforgettable moment into total horror. Here is how to make it all work according to plan; check out these fantastic travel hacks for a fun family trip:

Best Family Travel Tips and Hacks

1. Start Planning Your Trip Early

Blue Ridge Parkway Waterfall Tour

Whether you’re organizing a family getaway to Croatia after talking to a mom friend or booking a vacation rental using VRBO close to a theme park for easy access, early planning is your best friend.

Getting a head start gives you time for budgeting, researching attractions, and making plans the whole family can enjoy. Availability for accommodations and flights is often better when booked well in advance, but it also gives you time to get your kids’ input. Where do they want to go, how do they want to travel, and what do they want to do?

Planning a bit allows you to create a well-thought-out itinerary with room for adjustments for a guaranteed smoother, more enjoyable trip. Don’t worry about what other families are doing. Early planning sets the stage for your memorable adventure for all family members.

2. Create a Rough Itinerary

Travelers planning trips and use mobile phones to book hotels, buy plane tickets, search map, or find travel routes
Charnchai saeheng / Adobe Stock

Family trips are meant as an escape from the mundane of daily life, but a rough itinerary is more of an outline of your family travel. Creating an itinerary is not just about pre-planning. It is an opportunity to structure your experience ahead of time. Waste less time driving, walking, or figuring out what to do next by ensuring optimal time management.

Which day will you visit your favorite theme parks? What activities are enticing to older kids? Did you anticipate your baby’s sleep schedule? A rough itinerary minimizes the stress of decision-making on the spot and allows you to plan for the activities your kids asked for.

Travel activities for families should always be pre-planned to ensure you have ultimate fun. You don’t want to spend half a day, every day, trying to figure out what to do for the day.

Give yourself more room mentally with a plan to follow, from paddle boarding on the day you know you’ll be near the beach to a bike ride along a country road. Accommodate everyone’s interests and preferences, avoiding conflicts or disappointments, especially when one of your kids believes they have a great idea. Don’t waste a minute of your precious vacation.

3. Avoid a Carry-on Bag for Each Person

luggage packed inside the trunk of a vehicle
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

While it might be tempting to pack each person’s stuff in a separate bag, this will lead to extra baggage. Even worse, it might raise your trip’s cost or require you to check your luggage anyway. Instead, try packing your items based on categories.

For instance, you should put all your clothes in one suitcase, electronic devices in one bag, and snacks in another. This will help to minimize the number of carry-ons you travel with, as well as enable you to locate something when you need it.

When planning for international flights, it can be tempting to stuff as much as you can into carry-on bags and not deal with waiting for your luggage at the airport. But one of the biggest family travel tips is about simplification.

Overall, sharing luggage minimizes your security checks, a huge stress reducer when traveling with small children. It also reduces the risk of lost items, eases mobility, and promotes a hassle-free travel experience.

See Related: Best Day to Book Flights: Is Tuesday the Cheapest?

4. Choose the Ideal Suitcase

Moving luggage through Venice, Italy
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

If you are traveling with your family, you need ample space to pack everyone’s stuff. A sturdy, spacious suitcase will eliminate a lot of stress when packing. Look for one that meets all your packing needs and leaves room for carrying some souvenirs on your way back.

Some suitcases are more suited for this purpose than others. So, depending on your preferences, choose to fulfill your desires. An excellent example is the Rockland Fashion Softside Suitcase – you’ll have plenty of room for your stuff.

5. Make It Easier with Packing Cubes

Away Packing Cubes in color black
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Packing cubes are handy organizers that you can use to categorize your items and compact them into your suitcase. These small wonders compartmentalize clothing and essentials, simplifying your packing process, even if you thought you were a master packer.

One of the worst parts of traveling as a family is the need to repack, especially when moving accommodations. Packing cubes are designed to make locating your items effortless, even when sharing a suitcase. By optimizing space and division between items, you can maintain order in your luggage and prevent the mess that plagues most families on vacation.

The neatness is a stress-reducing by-product of the accessibility packing cubes provide. By reducing stress at every touchpoint of your trip, you and your children will be much happier spending time together.

6. Keep Everyone Comfortable

Although you might want to see your kids in their best outfits, this might not be the best time for that – especially on flights or long drives. Ensure that everyone wears their most comfy outfits.

Too warm clothes, tight, or that makes one itchy will be a nuisance for the entire period, no matter how smart they look. They might better be in their loose sweatshirts or even their comfy pajamas.

