From toting teddy bears through TSA checkpoints to tucking your little ones into a hotel bed at night, traveling with kids certainly comes with its tricks of the trade. But piling into the car for a road trip or boarding a long flight to your summer vacation destination doesn’t need to make you feel like you’re herding a group of unwieldy cattle. Follow these 10 simple tips to help your family’s summer travels run smoother than ever before.
Running through security and arriving at your plane just before it pulls away was exhilarating when you were younger, but it’s absolutely no fun with kids. Arrive at least 90 minutes before your scheduled departure, and give yourself even more time with international flights. Try not to rush other vacation activities like beach time, sightseeing or meals either. Your entire vacation will be less stressful without rushing from one place to another.
If you didn’t have the option of choosing your seat assignments for the airplane online, call the airline ahead of time to ensure your family gets seats next to each other. Although some travelers may be willing to change seats, it’s never guaranteed.
While there’s no doubt your kids will want to stretch their bedtimes on vacation, it’s better to keep them consistent than to deal with tired kiddos the next day. Younger kids should stay on a more strict schedule while older kids can generally deal with a little more leeway.
Pesky bugs love the summer heat as much as we do, and preventing your family from bug bites can keep everyone happier and healthier too. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, bug sprays that use 10-30 percent DEET should be used to prevent against disease-carrying insects like mosquitoes and ticks. Bug sprays with DEET should not be used on children under 2 months of age.
Just when you think you’re prepared for flight with a number of kid-friendly game apps on your smartphone, you realize they don’t work once you leave the ground. Check to make sure the apps you download work without internet connectivity before boarding your flight.
You don’t have to spend a bunch of money at the toy store before your flight or road trip, but a simple new toy (like small figurines or a new coloring book) can help keep your little ones engaged longer. Use the toy as an incentive for them to be extra well behaved in transit.
Although you may want to use sweets as a reward for good behavior or even to help your kids make it to the end of a long travel day, it’s best to opt for healthy snacks like fruit, cheese, crackers or granola bars while in the air or on the road. Keeping sugar rushes at bay will help your entire travel day run more smoothly.
On top of packing any prescription medicines your kids normally take, you’ll want to pack a first-aid kit with essentials like pain relievers, band-aids, motion-sickness medication and a wide variety of other items. Once you prepare your first-aid kit once, you can restock it and use it for every trip. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers offers a guide to packing your perfect first-aid kit here.
Instead of instinctively booking a hotel room at your destination, opt for a vacation rental home or condo instead. Having access to a full kitchen and multiple bedrooms and bathrooms will help you save money, and your entire family will enjoy more privacy.
Whether your kids are 5 years old or 15, they probably want to have a say in what your family does on vacation. Let each family member choose some activities that they want to do (within reason) and make sure you follow through with each one.