There are times when parents want to be spontaneous with traveling and just want to go with the flow, but if you are traveling with kids, especially with infants or toddlers, planning and organization is key. The lack of proper planning can be disastrous in so many aspects, and planning in itself can also be tedious. But in order to guarantee a smooth-sailing trip and a great family adventure, most importantly if you are traveling with your little ones for the first time, it is a must for you to do the dirty work of researching and putting all together. This “Travel with Kids 101” should help you organize things even before you leave your doorstep up to the time you return home.
To avoid the travel nightmares that many experience when they travel with kids, always get things ready even before you head out of the house. Planning requires a list of things that should include the following:
1. Travel plan
A travel plan does not need to be elaborate, you can keep it simple and personal. What you can do is create an Excel file with several tabs or columns designated for different sections, such as schedule, passports, budget, itinerary, attractions to visit, hotel reservations, emergency contact numbers, airline itineraries, and travel insurance. Keep tab of everything that you need.
2. Passport and Visas
Ensure that everyone’s passport is ready and valid. Also check if the place or country you will be visiting needs a visa. If it does, then, secure the visa ahead of time. For your own safety and for backup purposes, scan your passports and all pertinent travel documents. Don’t forget to email the scanned copies to your email as well.
3. Cash, Budget, and Credit Card
Keeping in mind that you are visiting a foreign country for the first time, it should not be neglected to always keep your credit cards and cash ready. It will be a smart move for you to notify your bank or banks at least a month before your expected departure. Credit card companies normally need to be made aware of any possible international purchases to skip the hassle of having your purchases getting denied overseas. Aside from making sure that your cards are all set, bring enough cash for the entire duration of your travel with kids. Most countries accept U.S. dollars, so it is also good to keep some bills.
4. Transportation Itineraries
While it is imperative that you should check your airline tickets before flying out of the country, it is also helpful to check your transportation options. Transportation is not only limited to planes, it is extra helpful if you know your way in and out of any place you will be visiting, and if the city or country you will be traveling to with kids requires multiple hops from the airport to the hotel, plan ahead. Looking for bus, railway, and taxi passes online will not only save you money, but also time and effort. Most in Europe and Asia have MRT passes or Hop on Hop Off tickets that will allow you to travel smoothly without having to stand in line to purchase tickets. When you are at your destination, you can also consider renting a car instead of traveling through public transportation as an option to keep everyone and everything intact.
Aside from airline or transportation tickets, make sure to also check if the itinerary includes enough luggage allowance. Traveling with kids requires you to pack enough clothes for the little ones. Strollers and baby carriers will have to be part of this luggage allowance if you are traveling with infants or toddlers. What you put in your carry-on bags must also be accounted for. Medicine kits, diapers, formula, snacks, travel documents, and other travel essentials have to be kept handy. Even our children’s favorite toys might also be needed. You must also be mindful of any luggage restrictions for a worry-free travel with kids. Furthermore, for you to avoid the hefty charges for excess baggage at airports, I suggest adding it to your itinerary upon booking.
6. Hotel Accommodation
Traveling with kids means making sure that you have comfortable accommodations upon your arrival. If your schedule is fixed and you know exactly when you have to be home, then making a fixed-date hotel reservation is ideal. This will guarantee that you will not have to worry about where to stay. But if your itinerary is flexible and you have enough time to spare, then, I suggest booking only the first few days, allowing you to experience different hotel services. When selecting your accommodation, also consider other options such as Airbnb or top-rated hostels, as they sometimes offer discounts or a more affordable rate. But always keep in mind the facilities and amenities that your kids will need when choosing a place to stay in.
7. Travel Insurance
Many travelers fall into the trap of missing to get travel insurance. Yes, we all need to be positive and think that all will run perfectly and smoothly on your next adventure. But things happen, and sometimes, when we fall on the negative side of the road, we are not always ready. To avoid having to spend outside of your budget, buy a travel insurance policy for the entire family. When selecting one, look at the fine print and make sure that it covers loss of luggage, flight cancellation, documents or passport loss, and health and wellness expenses.
8. Doctor Appointments
If you will be away for more than a two weeks and will be traveling overseas, it is important that you see your doctor, especially if your kids have special needs. It will give you peace of mind and it will be comfortable for your kids to travel knowing that their medical needs are taken care of prior to leaving the house.
9. Medical Kit
Be prepared. There is a great chance that kids may complain about minor headaches, stomachaches, or even toothaches, and the last thing you want to happen is to be in an isolated island without access to a first aid kit or medicine. So, it is a must for your carry-on luggage to include a medical kit.
10. Guided Tours
I know you want to give your kids the best travel experience by letting them explore the world freely. There is no question about that. However, to save yourself the hassle of going around places with the crowd, it is advisable to consider getting guided tours to bypass the regular lines. Attractions such as theme parks and museums are notorious for having jam-packed attendance, so it is good to ready the express lanes.
You arrive at your destination only to find out that the theme park or museum is closed for renovation. This can be a frustrating experience for you and your kids, but you can definitely avoid this by checking the schedules of the attraction just before you visit. If the attractions have websites, you can check, then pay them a visit beforehand. For a more comprehensive list of places where you can take the kids, click here.
12. Travel Apps
When looking for attraction or transportation options, it is best to use travel apps as well.Most of the things that you will need, if not all, can now be booked or arranged through your mobile phones. If you are lucky, these travel apps also offer discounts that will save you money. Read more about Essential Travel Planning Apps 2018
13. Travel Games
Your travel with kids will always have a downtime.This is true, especially if your trip includes long-haul flights and train or bus rides. To keep your kids busy and entertained while you are still on you way to the next destination, or to simply avoid them sporting a frowning face, pack your mobile devices and tablets with travel game apps. Another alternative that will surely keep their tantrums away is to let them play one of those portable and lightweight board games in the backseat of the car.
This one is an uncommon tip, but a useful one for those parents with kids old enough to follow instructions. Kids love to enjoy and have fun, so why not use this as a leverage for them to behave and focus during your trip. In order to do this, assign them simple and doable travel tasks such as carrying a water bottle, packing snacks, or securing travel maps. You will be amazed by how your kids can follow your instructions carefully. Giving them a list of things to check and lookout for when visiting museums or any attraction will also be fun. It’s as if they are part of “Amazing Race – Family Edition”.
Andy Warhol once said “The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” Your kids will grow up and may forget their first trip to Europe, but bringing a family camera with you to capture their special moments will ensure that those memories are kept alive and can be relived when you want to. There are different things you need to consider before choosing a travel camera though. Do you want to know what those are? Check this link.