Last Updated on January 13, 2022
Travelling with kids can test even the most patient of parents, so to make your next trip smoother, here are our must-know travel hacks for families.
Let’s face it, while family vacations can be a lot of fun and create some very special memories, travelling with kids can also leave you feeling frazzled and frustrated, especially at the airport and on the plane.
It’s worth having a few travel hacks up your sleeve to make your trip go smoothly, so we’ve asked the experts: the dedicated staff at Jayride.com who travel with their kids. Here they are – 31 travel hacks that every parent needs to read before going on a family holiday.
1. Organise entertainment the night before
Load up the iPad with plenty of your kids’ favourite movies and games for the flight, but make sure you do this the night before your trip. The last thing you want the morning of your flight is to leave for the airport late because you’re frantically waiting for Frozen to finish downloading.
2. Vacuum seal bags are your friend
Not sure how on earth you’re going to fit everything into your luggage? Get your hands on some vacuum seal bags – when clothes are put in these and the air is sucked out with a vacuum cleaner, the bag shrinks and takes up minimal space. You’ll amaze yourself with just what you can fit into a suitcase and carry-on bag.
3. Pack according to similar items, not per person
Rather than packing a separate bag for each person, you may find it’s easier to pack all of your everyday clothes in one bag, all the shoes in another etc. That way, when you get to the hotel everyone’s clothes for the day are all together in one bag and you know exactly where the toys are.
4. Wrap shoes in a shower cap
This is a super nifty way to keep clothes clean and separate from dirty shoes that the little ones (and parents) have been running about in. Wrap them up in a disposable shower cap for a cheap and easy way to keep shoes separated in luggage.
5. Make sure everyone is wearing comfy clothes
Kids may look adorable in a specially designed travel outfit, but if they’re uncomfortable, they’ll be unhappy (and so will you!). Dress them in soft, baggy layers, or even pyjamas. Kids will love the novelty of being able to go out in their night-time wear, and if you bring a pillow along too, they can snuggle up and (hopefully) drift off to sleep on the plane. The same goes for you – with everything else you’re trying to deal with on a flight, at the very least, you want to be comfy. Wear loose-fitting clothing that you can relax and easily move around in.
6. Sign up for an airline loyalty program
If you travel regularly, consider signing up to an airline loyalty program, as it’s a great way to earn points and use them towards free trips and upgrades. By flying with the same airline when you travel you’ll find it easier to stick to a familiar routine, too. It’s not worth saving $50 on a budget airline only to find yourself in unfamiliar territory. With a regular airline you generally know what to expect. Plus, by earning points you might also be able to make the most of airport lounges before you fly (read our article on getting access to airport lounges for more information).
7. Buy some fun and colourful baggage tags
Let kids pick tags out themselves and then waiting for bags on the baggage carousel is a fun game of trying to spot their coloured tags.
8. Pack spare clothes for everyone, especially you, in your carry-on
Lots of parents pack a spare set of clothes for their kids for the flight, but forget to pack spare clothes for themselves, which is an immediate regret if your child is unwell on the plane. Even if it’s just a spare t-shirt, you’ll be relieved to smell fresh and clean.
9. Bring empty water bottles to refill after security
If you bring along a few empty water bottles to fill up after you’ve gone through airport security, you’ll not only save money on bottled water, but you also don’t have to worry about kids who insist they are thirsty as soon as the drinks cart has already been put away.
10. Keeps your hands free with a backpack
Rather than packing an overnight bag for carry-on, get a backpack instead. This way you can hold hands with little ones, buy food, hold onto passports, carry younger children, push trolleys and generally be less restricted.
11. Say hello to the people around you
Yeah yeah, people grimace when they realise they’re sitting next to young kids on the plane, but saying hello to your plane neighbours will go a long way in negotiating peace for the flight. You can even follow suit of other parents, who make little care packages with sweet treats and a note apologising if their baby cries during the flight.
12. Pack something to chew on for take-off
Ear pressure can be really painful, and even more so for children. Pack some gummy bears or fruit chews for kids who are too young to chew gum to help relieve the pressure, and for babies, let them sip milk or water.
13. Request a baby bassinet for the plane
Many people don’t know that you can actually request a baby bassinet for your baby to sleep in on the plane on some long-haul flights. It’s important to ask for this before your flight though as they are popular, so check with your airline well in advance to see if they have availability, and any guidelines they have for using a bassinet.
14. Get some gel window stickers
These are a fun and tactile way to keep kids busy if they’re sitting next to a window, and won’t leave a mess. You can find examples of cool gel stickers here.