This is also the time to pack familiar items for your kids, like their favorite stuffed animal, preferred snack, or the blanket they sleep with every night. Comfort is physical but also emotional. When traveling with young kids, having familiar toys, books, or plushies around can help them feel more at ease on the journey and once at your destination.

7. Pre-Plan for During-the-Trip Entertainment

Entertainment for the entire family should be planned for before the trip—48 hours before. This gives you time to ensure everything is in order. You must download their favorite games, cartoons, and TV shows. Luckily, Netflix has made everything accessible from tablets and mobile devices.

Also, ensure you fully charge your electronics to avoid the low-battery menace. An Anker PowerCore 10000 Portable Charger would also be useful for longer drives and off-grid adventures.

10000 Portable charger

Check out these airplane activities for kids to ensure they stay busy and occupied during the flight.

See Related: Best Road Trip Books for Kids

8. Opt for a Multipurpose Backpack

Gregory Jade backpack packed for traveling
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

This is especially ideal for families traveling with their jumpy young kids. While carrying everything you need, you must ensure the kids are always within reach, especially at busy airports. 

A backpack ensures you have your stuff on your back while you still have your two hands free to hold your kids through the airport traffic.

The right backpack guarantees sufficient packing space, an easy time carrying the luggage, and frees your hands for things like opening that candy pack for the kids.

One of the hardest parts of traveling with kids is carrying your bags and theirs during the trip. A backpack gives extra mobility, which is handy when you need to help your kids.

So, if you don’t want the hassle of dragging a large suitcase everywhere, include a backpack in your list of things to buy—that is if you don’t already have one.

See Related: Websites for Cheap Flights and Hotels

9. Pack Extra Clothes for Everyone

Tripped Travel Gear National Parks compression cubes packed in luggage
Cassie Jenkins / ViaTravelers

More often than not, parents get carried away in ensuring their kids are all comfortable that they forget about themselves. While you pack spare clothing for your kids, do the same for yourself. Ensure everyone has enough to keep them fresh and clean for the trip.

You may be doing a collection of road trips with long car rides between stopping in your hotel room or staying in a vacation home in Hawaii booked by a travel company. But packing extra clothes for the transportation leg of your trip can be a life-savor.

Unforeseen spills, sudden rainfall, motion sickness, and more can make a spare outfit priceless. When traveling with younger children, accidents are common.

Spills or vomit often cover the child and many parents. Stay flexible in your clothing choices but keep substitutions ready because, with children, you have to expect the unexpected or spend more money–and time—buying new outfits for everyone.

10. Get a Pair of EarPlanes for Everyone

Kid's EarPlanes Product

The abrupt change in cabin pressure during a plane’s take-off and landing can cause quite a discomfort in your ears. While it might be bearable for adults, it can become painful and depressing for your kids. That’s why you need a pair of EarPlanes.

You insert these earplugs into your ears to minimize the effect caused by cabin pressure variations. The great thing is that there are both EarPlanes for adults, as well as for small children. This is one family airplane hack that can make the entire flight enjoyable.

See Related: Best Travel Coolers for Vacations

11. Pack Gum or Candy

Orbit gum
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

If you want to cut the cost of buying earplugs for everyone, gums and candy can also do the trick. Chewing gum or candy during take-off and landing will help balance the cabin pressure and the pressure in your ears, especially if you are traveling with younger children.

Although some adults might blush at the effect, it might be excruciating for the young. Therefore, ensure they chew something during these two flight phases for comfort.

You’ll be hitting two birds with a single stone – as the kids enjoy the candy, they’ll also tackle the pressure issue. Grab a bulk pack of chewing gum now to save money and always be in stock.

12. Take Advantage of Airports Services

KLM Crown Lounge at Schiphol International Airport
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Traveling alone can be stressful, especially when you have several kids. It might prove challenging to manage everything while still caring for the kids.

If you didn’t know, you could seek help from the airport attendants. Many airlines offer such services, and you shouldn’t fear using them. They will provide escort service and sometimes even give you a ride to get you around.

Most airports offer free and fast Wi-Fi and charging stations. No matter how you feel about screen time for your kids, it is nice to have options when arriving at an airport early to ensure you can get through security with your kids, luggage, and sanity.

If you have the option, enroll your family in TSA PreCheck. The entire program is designed to move members through security faster, making it much quicker for anyone to pass through the security line, let alone your entire family.

See Related: Mistakes to Avoid to Have the Best Road Trip with Kids

13. Remember to Carry Empty or Reusable Water Bottles

Two colorful reusable water bottles
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

This is a great way to deal with airport security, as well as the cost of buying bottled water. When you pack some empty water bottles, you are sure to meet the airport’s no-drinks policy, making security checks easy.

