Family Travel: How to Travel With Kids And Stay Sane

Every time we head out on a family holiday, whether on a weekend adventure, a long road trip or a flight away, I turn into THAT mum.

You know the one – she checks her watch often, she repeats commands to her kids over and over again, she swears under her breath, she makes threats, she yells. A LOT.

She’s the Shouty Mum and she’s no fun at all, especially when she’s supposed to be chilled out and in holiday mode! If you notice that as soon as the bags are packed Shouty Mum makes her appearance, then these family travel tips are sure to make the road to your holiday destination a heck of a lot smoother! No shouting necessary.

Mum furious after Qantas sits her kids with strangers
Bye-bye routine. Catch ya on the other side!

Stop the shouty mum syndrome and enjoy family travel! 

Plan for plane rides

You need to cart your stuff and, if you have little kids, you need to cart them too! Consider purchasing a lightweight travel buggy or a TRUNKI (a rideable suitcase). A baby carrier, baby backpack or a sling is also a good idea as they are foldable and allow you to carry baby AND their belongings. Baby carriers and baby backpacks are also good if you’re doing any walking, hiking or sightseeing at your destination.

Other plane ride tips and tricks:

  • Call the airline to check all specifications – baby meals, baby bassinet, breast milk or formula requirements, etc. [Did you know Virgin Australia now offers travellers under 23 months their own special baggage allowance?]
  • Bring kid-sized headphones as often the airline ones will be too big for little heads.
  • Drink (or feed bubba) during take-off and landing to help with the ear pressure.
  • Consider a night flight so the kids can sleep and be fresh(ish) when you arrive at your destination. And so you can enjoy mini bottles of champagne in peace while they spawl on top of you.
  • Make friends with your flight attendant or the people around you. They can make the trip a lot more pleasant for you if you get in their good books. They may even entertain the kids for a few minutes so you can pee (or just hide out in the bathroom for five minutes).
the stork nest trunki suitcase
Ride and go with a Trunki for the kiddies

Pack your own mummy survival kit (plus other survival kits too) 

What you need: Travel coffee mug, coffee sachets, painkillers for when the stress headaches hit, earplugs, band-aids (’cause you know SOMEONE is going to hurt themselves) and (several) mini bottles of vodka.

We also like the idea of packing other little “kits” of the stuff you’ll need. A first aid kit, an activity kit, a toiletries kit, and an outdoor kit. Have a look of our kits below, which Mum Central founder, Belinda, packed for a recent trip with her family.

mum central
Travel survival kits: #YAS

While you’re out shopping for family travel essentials, pick up a few of these mini bottles and lanyards and make your very own toiletries holders, perfect for camping showers! Fill them with shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, toothpaste, aloe vera, hand cream, anything, really! They also perfectly hold a shot of vodka. #justsayin 

family travel hack
Family travel expert level complete

Stop the whinging while away

Nothing ruins the care-free holiday mood quite like kids who are complaining about everything. You could be in the most amazing destination in the entire world and your kids may still say, “I’m bored.” HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY BE BORED YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE SO-AND-SOS? 

Anyhoo, kids are going to be kids, even when on holidays so prepare for whinging along the journey and curb their boredom en-route and during downtime with these tips:

  • Get them to keep a diary or scrapbook. Pick up a few scrapbooks and let them fill it with souvenirs and stories of their journey. This is a great way to keep their little brains ticking while away from school too.
  • Give them the camera and let them take photos. It’s a great way to get them involved in the trip and to ensure you have 150 photos of your child’s nose.
  • If doing a long-haul flight, train ride or car trip, pack a few cheap toys, new colouring-in books, maybe some LEGO (if you don’t mind still finding bits of it under the seats six months later), to offer them during the journey. But only if they behave! You can even wrap them up to make it extra special.
  • When you reach your destination, there’s a good chance you’ll be doing a lot of walking, hiking even. Make these outdoor adventures fun by bringing chocolate eggs for them to find along the way. So trivial. But, hey, it works!
  • Pack individual activities for the kids to play with – cards, mini board games, LEGO kits. Have a look at our Road Trip Travel Hacks for heaps of awesome ideas.
mum central
Play while away

“I want a snack”

Of course, you do, darling.

Make snack retrieval easy with this snack hack – grab a few tackle boxes from good ol’ Kmart, fill them up with snacks galore and give them to your kids. It beats having to stop every hour at a servo or simply throwing food at the backseat in hopes it will reach a hungry child’s mouth.

Travel hacks tackle box snacks
Shut up and snack

Track the journey

Rather than hearing your kids ask, “Are we there yet?” every ten minutes, explain to them exactly how long it will take to get to your destination. Break it up into parts. For example, Part 1 – Drive to airport. Part 2 – Plane ride. Part 3 – Wait for connecting flight. Part 4 – Plane ride two. Part 5 – Taxi to hotel. That way they will know which part of the journey they are on and how long until they arrive.

If you’re going on a road trip, try making Road Trip cards to break the journey up.

mum central
“No, we’re not there yet. Check the bloody road trip board!”

Taking medication? 

Before you go, make sure you check out what medicines you can and cannot take with you overseas.  In some countries, you can get in trouble for bringing medicines such as sleeping tablets, nicotine gum, and even Panadol.

flying long haul with a baby tips
Sleep tight little travel bug

Pack lightly and shop once you’re there

Overpacking is a massive problem for most of us because #kids. But remember, shops exist EVERYWHERE. You can buy the bulky stuff, such as nappies, when you arrive at your destination.

Another cool idea? Vacuum bag your clothes and items to store in your suitcase and carry-on. This is especially awesome if you’re heading somewhere cold and have to pack your bulky sweaters and other winter woolies.

family travel luggage tip

Make plans but don’t overdo it

It’s easy to get a bit excited when planning a trip. But remember, too many activities makes for a very stressful time away, especially for you – the Captain of the Family Planning Committee. With every activity, there are snacks to prepare, transportation to sort out, day bags to pack and (often) entry fees to pay.

We all choose TWO things we’d really like to do while on holiday and aim to get through these things first. We are planning a trip to Canada to enjoy a white Christmas and so far my two kids have chosen “ice skating,” “make a snowman”, “skiing” and “have a snowball fight” as their activities. So this is what we will focus on doing, rather than trying to fit in a bunch of touristy stuff that doesn’t interest any of us. Sorry, Niagara Falls, no one cares about you.

And make sure you schedule some down-time in between all your activities. Often lounging around the pool, snuggling in a massive bed that you don’t have to make and playing board games in the hotel room can be just as relaxing and fun for everyone.

Family travel kids
To-do list: nothing

One final thing to keep in mind when it comes to family travel: Kids still need you to do ALL THE MUM THINGS even when you’re on holidays. 

Like feed them, and clean them, and stop them from arguing with each other. So book a bit of a break AWAY from them, even if it’s just for an hour or two. Look into kids’ club, a babysitting or nanny service or get the hubby to watch them for an hour while you escape (with wine).

It’s your holiday too, after all.

What to read next

Need more family travel ideas? Have a look at:

Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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