Tips for Traveling with Kids

Best ways to prevent boredom and have a happy family trip

A little pre-planning can make traveling with kids much more fun and enjoyable for everyone.. Getty Images/Hero Images

Traveling with children is a much happier experience when you prepare ahead. The great thing about traveling with children who are of school age is that you can find lots of things to occupy them and ward off boredom.

You can also talk to them about what you expect from them during the trip, and discuss ways to make it more fun and pleasant for them -- and everyone around them as well. Try these tips the next time your family goes on a trip.

Great Tips for Traveling with Kids

Make sure they get plenty of rest the day/night before the trip. If your child is tired, he is more apt to feel cranky during the trip.

Don’t ditch regular bedtimes and naps because you are on vacation. As much as possible, try to stick to a regular sleep schedule so that children are not too tired during the trip -- and have a meltdown during the trip or on the way back home.

Try to relax. If you are stressed, your children will pick up on it and feel stressed themselves. When traveling, calmness is definitely contagious.

Suggest quiet activities. If your kids are acting loud and rambunctious, try lowering your voice to get their attention. Then, suggest a calm and quiet activity such as reading or writing in a travel journal or drawing a picture about their trip (either what they are excited about seeing, if you are on your way there or what they loved the most about the trip if you are on your way home).

(For ideas on what to bring for quiet kid activities, read, "Going Somewhere? 12 Things to Put in an Activity Bag for Kids.")

Play some fun family travel games. To ward off boredom (and prevent crankiness and misbehavior, which can be triggered by boredom), pack some great travel games. If you’re traveling by car, play some great road games such as I Spy.

Bring something new that’s tailored it to your child’s interest. Does your child love American Girl Dolls? Then maybe you can get some new accessories for her doll. If he is crazy about baseball, you may want to get a new book about baseball or a set of cards. Something new, whether it’s a puzzle or a new app for the iPhone, will hold your child’s interest for a longer period of time.

Try some relaxing music, soothing sounds, or a book. Load up some audio books or tunes on your iPod or other personal music device. You can incorporate favorite kids' music on the playlist, but be sure to include some soothing music or sounds such as the kind you might hear at a spa when you go in for a massage. It may help your child relax and take a nap on a plane or during the car ride.

Practice airport procedures. If you are flying to your destination, be sure to go over the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) rules and security procedures (such as going through metal detectors and taking off shoes), which can be a bit scary for some school-age children.

What to Pack When Traveling with Kids

  • Snacks
    Cheese (such as string cheese or bite-sized cubes of cheddar) and crackers are a must-have, as are portable fruit such as bananas, grapes, and apples. To cut down on the sugar, bring bottles of water and other healthy drinks rather than juice boxes.
  • Notepads, drawing paper, pencils, pens
    Bring along some paper and pencils so that kids can write travel “journal” entries and create drawings about their trip.
  • Laptops, iPads, or other devices that can play movies
    These will be lifesavers when all else fails. But since you don’t want your child to be glued to the screen for the entire trip, try to save this as a “last resort” tactic to occupy your child.
  • Books
    Bring along some new and favorite books that your child read on her own and with you. Even younger grade-schoolers can quietly read books on her own -- it’s the perfect activity for an airplane or train ride.
  • Favorite kids’ music and audio books
    There are lots of great tunes for kids these days. Choose from among these great kids’ CDs or get a great audio book such as Harry Potter or the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.
  • Family travel games
    Whether your child loves chess or Scrabble, try one of these favorite travel games for kids to pass the time.

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