In addition, you can refill the bottles after the security checks to handle your kids’ nagging urge for water. Often, the water is not even for your kids. You will be thirsty on this trip after lugging around your and your kids’ bags.

It is always good to be fully prepared. This is one of the best items on your packing list for airport hacks for families that you should never ignore.

14. Pack a Mini Duffle Bag

Travelpro Maxlite Underseat Duffel Bag in Dusty Rose
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

Sometimes, the suitcase or backpack is too full to carry. A mini duffle bag will come in handy when this is the case. This will be ideal, especially when you are out of your hotel suite and don’t want to carry a large backpack or carry-on.

A mini duffle bag is compact enough to fit your luggage on the way to your destination and large enough to stuff with goodies or dirty laundry for your travel home.

You can easily walk around with a small duffle bag and even put in some souvenirs or anything else you buy during the trip. My bag of choice is the Travelpro Maxlite 5 Soft Tote.

See Related: Best Portable Strollers for Travel

15. Contact Your Cell Provider to Get Fair International Rates

When taking international trips, it might be crucial to contact your cell provider. Some international calls and texts can significantly raise your bill, which is not the best welcoming thing when you’re back from a vacation.

Some roaming charges are excessive, and thus, you need a reasonable deal that won’t overburden your pockets. However, some providers offer fair plans for international travelers that allow you to call, text, or browse using your domestic rates. But before you subscribe to any plan, ensure it’s supported in the region you plan to travel to.

See Related: Best Practical Gifts for International Travel

16. Pack Some Anti-bacterial Wipes or Sanitizer

Mrs Meyers Hand Santizier Spray (lavender scented) and Sea to Summit Wilderness Wipes for travel
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

One thing you can be sure of is that your kids will touch everything they see and still put those hands on their faces or mouths. With germs everywhere, you don’t want some simple mistake to spoil your entire trip when the kids can’t stop complaining of stomachaches.

Anti-bacterial wipes are quite crucial in ensuring that you keep their hands disinfected every time. Also, hand sanitizer should always be on that list following the pandemic. These two are unique mom hacks for travel that ensure safety for their kids.

You can prevent infections through contaminated surfaces around the airport or train station. When you are dealing with children, you can never be too careful. Take every measure to ensure your family vacation remains blissful.

See Related: Cheap Places to Travel [Ultimate Guide]

17. Get a Baby Bassinet for the Flight

White and grey foldable baby bassinet

You might need that baby bassinet for long-haul flights for your young champ to sleep in. While most airlines will offer such, you must confirm with them well in advance to avoid mishaps.

A baby bassinet ensures your child is comfortable throughout the flight and eliminates the chances of them becoming a headache. You don’t want the stress of your baby crying the entire flight.

Confirm with the airline in advance. This will also help you learn guidelines for using the bassinet during your flight so you can adequately prepare. This and more travel hacks for kids reduce the stress of family travel.

See Related: Best Portable Car Seats for Travel

18. Carry Dry Healthy Snacks for Your Kids

An apple, a chocolate brownie clif bar, and a bag of pretzels laid out for travel
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

While you might not be allowed to carry drinks for your kids, most snacks are permitted. This means your child doesn’t have to go hungry, especially during a long flight.

And although you might pick some at the airport, packing your snacks is most advisable. Airport snacks aren’t that amazing and might cost you more. They also may not have the snacks you or your children prefer.

Pick snacks that your kids love, and pack them in advance. Some airport-accepted snacks include candy, cereal, cookies, crackers, cooked meats, granola bars, fruits, etc.

If you have leftovers, the snacks are great for keeping your family’s hangar away during your trip. Store them in your daypack or backpack to keep them close in case you need them.

See Related: Best Family Vacations in Minnesota

19. Rethink Restaurants

When on a family vacation, the first instinct when you’re hungry is to dine in a restaurant. However, this is not always ideal when you have kids with you. And although restaurants will still find somewhere in your mealtime, try something more.

One way of travel hacking as a family is by cooking fresh food when possible. For instance, you can easily make delicious homemade meals in an RV, a rented condo, a long-term stay hotel room, or a vacation home with a kitchen.

Also, you can try out something like the open-air market and find something unique to eat. If that fails, you can use a local delivery app to bring food to your hotel room.

See Related: How to Plan a Family Trip to Washington D.C.

