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    Moms And Dads Are Sharing The Best Tips For Vacationing With Kids, And These Are So Important

    I can't wait until we can all travel again.

    Traveling with kids can be an overwhelming experience. Expensive flights and crowded destinations can be stress-inducing alone, but throw tired kids into the equation, and you could be dealing with an unpleasant family vacation.

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    And while travel looks very different these days — especially for kids under 12, who aren't able to get vaccinated yet — I think it's safe to say that many of us can't wait for the day when we can go on a family adventure again.

    So I talked to a ton of experienced travelers and parents who have some excellent tried-and-true tips for vacationing with kids. If you're planning on booking a family trip, these bits of advice will help you be prepared for any situation that might arise. Before I dive in, let me introduce those experts.

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    • Serena Minott, mother and author of the travel book The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete; Ben Walker, father and FinanceBuzz's travel and credit card expert; Kimberly Palmer, mother and NerdWallet's personal finance expert; Finnian McNeff, father who works at Sparkloft Media, a travel-focused social media agency; Laurel Douglas, mother and a professional travel bloggerZander Buteux, industry expert at VacationRenterKeri Baugh, mother and a professional family travel bloggerStacey Marmolejo, mother and creator of Florida Beach BreakJeannette Kaplun, mother and founder of Hispana GlobalSuzanne Brown, mom, blogger, and author of The Mompowerment Guide to Work-Life Balance: Insights From Working Moms on Balancing Career and FamilyMollie Krengel, mother and founder of travel guide site Wild BumJenny Meassick, mother and professional travel bloggerDebbie Fettback, mother and professional family travel bloggerMichael Embrich, author of March On: A Veterans Travel GuideJaimie Michaels, father and editor at Magic GuidesAlisha Molen, mother and owner of Picture the Magic; and Alex Miller, founder & CEO of Upgraded Points.

    So without further ado, here are their hacks, tips, and tricks that will come in handy on your next family vacation. If you have one to add, leave it in the comments!

    1. Pack plenty of transitional clothes for your kids.

    A child trying their shoes
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    Center your packing list around staple pieces of clothing that you can pair together in different ways for your kid — depending on things like the weather, location, activities, etc.

    "Avoid overpacking by taking kids' clothes that you can mix and match and can transition from day to night. Children only need 1 or 2 'nice' pieces — like a fun dress or skirt, or a nice pair of shorts or lightweight pants," says Serena Minott. 

    "If you do need to purchase any new clothes, do so two to three weeks before your trip to allow sufficient time for delivery and breaking-in time," she added.

    2. Save money by not purchasing a separate plane ticket for children under the age of 2.

    A child looking out an airplane window
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    "Research is key. Most airlines have similar policies when it comes to flying with children under 2 years old: Usually, you can keep them on your lap during the flight," advises Ben Walker. "That means you don’t have to worry about paying for a separate seat if you don’t want to."

    3. Research ahead of time to find out if your airline considers diaper bags a carry-on bag or not.

    A mom with her diaper bag
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    "Some airlines specifically state that diaper bags, breast pumps, and milk can all be carried on in addition to your normal carry-on bag and personal item allowance," says Walker. "Knowing ahead of time that you’re allowed to bring all of these items free of charge will help you pack more efficiently."

    4. Read the fine print so you can potentially take advantage of free family-friendly perks.

    A woman reading important papers
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    "One way to save is to leverage all of the free perks you have access to. If you have an airline or travel rewards card that comes with access to an airport lounge, then you can often check your kids in, too. Sometimes these lounges even come with free food and drinks for them," advises Kimberly Palmer.

    "It’s also worth checking a car seat and a travel crib for free, too. And if you have an airline card, you may be able to check extra suitcases for free as well," she says.

    5. Pack less by ordering and shipping items to your destination.

    A woman ordering something on her cellphone
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    "Use Amazon to deliver kids' essentials — like diapers, snacks, or formula — to your destination ahead of time. It can significantly lighten your travel load," says Finnian McNeff. "Plus, you won't have to spend time finding a place to buy these items as soon as you land. If you are visiting family, shipping items is easy, but I think even hotels and resorts are more open to this now."

    6. And keep an eye out for kid-friendly perks wherever you're visiting.

    The entrance to Yellowstone National Park
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    "Complimentary activities that other people plan for you are awesome for keeping kids engaged while traveling," explains Laurel Douglas. One example is state and national parks, she says. 

    "Many have junior ranger programs where you can sign your little ones up for activities that might even let them learn something while they're having fun. They usually provide free souvenir badges that the family can collect and reminisce on," says Douglas.

    7. If you can, avoid traveling during peak season.

    A family at Disneyland
    Disneyland Resort via Getty Images

    "Traveling with kids can be expensive, but one way to save is to take advantage of the lower prices that come with traveling during the off-season," says Zander Buteux. "The best times are late September, October, early December, and January. These are especially good times to travel to major attractions like Disney World. There will be fewer crowds and better temperatures."

    8. Book attractions well in advance to save money.

    A woman booking a reservation on her laptop
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    "Before buying tickets for an attraction, make sure to check online first for discount codes and specials," advises Buteux. "You may even save when booking online as opposed to purchasing them at the in-person ticket booth. You could also complete an internet search for discounts or check sites like Groupon and Rakuten."

