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7 tips for traveling with young children this summer

Family vacations provide us with lifelong memories, but they can also be stressful to coordinate, especially if you have little ones.

Our family has been planning our very first week-long trip that requires us to get on several flights with our kids, ages 5 and 6. It’s their first time on an airplane! This brings us so much excitement, but it has also been quite the journey to plan and execute.

Here are seven tips that worked for us and may be useful to others planning family trips this summer.

1. Make lists. Whether it is paper/pencil or on your phone, make lists. With the pressure of getting everything coordinated, there is a good chance you will forget something. I had lists for what to pack for each person, and checked it off as I packed it. I also made lists of what needed accomplished prior to leaving, such as scheduling my dog’s boarding stay. Lists can help keep trips organized and provide peace of mind as we cross things out.

2. Create a flexible schedule and itinerary. Even if you want to just relax and take it day by day, it is a good idea to have a flexible game plan so you get the best out of your time away. Research the top things to do in your vacation spot, and make it a goal to make it to them. Of course, we have to be flexible, especially with little ones, and be okay if something does not work out. I researched our vacation to Disney World and wrote down the top attractions at each park as tentative goals. We also made sure to schedule time to rest or nap so that we did not have cranky children as the day wore on.

3. Pack plenty of snacks. If you are at a new place with different cuisines, chances are, your child will not want to eat or be leery of trying new things. If you are boarding a plane and have a long travel time, snacks are also a must to keep your child busy but also nourished. There are plastic organizer boxes (targeted for organizing crafts or beads) that can be used to store a plethora of snack choices. The type of snacks you put inside depends on when you will be using them. If it is during a long trip or ride, you may not want to put cold fruit that will wilt or not be as fresh. Consider healthy options, but also mix in some fun goodies.

4. Bring entertainment options. If you are planning on being in an airport for a while, or if your commute is long, make sure to pack plenty of entertainment options for the little ones. In little backpacks, I made sure each kid had coloring books, a tablet and charger with headphones, a brain teaser like a Rubik’s cube, and books to read. These can all be tailored to whatever your child enjoys. If they have tablets, make sure to download plenty of offline content. Chargers and headphones are a must too! The battery will run low and devastate them, and the rest of the plane or travel group will thank you for having headphones for them.

5. Pack extra shoes. Packing space can be limited, especially if you’re flying and trying to keep your luggage at a certain weight. However extra shoes are a must if you are planning on walking a lot during your vacation or just in case of an emergency. If your shoes get wet or damaged, it would be stressful to not have a backup, leading to an unplanned purchase. If you can, pack an extra pair for the entire family. In our case, I made sure my kids had two pairs of tennis shoes and one pair of waterproof shoes for our time at Disney World.

6. Document the trip with diaries and cameras. Have your children document their experience through their perspective! Pack journals and disposable cameras for them to use the entire trip. Even if they can’t write, they can draw. This is a fun memento to look back on!

7. Consider bringing strollers or wagons. Even if your children love to walk around and no longer use a stroller in everyday life, vacationing can be exhausting! A stroller or wagon can be a good place for a quick nap, to rest their feet and eat, or even a place for all of the bags you are most likely hauling around. If you are going to a busy park or crowded event, this may not be ideal, but consider it anyway, as it may end up being a lifesaver.

    What are some of your go-to tips for vacationing with young ones? Let us know at Arizona PBS KIDS on Facebook.

    About the author

    Marissa Will is the mother of two, Olivia (6) and Logan (4). Writing was her first passion: she’s a freelance writer and a Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication alumna. Will is currently educating the future leaders of tomorrow: She has spent the past nine years educating third grade with a master’s degree in elementary education from Northern Arizona University-Yuma.

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