20. Get Your Kids’ Bracelets With Your Contact Information

Sometimes, when you’re in a new and crowded place, you might lose sight of your little ones. If this happens, you need to ensure they can contact you. A bracelet with your contacts is a perfect gift for them during the trip.

Not only will they love wearing the cute bracelets, but you’ll also be arming them with your contacts if they ever need them.

Beaded bracelets with number beads that correspond to your contacts are simple, safe family travel hacks you can easily come up with. These phone number bracelets are top picks for family vacations with young kids.

21. Carry a Car Seatbelt Lock

car seatbelt lock

If you’ve planned a road trip on your minivan, this is one of the simplest but essential minivan travel hacks you need. It’s quite common for kids to play with their seatbelts or even yours during the ride.

To ensure they can’t unlock their seat belts, your seatbelts, or their sibling’s seatbelts, this lock becomes quite essential. It’s a safety measure that looks simple but can prevent unimaginable dangers.

22. Take the Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat

Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat

There are numerous road trip hacks for families that can save your day to help your kids fall asleep. For instance, if you are traveling with your toddler, it’s quite hard to keep them glued to the seat or hold them the entire time.

For this reason, before you embark on that trip, ensure you have a ClickTight Car Seat for your kid. This way, you don’t always worry about in-car baby movements. Also, you are sure your baby is safe in that back seat.

If you bring a car seat on your next trip, be sure to use a car seat travel bag that can help protect the car seat from being damaged during the stowing process.

23. Bring a Socket Extension

Portable travel extension cord in green and white
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

If traveling with a big family, an extra pair of sockets is handy, especially if everyone is on their devices. It’s one of the simple hotel hacks for families, but it is also essential. With a good socket extension, you don’t have to worry about any of your devices running low on batteries.

And although the hotel rooms have several outlets, sometimes you might need more. I have an older one that’s been all over the place, but it’s about time I upgraded to the Anker USB Power Strip Surge Protector.

See Related: Travel Toothbrushes

24. Don’t Forget an Adapter Plug Socket

While on a road trip, a power converter for your car can be quite useful. It comes in handy when you want an extension of the cigarette lighter adapter to reach your devices or even for the tire inflator.

I’ve had one of these in my car for years, which is handy even when we’re not traveling. You can charge multiple devices using standard plugs, which means anyone in the backseat can have an outlet, and if you’re camping, you can put a kettle on.

See Related: Best Theme Parks in Europe for Families

25. Consider renting baby equipment

Consider renting baby equipment for your next family vacation instead of packing the stroller! Baby gear rental companies offer various options for parents traveling with young children, such as car seats, strollers, play yards, and bathtubs.

Renting baby travel gear makes it much easier to care for your brood while away from home and is a great alternative to bringing all the necessary items yourself.

Most rental companies provide much flexibility on where to drop off and pick up the equipment, making the process stress-free.

With all these advantages, baby equipment rental is a no-brainer for any family on the go. Even if you frequently go on road trips, you can save space for the car ride to make it more spacious and relaxing, then rent equipment when you arrive.

26. Build Excitement Before the Airport

For adults, a trip is exciting and a promise of new experiences. For children, a trip means being away from their comfort zone, routine, and stuff. Generating enthusiasm for your trip long before you reach the airport is crucial when traveling with kids.

It mitigates their potential anxieties and enhances their experience by building positive anticipation, especially in the unfamiliar and often stressful airport environment.

Building the excitement fosters positivity, helps create lasting memories, and provides you with educational opportunities.

You can distract from potential stressors by shifting the focus to the exciting aspects of travel and the airport. Involve your children in the planning process and let them take part in packing to learn more about where you are going.

Learn about what parts of the trip excite them, and share what activities you may be excited about. Kindling your excitement will cultivate resilience and make for a smoother journey for all of you.

27. Remind Your Kids of the Adventure at the Airport

Mother and Daughter in an Airport Terminal
Gorodenkoff / Adobe Stock

Traveling with children can be a great way to boost their development and make them more empathetic. To make the experience more enjoyable for parents and kids, research your destination to build excitement and anticipation before leaving home.

Once you arrive at the airport, use the extra time to your advantage by playing games or doing activities together.

This can help keep the children occupied and make the airport fun rather than daunting. Don’t forget to take breaks throughout the journey so that everyone can relax and enjoy the experience. This is important for kids traveling early as future trips will be more exciting, and they’ll look forward to their next big adventure.

28. Sign up for an airline loyalty program

Joining an airline loyalty program can make family travel easier and more rewarding. You will receive points for every flight taken, which can be used for flight upgrades or even free flights in the future.

