Whether you’re planning a weekend road trip or flying out-of-town with the family for a much-needed getaway, traveling with kids can be great fun, but equally hectic! Getting the whole family packed and ready to go can try the patience of even the most even-keeled parents, sometimes detracting from your enjoyment of the experience.
If you’re already frazzled thinking about navigating the family from Point A to Point B, here are 19 ingenious travel hacks to help make your next family vacation smooth and seamless. Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
#1 – Ship, Don’t Pack
If you’re planning to be away for more than a few days and are feeling stressed about fitting all your daily essentials from snacks to diapers to baby food in your suitcase, there’s another way. Instead, order these items ahead of time and ship them to your final destination, so they are ready and waiting when you arrive.
This will be particularly helpful if you’re renting a house and want to have everything you need at your disposal once you get there without needing to take time away from your vacation to shop.
#2 – Send Souvenirs Ahead
If you’re going away on vacation and know you’ll likely be picking up plenty of souvenirs on your trip, save yourself a headache. Send those bulky items home through a shipping company instead of trying to fit everything in your luggage.
Souvenir stores don’t typically have an issue wrapping up and shipping your items to your home. Some may even put them in the mail for you so your goodies are ready and waiting when you get back from your trip.
#3 – Ziplock Packing
Make wardrobe planning for the kiddos 10 times easier, and use ziplock bags to put all their outfits together ahead of time. Each day, they can simply grab a fresh bag with shorts, a shirt, undies, socks, etc. No need to worry about mismatched socks this time!
#4 – Stockpile Games and Activities
Whether you’ll be going on a short or long trip, always plan ahead by bringing a bunch of games and activities to keep the little ones occupied—at least for a few hours. Check out the dollar store before your trip for things like coloring books, craft supplies, puzzles, card games, and other fun activities you know your kids will love.
#5 – Send Yourself Mail
A special way to commemorate your vacation is to mail postcards or notes to yourself back home as you travel to various destinations. Just throw some envelopes and stamps in your suitcase before you go.
When you visit a museum or other nifty spot, buy a postcard, have everyone sign it, and mail it back home. Those post-vacation blues won’t seem so bad when the kids have mail to return to, postmarked from all the cool places they’ve visited.
#6 – Make Copies of Everything
If you’ll be flying anywhere on your trip, whether domestically or abroad, scan and copy your driver’s license, ID card, passport, itinerary, and so forth. Email yourself a copy of everything and print out one of two paper copies of each (one to store in your luggage and the other to keep with you). That way, if luggage gets lost or someone steals your purse, all your essential documents will be safe.
#7 – Lists Are Your Friend
Don’t stress yourself out trying to remember every little thing you need to bring in your luggage. Instead, make your own ultimate packing list, print it out, and keep it with you to use for this trip and ones in the future. If you do forget something one trip, be sure to add it to your list so you remember it for the next vacation.
#8 – Safety First
If you’re traveling with kids, particularly young ones, one simple safety measure is to write out your name and number on a piece of paper, business card, etc. and put it in their pocket. You can teach your little ones to show that card or paper to a law enforcement officer or another dependable adult.
Staying at a hotel on your trip? Take the hotel’s business card at the reception desk and write your contact information on the back. In the event you and your child get separated, they’ll not only have your name and number but the hotel’s contact details.
#9 – Buy Travel-Size Hygiene Items
Don’t lug big bottles of shampoo and tubes of toothpaste on your next trip. Instead, purchase travel-size hygiene and personal items ahead of time (i.e. mouthwash, body wash, shampoo, toothbrushes), that you can easily throw away when you’re done and ready to go home.
#10 – Use Backseat Organizers for Road Trips
If you’re going on a road trip, whether for a few days or a week, backseat organizers will be your (and your child’s) new best friend. Organizers like this one are a great way to keep everything from snacks and drinks to games and tablets easily accessible and orderly.
#11 – Make Your Own First-Aid Kit
Just in case anyone gets any scrapes along the way, put together your own first aid kit with all the essentials like bandaids, antiseptic wipes, Tylenol, etc.,to ensure you’re prepared for any unanticipated boo-boos.
#12 – Listen to Books
Listening to audiobooks is a fantastic way to keep everyone in the car occupied on long road trips. From gripping stories to educational content, books on tape can be a dual-purpose learning and entertainment experience for the kids.
#13 – Movie Time
If you’ve listened to your favorite book for a few hours and the kids need a change of pace, pull out your laptop and play their favorite show or movie. You can set up your laptop on the car console so everyone can enjoy.
#14 – Plan Ahead
Whether you’re catching an early morning flight or hitting the road before the sun comes up, plan to download and pack up your kids’ game and movie entertainment the night ahead. You’ll likely be running about the morning of the trip attending to last minute details.
Make sure your iPad or laptop is finished downloading and ready to go, and you’ll have one less thing to worry about.
#15 – Use a Vacuum Seal Bag
When you’re going on a lengthy getaway, it can be daunting to figure out how to fit all your clothes into your luggage. This is where vacuum-sealed bags can save the day.
Put your clothes in the bags, seal them with your vacuum cleaner, and voila! The bag has shrunk down to a minute size, giving you much more room in your carry-on and suitcase.
#16 – Pick Up Some Quirky and Bright Baggage Tags
As fun as it is playing the waiting game standing at the luggage carousel, straining your eyes to pick out your suitcase amongst the sea of other identical baggage, why not simplify things?
Before your trip, pick up some bright and colorful tags for your baggage to jot down your contact information on. Not only will you have an easier time spotting your luggage right off the bat, but the kids can compete to see who can find their quirky baggage tag first.
#17 – Pack Empty Water Bottles to Fill Once You Get Through Security
Pack a couple of empty water bottles that you can refill after you get through airport security. Not only will you save a little money, not having to purchase airport bottled water, but you won’t have to worry about thirsty kiddos on the plane after the drink cart rolls off.
#18 – Fix Some Meals In Your Hotel
If you’ll be staying in a hotel, consider booking a room with a kitchenette featuring a few kitchen essentials that you can prepare some easy meals in. Not only can you stretch your budget a little further, but when the kids are hungry or in dire need of a snack, you can easily whip something up.
Check out the grocery store nearest your hotel to pick up a few favorite food items for the whole family. Your hotel room coffee maker can easily do double duty to make some instant oatmeal and ramen for those last minute snacks.
Need to stretch your legs after the long car or plane ride? Check out these 5 tips for family fitness to keep everyone active and help the kids release some of that pent up energy.
#19 – Navigating the Airport With Ease
Okay, so this final hack is really three rolled into one.
First, if you’re trying to get seats with your family on the plane and are unable to when you book the flight, continue to reach out to the airline in the week, 48 hours, and 24 hours preceding your departure. Airlines have been known to reserve seats just for families, then release them a week before the flight. Once you hit the 24 and 48-hour point, elites frequently upgrade, which opens up more seats in economy.
Second, skip lengthy airport security waits by heading to the family lane at TSA. The majority of major airports have family lanes to streamline the process for travelers with children.
Finally, do yourself a favor and pre-book an airport transfer both to and from your accommodation. You’ll save money on airport parking and have one less component to worry about.
This is a sponsored guest post written by Rachel Warren. Rachel is a Research Analyst and Writer for CarInsuranceComparison.com. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Paralegal Studies from the Liberty University School of Law. Rachel leverages nearly a decade’s prior experience in the legal field and her diverse digital marketing background to create data-rich, informative, engaging content for readers regarding car insurance, legal, finance, career, and lifestyle topics.