How do you pack for two kids and yourself in one carry-on? And should you take a stroller and a car seat? Traveling with kids can be hard. Ok, it can be exhausting and expensive but, it’s worth it…especially when you have a few travel hacks up your sleeve. Over the last six years I’ve learned a lot about the do’s and don’ts of traveling with kids so I’ve put together a list of 25 travel hacks every parent should know – and use. (A lot of these travel hacks can be used when you’re not traveling with kids too.)
25 Family Travel Hacks for Parents
1. Roll it Up
Rolling your clothing is a common packing travel hack but one that is worth repeating. Not only does it save space in your bag BUT it also decreases wrinkling. Better yet, it’s a great task kids can help with.
2. Bring Reusable Bags
Packing a few reusable bags makes getting items you purchase on your vacation home much easier. You can easily put your shoes and other clothing items inside and use these bags as a carry-ons. Reusable bags also make for great beach tots and places to pack/store dirty or wet clothing within your suitcase. (Bags like RuMe are easy, lightweight, stylish, and super durable – they can hold 50 pounds!)
3. Buffet + Zip-locks = Easy Snacks
Staying at a hotel offering a breakfast buffet? Grab a few extra grapes, bananas, apples or muffins to put into a zip-lock for little ones to snack on later. Or, fill one of the bags up with dry cereal for a quick snack.
4. Lint Rollers Pick-up More than Lint
Pack and carry a lint roller with you if you’re traveling with kids. Not only will the lint roller help clean your clothing, but it picks up glitter, sprinkles, cheerios and all those wonderful things kids leave in their seats. (Great for flights and road trips!)
5. Vacuum Seal Bags
Ever tried packing for three people in one carry-on for four days? Some would say it’s impossible, others enlist the help of a vacuum seal bag. When clothing is placed in these plastic bags, the air is removed and everything is essentially shrink wrapped to a flat pancake. You do have to have a vacuum to recreate this upon your return home; ask housekeeping at your hotel to borrow a vacuum. (More on using vacuum seal bags for packing travel hacks.)
6. Forget the Charger?
If you forget the wall plug-in for your phone charger, check the back of your hotel TV, most newer models have a USB port you can connect to for power.
7. Power for All
Pack a power strip to plug all the devices you and your kids are traveling with into for easy charging. This is great when you’re traveling internationally and you have a limited number of adapters.
8. Sharing Devices
Have one iPad but two kids who want to watch something on the airplane or on a road trip? Put your tablet or smartphone in a clear plastic bag and hook it to the back of the tray table on the plane. If you’re in the car, clip it to the back of the headrest or invest in an iPad headrest mount.
9. Electrical Outlets – Band-Aid Style
Forget bringing all the plastic covers for electrical outlets. Pack some Band-Aids and you’re covered. Literally.
10. Prevent Falling Out of Bed
If your hotel or rental has pool noodles, grab a few to tuck inside the fitted bed sheet to prevent little ones from rolling out.
11. Waterproof your Phone
Heading to the beach or pool? Place your phone in a ziplock to keep it from getting wet – and sandy.
12. Help With Ear Popping
Adults typically chew gum to help with the shift in altitude when flying but not all kids are ready for gum. For babies, have them drink a bottle as you take off and descend. Toddlers and younger children who aren’t ready for gum can ease ear pains with chewy snacks – fruit chews, gummy bears, etc.
13. Death by Cord
Tangled up in cords? Ear buds and power cords can be the death of a well-packed bag. Wrap cords around packaged tea bags or a plastic cards. If you have desk clips, these are also great for clipping and keeping cords and ear buds organized.
14. ID bracelets, Travel Cards and Tattoos?
When traveling knowing your address isn’t always helpful for children. Being armed with a parents cell phone number, hotel information or other emergency contact information is essential if you become separated. Placing a travel card in a child’s a pocket can help with this. However, cards can be torn and lost by little ones who think they’re fun to eat and tear up. A medical ID bracelet or temporary tattoo can ensure the information isn’t lost. (More tips on teaching kids travel safety.)
15. Direct Flights are Worth It
When you’re traveling with kids, especially younger ones, paying extra for the direct flights can be worth it. Forget racing to catch a connection after waiting for your stroller to be unloaded, dealing with cancellations of connecting flights or worse and everything else that comes with it.
16. Earn Miles for Free Seats and Hotels
Sign up for a travel rewards credit card and you can earn 20,000 – 40,000 points just for signing up and making a purchase, be it gum or coffee. That alone could earn you one free airline ticket. (Some cards do have a minimum spend requirement to earn the enrollment points.) Every major airline has its own rewards credit card, as do many hotels. If you regularly travel on the same airline it makes sense to get their credit card; when you book flights with them and use their card you will typically receive double or triple points. Generic credit cards are great for those who want more options – earn miles using one card that can be used for airfare on multiple airlines, hotels, car rentals and other items. A few generic cards that rate well include the Capital One Venture card and American Express.
17. Don’t Bring Car Seats and Boosters
Planning on renting a car or taking taxicabs? The RideSafer is great, portable alternative to car seats and boosters. It’s a travel vest that buckles your child (age three and up) securely into a seat. It’s not just for cars though; it can be used for trains and airplanes as well. Click over for my full review of the RideSafer and quick video to on how easy it is to use.
18. Forget Taking All Your Baby Gear – Rent It.
There are baby gear rental agencies throughout the country that can line you up with cribs, pack-n-plays, strollers, and everything else you may need for your little one. Travels With Baby has an excellent round-up of companies around the world that can conduct baby gear rentals.
19. Save on Checked Baggage
Save on checked baggage by packing all the toiletries in one larger bag with shoes and heavy items. Check this bag and carry the other luggage on.
20. Earn Miles Shopping Online
Most major airlines have established relationships with partners – retailers – as a way to offer customers another way to earn travel rewards when they’re not traveling. You can snag extra travel rewards while shopping online by going through the airlines Mileage Shopping Program (more on this). Search for the retailer, click through to their site from the airlines page and make your purchase as you normally would. (If you have a credit card that earns miles, make sure to use it for the purchase!)
21. Start Earning Miles Early
If your children are traveling by plane, sign them up for the airlines loyalty programs so they can begin earning points towards future flights.
22. I’m Thirsty
Bring a long a few EMPTY water bottles that can be filled once you go through airport security. Not only will this safe you money on drinks BUT kids who always request a drink AFTER the drink carts are put away on the plane can now be accommodated.
23. Hand Washing Made Easy
No stool in the bathroom for little ones to wash their hands? Try turning the sturdy trashcan over as a make-shift stool.
24. Road Trip Kid Organizer
Shoe organizers have more useful aspects than simply organizing your shoes. Attach on to the back of the driver and/or passenger seat for kids to use for toys, snacks, tissues, etc.
25. Don’t Sew, Clip It
Use a barrette to fix a tank top or bathing suite top that is too loose. Need to make a skirt tighter around the waist? Use a ponytail holder to “tie” the excess together and then tuck it into the top of the skirt.
Have any good travels hacks you’ve learned from traveling with kids?
Elaine Schoch (pronounced the German way – Shock) is the editor and founder of Carpe Travel as well as an award-winning travel writer, wine judge, certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 and certified American Wine Expert. She is married to The Husband and has two kids, Princess One and Two – who’s interest and knowledge in wine is quite extensive. Not to mention the stamps in their passports.