The loyalty program makes it easier to follow the same airline’s usual practices, making the travel experience smoother, more convenient, and enjoyable. Beyond the miles and eventual discounted flights, you may also have access to other helpful benefits like priority boarding, seat upgrades, and access to the airline lounge.

Separately, these may not feel like huge benefits, but when coupled during a trip, it can make your travel experience much more pleasant and stress-free for everyone.

29. Anticipate Motion Sickness

Car rides, boat excursions, bumpy flights, there is no avoiding motion sickness when traveling with kids and adults. Anticipating motion sickness is key—plan for windy roads or ways to avoid them on a road trip.

On flights, pack ginger candies or snacks with green apples. You can also pack medications for adults and children in advance, like chewable Dramamine.

On the flight, plan with strategic seat selections. Rows closer to the front of the plane experience turbulence more mildly—communication with the flight attendants who can give you advance notice about turbulence throughout the flight. By proactively addressing motion sickness ahead of time, you can make the journey as enjoyable as the destination.

30. Balance Family Time with Independence

Family enjoying hike in California
Monkey Business / Adobe Stock

It’s natural to want to curb screen time for a few hours during your family vacation. It’s also important to balance family bonding with a bit of independence to reward everyone in the family, no matter the age of your kids.

Hot tip: Giving your kids time to themselves acknowledges all family members’ diverse needs and interests. By considering your kids’ interests during the planning process and setting out a rough itinerary, you’ll find the right time and space to enjoy autonomy, integrating collective explorations and time for individuals or small groups.

These independent intervals offer a chance to relax, rejuvenate, or pursue personal interests. You can unwind. You can spend time as a couple.

If traveling with older kids, they can independently walk the cobbled streets of Rome and sit in the nearby piazza eating gelato. If traveling with younger children, they can spend time filling out their travel journals.

A break from the group curbs the tensions caused by constant togetherness and enriches your trip’s quality for a much richer bond. Family vacations should always be fun and adventurous. However, some simple mistakes or oversights might significantly impact your travel.

To make your next trip smooth and memorable, we have compiled this list of the best family travel hacks, well-researched and supported by first-hand experiences.

There are numerous ways to travel hack as a family; some of these hacks might just be what you’ve been looking for.

FAQs

How can I make my family vacation special?

When traveling as a family, it is important to plan and pre-book as much as possible to avoid any stress or anxiety. For example, if you are planning a trip, be sure to book the flights, hotels, and car rentals in advance.

It is also wise to bring snacks and drinks along for the journey. Investing in top-notch camping gear will make the experience more enjoyable, and it can be beneficial to ask about kids’ discounts wherever possible. Despite the best preparation, things may not go as planned, but remaining calm and friendly in such situations is important to create life-long memories.

How do you make traveling easier with kids?

Traveling with kids can be challenging, but there are ways to make it easier for the whole family. One of the best ways to make the journey manageable is to plan. Research your destination and gather information on kid-friendly activities.

Pack snacks and activities for the kids to keep them busy and entertained.
Make sure to bring any necessary items like a stroller or car seat. Consider different transportation options, such as trains or buses, to reduce stress.

Ensure you bring items such as pillows and headphones to make the journey more comfortable. Families can ensure their journey is comfortable and enjoyable by planning and preparing.

Do I need travel insurance?

A family trip is a big investment. It doesn’t matter if you’re dusting off the RV to visit Yellowstone National Park or are taking your younger kids to Costa Rica for the first time, travel insurance will protect your investment in case you or your kids get sick.
Purchasing travel insurance is not required, but when you are trying to make lifelong memories, the last thing you want is to lose your deposit or more because a family member isn’t up to it.

Related Resources

Douglas Weissman
WRITTEN BY

Douglas Weissman

Douglas Weissman is an acclaimed travel writer, known for his gripping storytelling and uncanny ability to transport readers to the places he explores. Hailing from Simi Valley, CA, Douglas has journeyed through continents and cultures, from the lush landscapes of South Africa to the bustling streets of India. He offers readers an intimate view of the world, built upon his extensive experience in luxury travel, adventure tours, family vacations, and more.

His contributions to the field of travel literature have been widely recognized. He finished second in the Imustbeoff Travel writing competition and was featured as a storyteller on the Fit For Joy Podcast. His expertise was also utilized in BestLife’s article on preserving travel memories, revealing his commitment to not just experiencing the world, but encouraging others to immortalize their adventures.

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