25 Family Travel Tips. By Annie Bacon for

The Babble List: 25 Family Travel Tips

Stress-proof your next vacation! by Annie Bacon

May 18, 2009


We’re facing the return of the sun, the end of school, the start of family vacations and, economy be damned, the perfect time for a little adventure. Here are 25 tips for making it less stressful, more efficient and therefore more relaxing for everyone! –Annie Bacon

1.jpgCheck in the online yellow pages if there are any laundromats near your hotel, or call and ask the front desk before your trip. They’re incredibly cheap when compared to what most hotels will charge you.

2.jpgUnless you’re vacationing in the middle of the African jungle, there should be drugstores and grocery stores at your destination, so only pack enough diapers and baby food for 24 hours, and plan a bit of shopping on your first day. Things like sun block, baby shampoo and even sand toys can also be bought on arrival… and left behind on departure!

3.jpgDon’t bring the baby monitor in hope of sneaking to the hotel’s restaurant once the children are sleeping. You should never leave your child unattended, even behind locked doors!

4.jpgAvoid the “one huge luggage” solution; all aircraft carriers impose steep penalties if you go over the weight limit. Make sure to look your airline’s luggage limit weight per person AND the limit per luggage.

5.jpgAirports carts are helpful, but you should always be able to carry your kids and luggage without help, or you could find yourself stranded a few hundred meters from the taxi stand! When traveling alone with a child or baby, don’t hesitate to go for a less stylish, but oh-so-useful solution: the backpack. Your carry-on is heavier than your child? Put the bag in the stroller, and bring a baby or toddler carrier.

6.jpgAs prep for any massive delay, carry on a 24-hour survival kit: diapers and wipes, re-sealable plastic bags, a change of clothes for everyone, lots of snacks, minimal toiletries (toothbrush, contacts, deodorant), and the “must have to sleep” blanket or stuffed animal. Pack any remaining space with books and toys.

Stress-proof your next vacation! by Annie Bacon

May 18, 2009


7.jpgThe Holy Grail of oversea trips is the bassinet that can be attached to the wall on some aircrafts. Not only does it allow the baby (and you!) to sleep more comfortably, it also works as a play-pen once he’s awake. Inform yourself on its availability, your baby’s eligibility, and any possibility of reserving it in advance. Every aircraft company has a “traveling with children” webpage (view American Airlines, and United’s) that should be consulted before booking. Never hesitate to call for additional information.

Things to know before booking:

– Is it free for children under 2?

– Are there bassinets?

– Are there baby meals and do you need to order them in advance?

– Can you choose your seat in advance and at what cost?

– Is your car seat allowed on the plane?

– Can you bring your stroller all the way to the plane’s door?

– Is there any baby equipment that can travel for free?

8.jpgIf you’re traveling alone with the kids out of the country, you might be required to have a letter from the other parent stating that they’re aware of their children’s trip and that you’re not smuggling them away to avoid sharing custody! Find a sample letter here.

9.jpgDo online homework before booking your flight. or allows you to compare airplane prices and availability, while others like inform you as to the plus and minuses of every single seat on the plane.

10.jpgOf course, if you can find and afford one, aparthotels with a bedroom and a kitchen are by far the best accommodations when traveling with kids. When comparing prices, consider that the kitchen will allow you to cook homemade meals instead of going to the restaurant three times a day. (Then again, maybe cooking is the last thing you want to do on your vacation.)

11.jpgBeing able to feed your progeny at the hotel once in a while makes the trip easier to manage. If you’re traveling with a baby, make sure that your hotel room has either a coffeemaker or electric kettle in the room. This simple apparatus will allow you to easily warm up milk, purees, and water for the cereals. Some purees, such as avocado, banana and tofu, can be made with a simple fork and eaten cold.

12.jpg A child’s bed, while traveling, can take many forms. It can be a portable tent like the pea pod, a hotel-offered crib or a rollaway bed (most hotels have the first for free and the latter for a fee), or even just a folded bedspread on the floor. Most of those options work better than a second bed, since you can move it to an out-of-the-way spot in the room: the entrance, an open-wardrobe, the tiny space between the second bed and the wall, anything goes! Your child will be happy to have a secret hideout, and you’ll be able to stay up past 8:00.