15. Consider renting baby gear
Don’t want to lug your massive stroller on the trip with you? Think about renting it for your holiday instead. There are baby gear rental agencies that can set you up with cribs, strollers and everything else you might need for your little one, plus you’ll save on extra luggage fees. Some airports also have strollers available for parents to use for getting across the airport. Travel Mamas lists companies from around the world you can rent from for your holiday.
16. Bring new toys and books for the flight
Something that they have never seen before will be far more fascinating and interesting than something they’re already familiar with, and will hold their attention for longer, which is handy for a long flight.
17. Build excitement at the airport
Make the trip to the airport itself an exciting part of the holiday and treat it as a special day. Organise a breakfast that morning with their favourite foods or eat something new at the airport, and a new toy can go a long way too. Anything to make travel day a day to look forward to, rather than a stressful commute.
18. Pack plenty of snacks and treats
Chances are that meals on flights will not time well with your kids’ needs, and airline food may not suit fussy palates. Bring lots snacks with you, especially ones that your children are familiar with (just make sure they don’t break any custom or liquid restrictions). Familiarity with food means kids are also less likely to be unwell on the flight.
19. Arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare
Most domestic flights recommend arriving at the airport two hours before a flight, and three hours for international flights, but it’s worth adding some extra time to that so you can allow for any delays. Once you’re at the airport, try and scope out a children’s play area (many airports have them, check your airport’s website) to tire little ones out so they (hopefully) sleep on the plane. That will also give you time to sort out any last-minute tasks like organising currency exchange or buying last-minute toiletries, without needing to rush.
20. Make phone number bracelets
This is a cute (and extremely useful) way to make sure your children are armed with your contact number when out and about. Make a beaded bracelet using number beads to read out your contact number in case kids get lost. This will be something children actually enjoy wearing, rather than a travel card that can be easily lost (or torn up), and is a fun alternative to writing your number on their arm!
21. Have lots of activities and games in your arsenal
And they don’t need to be complicated. Pack a set of cards, play ‘I Spy’, introduce young kids to tic-tac-toe, pack some colouring or sticker books, or even a jigsaw puzzle. Anything to keep them occupied.
Handy hint: If you’ve got an extra-special toy or game for the trip, don’t bring it out too early. Wait until the tantrum is right about to hit, and then bring out the big guns. You don’t want to use up all of your arsenal and have nothing left when the tears really kick in.
22. Consider staying at a specifically child-friendly apartment
Sometimes they’re a little bit more expensive than a hotel, but websites like Smith and Family are curated to offer accommodation that is specifically designed with children in mind.
23. Invest in a wash bag to wash clothes on the go
Gadgets like the Scrubba have a flexible internal washboard so you can wash clothes while you’re away. This means packing less clothes as you’re able to clean them every few days and re-wear outfits.
Handy hint: These are great for camping trips as well.
24. Pack some zip-lock bags for the buffet breakfast
Are you staying at a hotel that offers a buffet breakfast? Take some zip-lock bags and grab a few extra bits of fruit or dry cereal for little ones to snack on later in the day.
25. Make a paper-chain activity list
A simple way to keep kids entertained – make a paper chain, and on each chain write an activity, challenge or task to be completed. Each time your child is bored, they tear off a chain and complete the task or game.
26. Give older kids some responsibility
Navigating an airport is a great skill to instill in kids, so put them in charge. Get them to count notes at the currency exchange desk, let them hold their boarding passes and explain what can and cannot be worn when going through airport security. Ask them to read and follow signs to your departure lounge and let them lead the way.
27. Pack a power board to charge all devices
This is especially useful on international trips when your power adapters are in short supply. If you pack a power strip you can charge all of your devices at the same time, so no-one misses out.
28. Pack more wet wipes than you think you need
Kids will touch gross things and generally make a mess, so pack plenty of wet wipes to keep your kids, and yourself, nice and clean.
29. Lint rollers are not just for lint
Mortified by just how many crumbs can be left on the car seat of an airport transfer or plane seat by such a small person? Pack a lint roller and run it over seats to clean it up quickly and efficiently.
30. Remind kids how exciting travelling is
Travelling is cool! Aeroplanes are interesting! Kids don’t care about the traffic delay, grumpy customs official or the baggage restrictions on budget airlines, so ignite some wanderlust in them before the trip and count planes on the tarmac, guess where other passengers are travelling to and once up in the air, look out at the clouds, ocean and houses that are below you.
31. Get an airport transfer to and from the airport
Take the hassle out of getting to and from the airport with a pre-booked airport transfer. It’s one less thing to worry about, and you won’t need to fork out heaps of money for airport parking. You can search and compare thousands of airport transfers on Jayride.com.
Are you a family that travels? What are you tips and tricks for travelling with kids? We’d love to read them in the comments box below!