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9 Family Travel Experts Share How They Keep Travel With Small Children Stress-Free And Exciting!

We asked the most experienced family travelers how they manage to preserve their sanity while traveling the world with small children. Their useful tips and travel hacks are the result of millions of miles traveled and thousands of priceless memories made!

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1. Designate Toys to Only Use During Travel​

Instagram: @lauragibbons__ / Via

Let's Go, Little One details the adventures of Laura Gibbons and her son, Jimmy. At three-years old, Jimmy has already explored the waterfalls of Costa Rica, soared high above Kauai in a helicopter, pretended to be a Hobbit on New Zealand's beloved Hobbiton movie set, strolled the historic streets of Paris, and floated on a gondola in Venice. Laura has developed an ingenious rule that helps Jimmy associate those long plane rides with positive experiences that keep him happily occupied.

Designate Toys to Only Use During Travel​ “Flying is often the biggest source of stress for traveling parents, so it's important to keep kids engaged and occupied during the flight. Without a doubt, our most valuable gear for travel with kids is an iPad, fully loaded with developmental tools and games. At home, we have a no-phone/iPad rule for my son, but any time he's on an airplane, he gets an all-access pass. This way, he looks forward to flying because there's an activity he doesn't usually get to do (and we all know kids can spend endless hours on an iPad). If you don't want to use an iPad, set aside coloring books or other travel-friendly toys that they'll only have access to during travel.”

2. Don't Overschedule Your Day

Instagram: @gowithnugget / Via

Ranjana Armstrong is the founder of Nugget, a global online platform where parents can share family-friendly travel itineraries. Ranjana’s experience as a mother who also works with traveling parents all around the globe has provided her with superb insight into traveling with little ones.

Don’t over schedule. Pick one major activity per day and leave room for the kids to run around. But plan ahead. Have some sense of where food options are, where playgrounds are, and places for treats (e.g. ice cream, bakery, etc). Know how long it takes to get from A-B. There’s nothing worse than spending 3-hours to get somewhere (thinking it would only take 1-hour) and then there is nothing your kids will eat and you have a tired, hungry toddler who’s kicking and screaming.”

3. Pack Light - You Need Less Than You Think!

Instagram: @kidandcoe / Via

Kid & Coe not only curates custom adventures for families, they’ve also been in the industry long enough to anticipate every possible scenario when traveling with small children.

“Pack Light! Really. For the last five years that we've traveled as a family we check-in one backpack each. Yes, even the toddler. It makes check-in easy, means you only pack what you need, and keeps you focused on the goal - having fun in your destination. Worried about doing this with young children? Don't be. You can buy diapers everywhere in the world, and as long as you've booked a child-friendly place to stay, you'll have everything else you need when you get there" shares Kid & Coe's Laura Hall.

4. Keep Small Essentials in a Clear Zip Top Bag

Instagram: @rhiannonbosse / Via

Rhiannon Bosse is an entrepreneur and a mother who has a passion for traveling with her 2-year old son. She offers some useful packing recommendations to keep your travel bag organized and TSA-friendly.

Keep Small Essentials in a Clear Zip Top Bag. I keep all of the essential sundries in a clear zip top pouch which fits nice and snug against the diapers and travel size pack of Water Wipes. The clear material makes it easy for me to find what I need, easy for security to see what I’m bringing, and because it’s plastic is super simple to keep clean. It was an affordable purchase and made a big difference in finding things quickly versus throwing all of the nitty gritty things I need into the bag for them to fall into the bottomless abyss. A few other items tossed into the mix? An extra hair tie, a couple extra pacifiers because my toddler enjoys throwing his when he’s frustrated, and a couple loose grocery bags for stained clothes, stinky diapers or other things I need to keep somewhere concealed while we’re in the air.”

5. Utilize Calming Spaces for Sensory Overload

Instagram: @holidayworld / Via

As an amusement park industry insider, Paula Werne of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari works with family travelers on a daily basis. Holiday World has a unique offering that parents of children with Autism or sensory sensitivities will very much appreciate. Their “Calming Room” offers a safe space where guests can benefit from a quiet, relaxing break from the park’s sensory stimulation.