Stress-proof your next vacation! by Annie Bacon

May 18, 2009


13.jpgBlackout! Place your child’s bed on the floor near the window and use the curtains to make a canopy over it, allowing you to keep the light on after putting him or her in bed. Or drape extra blankets over his Pack n Play or tent. Leave enough air, but make it dark enough that he won’t wake up the second you turn on the TV or the sun comes through the blinds.

14.jpgFor older kids, keep muffins or croissants in a bag for early breakfast. Snacks and picnic food, such as fresh vegetables and cold cuts, are easily found at the grocery store, and instant noodles can be cooked with water straight out of the coffeemaker (rinse it once or twice before use!).

15.jpgBring a kitchen knife in your “cargo-hold” luggage; it will allow you to peel apples, cut cucumbers and open sealed plastic containers.

16.jpgAlthough refrigerators are rare, you can sometime use the mini-bar to keep milk and leftovers from wasting. Be careful not to touch anything: some of them are equipped with sensors that charge your room as soon as something moves. Ice in the sink can also keep food from spoiling. The best option for milk is to buy ultra-high temperature processed (UHT) milk in juice-box format, which can be kept at room temperature.

17.jpgPractice going to a restaurant near your home so that you can have a bit of experience in an easy and well-known setting before your vacation. It’s a good opportunity to teach your kids patience and manners.

Bring with you…

– Diapers and wipes

– Re-sealable plastic bags

– A change of clothes for the kids

– Plastic bibs

– Something to nibble on in case service is slow

– Something to occupy your sure-to-get-bored children

Portable hook-on chair

18.jpgTo avoid feeding your children French fries at every meal, think outside the kid’s menu. Look at appetizers, soups and side-orders to build a healthy meal. Also, some restaurants allow substitutions; ask to replace the fries with roasted or mashed potatoes.

Stress-proof your next vacation! by Annie Bacon

May 18, 2009


19.jpgAlways have a couple of small toys in your bag for outings. Avoid toys that have many small pieces: Polly Pockets are perfect to keep a young girl occupied in the hotel room, but you don’t want to have to crawl under the table to find a missing shoe. Also, don’t bring any “beeping” or musical electronic toys: parents have a selective sense of hearing that allows them not to go crazy in the presence of anything from Vtech, but others might not have that skill.

A few good choices…

– Coloring book with washable pencils

– Activity or sticker books

– Etch-a-sketch

– Magnetic play scenes or dress-up dolls

– Anything that comes in a small case

20.jpgIf you prefer not to use the stroller as a feeding spot, use the bathrobe belts to secure your toddler to a chair. To avoid cleaning fees, place a towel on the chair and floor.

21.jpgResist the urge to ask for a child’s plates before yours. It might keep him quiet at first, but then he’ll have nothing to do once it’s your time to eat.

22.jpgIf you travel abroad, keep in mind that some cultures have different meal schedules and that restaurants’ open hours may differ from what you’re used to. Make enquiries before heading out, or you might hit your nose on a “Closed” sign.

23.jpgPace yourself. Some adult travelers are used to booking their whole day with planned activities, but rushing children from one museum to another is a recipe for disaster. A tired child is a cranky one and nothing ruins the fun of vacation as effectively as constant tantrums. With older kids, you can give them access to the tourism information and let them pick one activity that they’d like to do during the trip, so they feel it’s their trip, too. For younger ones, check Bugaboo’s daytrip site for stroller-friendly suggestions.

24.jpgDon’t feel guilty about slacking off on your usual discipline and education standards. It’s vacation time! So what if they’ve already watched an hour of cartoons? Or had a second serving of chocolate ice cream? Everything they’ll gain by the rest of the experience will far outweigh any set back in discipline and good habits. Those can always be taken care of once you’re back at home.

25.jpgTry letting your children nap in a bed once in a while, alternate big activities with smaller ones and allow some down time to let them explore. Going to the park may seem to you like a waste of precious sightseeing time, but you should instead consider it an opportunity to experience the life of a local. Who knows – you might even make some friends.

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