Traveling With Kids: 15 Preparation Essentials

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Ah, traveling with kids — the ultimate test of a parent’s patience and organizational skills. Whether it’s the constant “Are we there yet?” from the backseat or the challenge of keeping sticky fingers off everything, the thought alone can send shivers down the spine. But it’s still so much fun, isn’t it?

Plus, with the right prep, traveling with your mini-me(s) can be less about stress and more about making memories. As someone who’s been there, I want to share the survival secrets that may turn chaotic journeys into enjoyable adventures.

A family of four inside a blue car.

15 Quick Tips to Prepare for Traveling with Kids

Involve Kids in Planning

It’s pretty obvious but still — let your kids have a say in the itinerary as this always (almost) makes them feel invested and excited about the upcoming trip. Even if they are just allowed to choose between a zoo or a museum, having a role in decision-making can boost their enthusiasm and cooperation.

Pack Smart

Create a checklist specifically for each child, tailored to their needs and the length of travel. A few points to include on each of them:

  • layers for fluctuating temperatures,
  • a beloved blanket for comfort,
  • and spill-proof cups to avoid accidents.

Plus, packing cubes are lifesavers as they keep outfits and essentials neatly organized and accessible.

Tech & Entertainment Kit

Long gone are the days of solely “I spy” and singing “B-I-N-G-O” on repeat. Load up tablets with favorite movies, games, and apps. Don’t forget headphones to save your sanity from the constant replaying of video game music or cartoons. Include traditional books and coloring supplies for tech-free time, too.

Snack Packs

Never underestimate the power of snacks. Pack a variety of healthy options like sliced fruits, string cheese, and crackers along with a few fun treats. Consider individual snack bags (for yourself, too!) to hand out periodically — this can be a great way to keep hunger-induced meltdowns at bay.

Dress for Success (and Mess)

Opt for comfortable, layered clothing that can handle a chocolate milk spill or a marker mishap (hopefully that won’t be necessary but still). I’d also recommend including a change of clothes within easy reach, not buried at the bottom of a suitcase. Just in case, you know.

An image of a first aid kit and its contents.

First Aid Goes First

Prepare a kid-friendly first aid kit. My own checklist normally includes

  • band-aids,
  • antiseptic wipes,
  • child-safe pain relievers,
  • items for motion sickness, fever, or allergies (tailored to the child’s needs).

Better safe than scrambling to find a pharmacy in a foreign location. And yes, these should be also placed within easy reach.

Practice Good Hygiene Habits

With kids, cleanliness is next to godliness — especially on the go. Pack plenty of wipes, hand sanitizer, and a small travel soap. Teach them the importance of washing hands frequently.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. One trick I can recommend here is to make it a fun game. You can even introduce an element of competition into it. Prizes aren’t obligatory but surely motivating.

Renting the Right Car

I absolutely love car rentals. If you are lucky to find a good rental service, you’re packed for a cool trip. The main advice is to stick with reputable services like and opt for cars with plenty of space and modern safety features.

Always check if the rental offers car seats or if you’ll need to bring your own. Choose a vehicle that’s a comfortable fit for everyone, and maybe splurge a little on those extra features like built-in DVD players for a smoother ride.

Time Your Travel

If possible, align longer stretches of travel with your child’s nap or bedtime. Driving at night or scheduling flights during their usual sleep times can mean a quieter and less stressful journey for everyone.

But it’s important to listen to yourself, too. Driving all night long is physically challenging so if you are the only driver on this journey, I wouldn’t recommend that. It’s really important to remember that your needs are as meaningful as anyone else’s.

Safe and Sound Seating

Double-check car seat installations and airline guidelines for child seating. That may sound clichéd but comfort and safety are, indeed, paramount. Ensure that everything meets the current safety standards and is properly adjusted for your child’s size and weight. If you aren’t familiar with the standards (which is totally okay), you can always find them online.

An image of important travel documents.

Keep Essential Documents Handy

Traveling often involves more paperwork when kids are involved. Keep passports, travel consents, and health documents in an easily accessible but secure spot. Also, have copies available just in case. This is, of course, relevant to all trips, not only those with kids involved.

Expect the Unexpected

Always have a plan B (and C, and D). Delays, weather changes, and last-minute closures happen. A backup plan allows you to prevent disappointment and keep the adventure going even when the unexpected occurs. The beauty of it is that it makes you flexible, not vulnerable.

Create a Kid-Friendly Itinerary

Not every attraction will be interesting or suitable for kids. Mix in child-centered activities like parks, interactive museums, or kid-friendly tours to keep their spirits high. But it should be a compromise. You will share their beloved activities so it’s totally okay to invite them to share yours.

Regular Breaks Are a Must

Whether you’re flying or driving, regular breaks are essential. Use them for stretching, restroom visits, or just burning off some energy. It’ll make the travel less daunting and more manageable for little legs. Ideally, it’s best to plan these breaks in advance when you have time to pick some attractive spots for them.

Capture the Moments

And now, a few words about the emotional side of it. Every journey with your kids is a priceless memory. It’s pathetic but it’s true. Encourage your kids to take pictures or keep a travel journal. It’s a great way to engage with their surroundings and can be a wonderful keepsake to look back on.

Final Thoughts

Traveling with kids can be chaotic, few of us would claim the opposite. But it’s important to remember that the goal isn’t to survive the trip. It’s to enjoy it and create lasting memories that you and your children will cherish for years to come. Happy travels!

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