If you’re planning a family trip this summer, your emotions are probably bouncing back and forth between excitement and stress — excited about the memories to be made and stressed about the sleep (and sanity) to be lost.
Here are some tips to make family travel a tad bit easier on your kids, wallet, and sanity:
1. Skip the travel agent and use a travel search site instead.
Our favorite site for finding and booking flights is Skyscanner.com. Super easy to use, Skyscanner looks at and compares millions of flights, making sure that you find the best deal. Skyscanner doesn’t have any hidden fees, either, so you won’t be shocked by the final price at checkout.
They have a mobile app as well, so if you decide to take the path less traveled with the family, you can instantly find the best (and most affordable) adventures at your fingertips.
They’ll get you great deals on flights, cars, and hotels, and they even offer suggestions for fun trips. Less work and thinking on my part? Yes, please!
2. Choose kid-friendly hotels.
Let’s face it: not all hotels are created equal. and sometimes the best-priced hotels are not going to be the ones that are best for your family. When you are using a great app like Skyscanner, you can easily find out information about your hotel. They conveniently let you know whether the spot is better suited as a romantic getaway or a place where kids can actually let loose and enjoy themselves.
Often hotels that are kid-friendly go out of their way during heavy travel months to organize lots of activities and programs, so always call or email the hotel to ask about what’s going on during your expected stay.
3. Pack light.
No, really. We mean it. In my house, my son and I can fit all we need for two weeks in one medium-sized suitcase (while traveling with my husband is sort of like traveling with Diana Ross and her entourage)!
Want a great tip for those who feel they have to take everything, including the kitchen sink? Have each family member (those old enough, of course!) to pack their own suitcases. Give guidelines for plans and what clothes might be needed. Then, the next day ask everyone to repack and slim it down.
Trust us, it works like a charm and makes traveling so much easier. There’s nothing worse than getting to your destination and then having to lug a million bags. Most places will have options for clothes washing if needed. And if you wear the same pair of shorts a couple days in a row, who cares?!
Another great tip is that if you have overnight, intermittent stays before you get to your final destination, pack a small bag with just one night’s clothes/provisions so you don’t have to lug all the suitcases in for just a few hours of respite!
4. Pack and plan for healthy eating.
While traveling makes it a bit harder to eat healthy, it’s still possible! More and more, fast food restaurants are actually picking up on the fact that consumers want healthy, fast options, and more restaurants devoted solely to those types of food exist. FoodTripping, Yelp and Clean Plates are some of our favorite apps for finding clean, healthy food choices on the go.
Additionally, several convenience stores are now offering fresh fruits and healthier choices in their selections, so even at a gas stop, you have options.
We particularly recommend packing travel-friendly snacks to help keep the need for finding places to a minimum. For road trips, it’s easy to pack bento boxes that can be quickly and easily rinsed at your stops, and you can also stock up at wholesale stores that offer healthy on-the-go snacks.
Assign each person their own insulated container for the trip and make sure it’s full of their yummiest, and you’ll not have to worry about, “I’m hungry!” in the middle of nowhere!
Related: 10 Ways to ‘Spring Clean’ Your Diet
5. Make travel fun!
One of my all-time favorite sites is Zulily! Regularly, they have the coolest things for keeping kiddos entertained and their minds challenged. A quick search on their site under ‘road trip’ on any day pulls up the neatest stuff. Books for kids when traveling are great, but can get heavy, so to help limit weight when traveling, you can find stuff like road trip bingo cards, travel question cards that the whole family can enjoy, and MindTrap Brain camp sets that keep the family engaged with each other and having fun at the same time.
Plan road trip scavenger hunts for each child along the routes you’ll go.
Most of all, remember that the key to fun in family travel is flexibility. Often things don’t go according to plan, but if you look at these unexpected events as opportunities for adventure instead of deviations from the original plan, your kids will learn that spontaneity can be lots of fun!