    9. Discuss with your family what activities everyone wants to do before your trip.

    A family having fun on a beach
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    Travel blogger Keri Baugh who has three kids under age 7 has a smart strategy for booking activities for her family trips. "As a family, we all agree on our 'must-do' items, and we book those first. Then have extra activities we'll agree to tack on if there's money left over toward the end of the trip."

    "By discussing plans in advance, it prevents disappointment and stops anyone from feeling like we missed out on something while traveling," Baugh says. 

    10. Keep your children hydrated in the heat with one simple trick.

    A young boy drinking water at the beach
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    "On super hot days, I add Pedialyte Electrolyte Powder to the kids’ water to give an extra boost to their system," suggests Stacey Marmolejo. Another great way for kids to keep their hydration in balance is to snack on water-dense fruits or vegetables — like watermelon or cucumbers.

    11. Stock up on sun-protective clothing, like long-sleeve rashguards.

    Rash guards
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    "Consider purchasing sun-protective clothes for the kids. As a very fair-skinned person, I sure wish they had these when I was a kid. If you haven’t seen them, sun-protective clothes actually absorb UV radiation in the fabric," says Marmolejo. 

    12. Easily and evenly apply sunscreen on your kids by using a makeup brush.

    A mom applying sunscreen to her toddler
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    Mom and writer Jeannette Kaplun suggests using a makeup brush to spread SPF evenly on her children because it gets the job done quickly and efficiently if you're vacationing in a hot and sunny climate. 

    13. Carry snacks for hungry kids on the flight.

    A mom feeding her baby on an airplane
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    "Take snacks on the flight and for the first few days of the trip. These days airlines are often not giving out or selling food on flights," says Suzanne Brown. "You can't always find food that kids want to eat at the airport. Plus, with such long lines in many airports, you might not have time to buy a snack once you get through security."

    14. Book a hotel that includes free breakfast in your stay.

    A continental breakfast bar at a hotel
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    "If you are staying at a hotel, try to book one where breakfast is included. You can hit the ground running in the morning when you leave the hotel instead of having to make a first stop for food," suggests Brown. "It's easier to start with full bellies rather than struggling to find something to eat as soon as you set out for the day. And it saves time."

    15. Use flight tracker apps to get the best deals on flights.

    Screenshots of flight tracker Apps
    Flight Tracker / Via Hopper

    Mollie Krengel, mother of three and founder of Wild Bum, uses flight tracker apps to find the best deals. "Either check off flexible dates during a search or set a flight tracker such as Google Flights or FlightHopper. Traveling during the week is often less expensive too." 

    16. Pack fun surprises for the plane ride.

    A mom and toddler sitting together on an airplane
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    "Purchase two or three little items you know your child will love that you can pull out on the plane as a distraction. Kids love surprises, and even letting them unwrap the items will buy you some time. Fidgets, easy-peel stickers, or anything related to their favorite characters or animals will help distract and quiet down kids," says Jenny Meassick.

    17. Save money by booking a hotel that isn't located in a highly touristed area.

    A hotel room
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    "Hotels in city centers are pricier and notorious for charging high parking fees, which can add up quickly if you're traveling with a vehicle. Staying a little outside of the city center can save you quite a bit of money," advises Debbie Fettback. 

    "Staying outside of tourist hot spots means you'll usually have a quieter stay. Plus, you can get a better feel for a city by exploring a quieter area you otherwise might not have visited," she added.

    18. To find the best deals on flights, clear your browser's cookies.

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    "Most travel sites track your actions on their site. Therefore, if you visit their site to look at a flight and later come back to book it, you'll often find that prices have gone up,"  says Michael Embrich. "You can avoid this by simply clearing your browsing cookies, or just searching in private or incognito mode."

    19. If your destination offers a layaway plan, consider taking it.

    A credit card, cellphone, and hotel reservation pass
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    "Check to see if your destination offers a layaway plan. For example, Walt Disney World Resort allows its guests to set up a payment plan whereby the guest sets the terms so long as the trip is completely paid off 30 days before the departure date. They do not charge interest or a fee for this option," suggests Jaimie Michaels. "Layaway plans won't really save you money per-se, but they will give you more time to pay off your balance."

    20. Compare theme park ticket prices from different vendors.

    A roller coaster at a theme park
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    "Most people will look at the ticket price listed on a theme park's official website and assume that is the only price. But many theme parks have relationships with a few major travel companies that are authorized to sell tickets at a price lower than the official gate price," says Alisha Molen.

    21. Keep an eye out for hotel discounts.

    Plush hotel robes
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    "Hotel chains such as Hyatt offer a discount for families that book two rooms when one of the rooms is used exclusively by kids. If you have a large family and need more than one room, it’s great to receive a discount rather than pay the full room rates," says Alex Miller.

    If you've traveled with kids or a family recently and have helpful tips, don't keep them to yourself. Share your best advice in the comments below.

    Disclaimer: This article was written to provide travel recommendations or suggestions; however, it’s important to keep in mind your own health, community health, and COVID-19 exposure risk.

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