Utlize Calming Spaces for Sensory Overload. Don't Forget to Look Past the Big Corporate Theme Parks for More Accommodations. In addition to the perks of the Calming Room, Paula offers additional advice on planning a family amusement park adventure. “Look past the big corporate theme parks and you’ll find a number of charming family-owned parks. Since they’re independent, they may cater more to smaller children. For example, at Holiday World we provide free sunscreen to all, plus free soft drinks (including lemonade, Gatorade, water and ice tea). We also make an effort not to nickel and dime our guests.”

6. Consider Alternative Accommodations like AirBnB or Camping

Instagram: @pintsizegourmets / Via

Wendy Awai-Dakroub is a popular family travel writer and the founder of Pint Size Gourmets. Wendy and her family were full-time travelers for two years while “worldschooling” their children as they explored Europe in an RV. She offers some great tips to parents who want to keep family travel as economical as possible.

Consider Alternative Accommodations Like AirBnB or Camping. Traveling with a family can get expensive especially when booking hotels. If we’re going on a long trip, we often look at renting out an apartment through a vacation rental site. It gives us more flexibility as a family. Staying in an apartment allows us access to a kitchen in case we want to cook our own meals or prepare snacks for the kids. During our RVing days in Europe, we discovered just how awesome and kid-friendly campsites were. You don’t need to have an RV or tent to stay at a campsite. In fact most campsites also have rooms & cabins for rent, and offer a number of facilities like restaurants, swimming pools, theme parks, and many other daily kid-friendly activities to keep the kids engaged.”

7. Prepare With a Strategic Snacking Strategy

Instagram: @theromanguy / Via

Sean P. Finelli is an experienced traveler and the co-owner of The Roman Guy, an Italian tour operator. As a family man who greatly values the experiences that travel can bring, he has mastered the in’s and outs of traveling with small children. Not every child has a diverse palate when it comes to food, and Sean's advice is perfect for those situations when you’ve got picky eaters in tow.

Prepare With a Strategic Snacking Strategy “Bring plenty of snacks or foods that can mix with hot water (always available in-flight), disinfectant wipes, small cheap toys (introduced in intervals) that you'd be OK to part with, and extra clothes for accidents or spills. Kids are picky eaters, so bring little treats for your kids-- it's as simple as that. A freezer pack helps with their favorite snacks. The real key is to not add anxiety, so your vacation is a happy one. Your destination is going to be worth it if you keep the right attitude.”

8. Bring External Batteries and Extra Charging Cords

Instagram: @laurens_latest / Via

Lauren of “Lauren’s Latest” is a lover of travel and food. Her blog outlines many fun-filled adventures that she’s taken with her small children. As a mother who has perfected traveling with her little ones, she knows exactly what to expect when she packs up her kids for another trip to a fun destination!

Bring external batteries and extra charging cords. Everyone travels with tons of electrics, so it’s smart to always carry an external battery and charging cord. It’s so hard to find outlets at the airport, so this ensures a fully charged Kindle or iPad for the kiddos all day.”

9. Prepare Your Children for All That They Will Experience

Instagram: @the_educational_tourist / Via

Natalie Tanner of The Educational Tourist shares her passion for travel with her husband and two children. Natalie has traveled with her children since they were just weeks old. She conveys an honest truth about traveling with kids on her website; “Traveling with two kids hasn’t always been easy, but it has ALWAYS been worth it”.

Prepare Your Children for All That They Will Experience “My top tip for making traveling with the kids go smoothly is to prepare them for what they'll experience. If they've never been to the airport, then explain how security works. This is especially important if your kiddo will have to give up their favorite stuffed lovey to have it go through the x-ray machine. It is a great idea to practice this at home! Kids will appreciate listening to books on the experiences they'll find on vacation, too, such as different foods and animals. Don't even think about taking a kid to a museum without telling them 'what the big deal’ is about regarding the famous pieces they'll see. Teaching kids before you go gets them engaged, prepared and interested in your vacation!”

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