That first trip as a family can be nerve-wracking. Figuring out what to pack so that you have what you need but aren’t laden down with stuff, worrying about how the kids will react to a new environment and a disruption in their routine, and trying to please everyone can almost take the fun out of the vacation.
But with a bit of advance planning and a few simple measures, you can ensure a great trip for everyone.
- Traveling with an infant for the first time can be a scary proposition, but traveling with very young kids can actually be easier than traveling with toddlers as most of the time they’ll be sleeping, in a stroller, or carried by mom or dad. Having the right gear for traveling with kids can make all the difference. When choosing hotels, look for those that offer family services like daycare and kids clubs.
- If you don’t think you’re quite ready to handle the kids on your own in an unfamiliar place, enlist help and invite the grandparents. Multi-generational travel can strengthen the family bonds and allow mom and dad some time away from the kids. Just choose a trip that works for all age ranges; small-ship cruises are great because they offer a range of activities during the day but keep everyone together when the ship is at sea.
- If you have a special needs child, you can still see the world with him or her by your side. There are lots of resources for traveling with special needs children, including tips for flying with special needs children and advice on the most wheel-chair friendly cities.
Ease your family into travel
A weekend away in nearby city is one of the easiest (and often least expensive) ways to travel with your family. Camping is also a good way to spend time away from home for the first time. Once you’re ready to branch out, start planning longer trips further away. Any city in the US can be family friendly if you plan ahead, pick your hotel carefully and choose the right activities.
- Camping is easy and inexpensive, and no matter where you live, you can generally find a campsite within a 3-5 hour drive of your house. Some campsites are better for families than others and camping with kids does have its own challenges, but many families find this to be a great first step towards getting kids ready for a bigger adventure.
- Las Vegas may be known for its adult attractions, but this over-the-top city also caters to kids with its grand scale hotels and kid-pleasing attractions like live animal shows and the Pinball Hall of Fame. Read about family travel to Las Vegas, or check out these family friendly shows and family friendly hotels. We’ve even got tips for keeping teenagers safe and entertained in Sin City.
- Chicago is one of the most kid-friendly of the country’s major cities. The public transportation system is safe and easy to use and there are plenty of things for families to do in Chicago, including exploring the cities parks and museums, visiting the free Lincoln Park Zoo and riding the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier.
- Washington, DC, New York, San Francisco, Boston and even New Orleans are all great cities for a family trip. Think outside the Disney box for places to take the kids and choose based on the family’s interests, like history, animals, sports or even the locations from your kids’ favorite books.
Make your summer vacation one they’ll never forget
If you’ve got more time and are ready to take a bigger adventure with your kids, consider an overseas trip. While it may be more daunting to travel to certain areas with your kids, it’s really possible to take your family just about anywhere so long as you do a bit of research before you go to ensure you pick the place that’s right for your situation.
- For example, taking Australia’s Indian Pacific Railway with kids, particularly toddlers and young children who won’t want to be cooped up for days on end, may not be the best idea. But families with older kids will find plenty to do in Sydney, including visiting the aquarium, zoo, beaches, and famous Sydney Opera house.
- Despite its chaos, Italy can be quite family friendly. Renting a villa can keep the costs down for a family, allowing you to cook some of your meals and save money on the price of food. Whether you are traveling with kids or teenagers in Italy, you can find family friendly hotels as well as attractions and activities that won’t feel like a boring history lesson.
- You don’t even have to go that far to open your kids up to a whole new world. If you’re on the west coast of the US and don’t want to deal with the jetlag of going to Europe, consider British Columbia, Canada, the Pacific Coast of Mexico, or Hawaii. Though you might think of Hawaii as a romantic destination, it can also be great for kids too, with activities like surf lessons, snorkeling, luaus and learning about volcanoes. On the east coast, check out Nova Scotia, Canada, Mexico’s Riviera Maya, or the Caribbean.
Take your family on an epic adventure
If 2-week vacations and weekend trips just aren’t satisfying your wanderlust, consider taking your travels to a grander scale and joining the thousands of families who have left home to travel the world together. Plan on going for 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, or even longer, making the world your child’s classroom.
- If a RTW trip with kids just sounds crazy, read about these traveling families who have done it or find out why traveling with kids isn’t selfish and how it can actually improve your experience when you travel with your family.
- Traveling with kids can help them (and you) develop character, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are lots of family travel deals to be found and staying in a hostel with your kids can keep lodging costs low. To protect yourselves and your investment, look into family travel insurance for your trip.
Some of our favorite sites for family travel: