Colleen's Big List of Travel Tips

Many of my tips come from personal experience as well as from friends and family.  In addition, I gather many of my tips from colleagues and from fellow parents who are willing to share their ideas with me.  I will always give credit when I describe a tip that is not originally my own.  What you will find here are some of my favorite tips for family travel and I encourage you to share your ideas as well via twitter, facebook or email.

Apps/Gadgets

Gasbuddy.com

With this free app you just put in your location and find the best prices for gas in the area.

Get the App

iExitapp.com

Tells you what is available at the end of each exit whether it is a gas station, restaurant, lodging, etc. (FREE or .99 for full version)

Get the App

Mint.com

Keep track of your Vacation Budget while on the go. Mint will automatically organize your spending into categories and upload your spending immediately. Go beyond the app and login to mint.com to maximize your mint usage. Expand your categories, set goals, and better understand your budget with graphs and charts.

Sign Up

Find My Friends

Allows you and your family to keep tabs on each other while apart. With permission from friends or family members, this app lets you see their location on a map on a cell phone.

Get the App

Whats App

Is a mobile messaging app, which allows you to send/receive messages without paying for SMS. Great for staying connected with friends in the U.S. and Abroad! It’s free for a year!

Get the App

Hotel Tonight

If you are a last minute traveling family then the app Hotel Tonight will be your saving grace. This app offers last minute steep discounts to luxe and hip hotels for same day stay.

Get the App

TripIt

A Travel Itinerary Organizer. “Plan your family vacation online with TripIt for free. Organize all of your family vacation details in one place, and easily share your plans with other family members who aren’t traveling on your trip.

Get the App
Baby/Toddler

TSA is family friendly

Security lines at the airport can create trouble for families. Next time you are traveling make sure to ask the airport if there is a family Security lane. You will get extra assistance from TSA and you may even get through security faster.

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Airport Play Areas

If you have a long layer over or a delayed flight be sure to find out if the airport has a child play zone.

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Electrical Safety

Cover electrical outlet in hotel rooms with Blue Painters Tape.

Buy tape

Relieving ear pain in Toddlers

Encourage them to drink water or juice while the plane is taking off or landing. The liquids help to keep ears clear.

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Rewarding for good behavior

If you are traveling by air or car bring a small reward for good behavior.

Baby’s formula at the airport

TSA allows mothers of Children drinking formula or breast milk to exceed the 3oz limit.

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Babysaway.com

A rental service for baby supplies located throughout the USA. You can rent strollers, car seats, Crib, etc.

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Books/Music

Using the Library Before a Trip

Go to the library and check out Children Travel books about the location you are visiting.

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Cars/Planes/Trains

Car Seat Rentals

Car rental places make it easy to travel with toddlers as many offer car seat rentals.

Strollers at the Airport

Keep your stroller with you until you have reached your gate. Ask the Gate Agent how you will Gate Check your stroller.

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Train Traveling with Toddlers

Most Dinning Car’s on trains wont have a large selection of food. Make sure to pack meals & snacks for your smaller children.

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Babysaway.com

A rental service for baby supplies located throughout the USA. You can rent strollers, car seats, Crib, etc.

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Babysaway.com

A rental service for baby supplies located throughout the USA. You can rent strollers, car seats, Crib, etc.

Read more
Clothing/Shoes

Spot Clean

Be sure to buy spot clean before head out on your trip

Dryer Sheets

If you want to make your clothes last make sure to bring along Dryer Sheets to freshen up on the go. Double use these little bad guys to combat static.

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Dressiest Shoes for Walking

Dansko makes some of the most comfortable semi-formal shoes.

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Best Walking Shoes for Kids

Stay away from Sandals (even in Summer) or casual shoes with a very thin sole. Go for comfort and support. The kids will be able to keep moving for longer.

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Dress Code at Airport

Being comfortable at the airport is absolutely acceptable but dress up the casual wear with accessories (i.e. Jewelry, scarfs, fun hats, etc).

Cruise

Daycare

Many cruises offer Daycare in the mornings and the early afternoons.

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Discounts for Families

Some cruise lines offers discounts suites and discounts for larger families.

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Port Agent

Things happen and you and your family could miss your boat. Know the name and number of the Port Agent before you leave your home.

Small Spaces

Bring over the door shoe holder to hold everyone’s toiletries.

Formal Wear

Be sure to bring at least one formal outfit (suits and tuxedos for men; cocktail dresses or fancy pantsuits for women). Bring semi-formal wear for most nights (slacks, polos, collared shirts for men, sundresss, skirts, slacks for women).

Themed Nights

Many cruises have themed costume nights. Check and see if your cruise is having a costume night so you will know how to pack for your trip.

Food

Snack Fights

When traveling by car, train, bus, or plane kids can get pretty cranky, especially when someone else just ate their favorite snack. Think ahead and make sure to bring separate baggies of snacks for each your kids. Don’t want to work that hard? Have the kids pack their own snacks before you hit the road.

3 Ounces or Less at the Airport

Remember to bring liquids under 3 ounces or less. Don’t want to spend much money at the airport? Bring an empty water bottle and fill up at the water fountain inside the terminal. Jazz up your water with the powdered lemonade packets.

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Food Allergies

Make sure to take every precaution when traveling with a child with a severe food allergy. If traveling by air, make sure to let the flight attendant know when you board the plane.

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Picnicking

If you have the ability to throw a picnic together, this can be a great money saver while on vacation.

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Vendor Trucks

Food Trucks are becoming a hit all over the country, their food is great, can be local cuisine, and of course is reasonably priced.

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Games

20 Questions

Someone chooses an object/person/place/thing (Topics can be related to the region traveling to), everyone else asks them questions in order to figure out what the word is. The only permitted answers are “yes” and “No”

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Name that Tune

With the invention of portable media players comes a great car game. Scroll through your media player in the car for a fun guessing game of  ”Name that Tune.” No portable media player? Push the “seek” button on the radio, it’s just as much fun!

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Family Car Games App

Gives you a list of great roadtrip games and gives you directions on how to play them.

Get the App

Travel N'Doodle

A mess free way to doodle, the drawing mats change color from the moisture in the pen.

Find a Doodle

Two Truths, One Lie

One player tells the group three things about himself or herself. Two of the statements should be true, and the other statement is a lie. Everyone in the car has to try and guess which statement was a lie.

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Counting Game

Car rides can be long. For little kids the counting game is great! Choose an object that can be often seen on the road (I.e. Cows). For older kids make it a contest. Who ever sees the object first calls it out and scores a point.

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Casino Night

Your family decides to go a vacation destination with a high concentration of Casino’s around and the kids feel a little left out because they can’t play with all of the colorful slot machines. Make it a casino night in the hotel room playing Blind Man’s Bluff-Each player is dealt one card that he displays to all other players (normally stuck to the person’s forehead). Players attempt to guess if they have the highest card based on the distribution of visible cards and how other players are betting. Your currency can be pennies or a type of sweet treat. Other cards games to be played– GoFish, Spoon’s, Slapjack, etc.

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Gear/Luggage

Overhead Bin Space

Regional aircrafts have smaller overhead bin space, forcing you to check your luggage at the gate. If your luggage is smaller than 18Lx14Wx7D (Based on the CRJ200 aircraft configuration) you will more than likely be able to take your luggage on board with you.

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Repair Your Luggage

Don’t throw out your luggage so quickly. If your luggage has a broken zipper or wheel make sure to see if it can be repaired before tossing out. Repairs can cost far less than it would be to buy a brand new piece of luggage.

Laptops

Recently there has been a spike in carry-on roller board suitcase where you can place your laptop in a secure spot that is well protected. You will usually see a pocket that sits in the middle of the suitcase, protected by the front and back of the suitcase. *Be sure that if you have to gate check your luggage to remove your laptop.

Carry On Luggage

Pack light and carry on your luggage. This can be tough to do for families, my suggestion would be to have the adults carry on one bag each and make sure all of the essential are brought in these bags. Also, be sure to pack at least one outfit for the whole family, just in case your vacation plans take an unexpected turn.

Softer Suitcase

If you are carrying your luggage on be sure to use a softer exterior bag with some give so that it can easily mold itself in to any overhead bin space. Hard cased suitcases do not have any give and will not always work well as a carry on, these are best used when checked under the plane.

Multi-Generational

Picking Activities

You’ve gotten to your destination and there are so many things to do and everyone has their own opinion. Have everyone come up with their best idea of what to do for that day/week and pick out of a hat the activities for the day/week. This way is fair and fun for the whole group.

Pictionary

A game that the whole family can enjoy. Object of the game-To identify through sketched clues as many words as necessary to guess the title of the book, movie, song Break up in to teams. Quietly come up with a set amount of movies, books, and song titles. Write these words down on a piece of paper and fold the paper. Each team will put these ideas in a hat or bowl. Teams will pick out of the other teams bowl/ hat, each title will need to be drawn out (not written out). There is a 2 minute time limit to guess what your teammate is attempting to draw.

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Sharing

If you are trying to pack light remember that your extended family members will be bringing similar items that you are bringing. See if you can’t share things like hair straighteners, tylenol, band-aids, etc.

Take Breaks

Remember that you are traveling with the very young and an older generation. Be sure to build in break times for people to relax.

Built in Babysitter

Remember to ask Grandma & Grandpa if they can watch the kids one night so that you and your significant other can go out for a romantic evening.

Packing

Air Space Bags

Normally this product is used for home storage solutions but it can be very useful on the road. You can borrow the vacuum at the hotel to re-pack when you are packing to go home.

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Plastic Bags

Placing each outfit for your child’s vacation in a separate plastic bag is a great way to get your younger child involved with picking out their outfit while on vacation. Your child has fun picking out their own outfit and a zero chance of a mismatching their outfit.

Shoes

Shoes take up a lot of space in your suitcase. Be a savvy traveler and pack your outfits around one pair of shoes. If you are going some place warm wear your heavier shoes to the airport and pack the sandals in your suitcase. Will save you tons of space in your bag and could even save you money from bag fees!

Pants

Take more tops with you and less pants, try to bring just 1-2 pairs of pants that goes well with your pants selection.

Plan Outfits

Parents are more likely to plan their children’s outfits out. You can save a lot of space in your bag by planning out  what you are going to wear each day. Planning in advance like this is much more work but could really save you space and money.

Savings

Airbnb.com

A “social website that connects people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay.”  Entire homes can be rented off this site, which is perfect for families who need more space than a hotel room can offer. Prices are reasonable and your vacation can become more than just sight seeing the “big attractions” but can allow you to make real connections with locals.

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Megabus.com

Can be the perfect way to travel if you are on a budget. This low cost bus service is located throughout the USA, Euorpe, Cananda, and more. Seats go for as low as $1.00.

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City Transit System

When traveling to city with a transit system make sure to see if they have passes that will give you discounts on rides.

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Cheapest Tickets

Cheapest day to travel is Wednesday’s. Best time to buy tickets is Tuesday’s at 3 p.m. eastern standard time (Tip provided by farecompare.com).

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Off Season Travel

A great way to save on your vacation is to travel during the off season at a destination. You can save upwards of 30 to 60 percent on great hotel packages. Cheapest airfare tickets are sold during low flying seasons, which is from September-early November, as well as January, February, and May.

Special Needs

Travelinwheels.com

Encourages disability travel around the globe.

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Changing the Face of Beauty

A campaign to include people and families of all abilities in the modern media landscape. Check out co-founder Katie Driscoll on Family Travel’s holiday episode in Chicago!

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Moms for Autism

A resource for families that include children with Autism.

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Gigi's Playhouse

With 23 locations in the U.S. and Mexico Gigi’s Playhouse is a rapidly growing network of Down Syndrome Achievement centers. Bring your whole family to check out your local playhouse.

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Teens

Find My Friend App

Gives your teen the space they need but allows parents to keep track of them on a map seen on a cell phone.

Get the App

Budget for Teens

Make your teen feel more grown-up by giving them a budget for the vacation.

Emergency Meeting Plan

Cell phones are a great way to keep tabs on family members while on vacation but cell phones can always lose power or signal. An emergency meeting plan can help when cell phones are not working.

Emergency Fund

Be sure to have your children keep the address of the hotel on them at all times. Make sure to leave them with enough cash to take a taxi back to your hotel.

Electronic Usage for Teens

Don’t take away all electronic device usage from your teens, do allow allotted times when the electronic devices can be used.

DISCLAIMER
I WANT TO PROVIDE YOU WITH TIPS BASED ON PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, WHETHER IT IS A VISIT TO A MUSEUM, A STAY AT A HOTEL OR THE USE OF A TRAVEL GADGET.  MOST OF THE TIME, MY EXPERIENCE IS BASED ON SOMETHING THAT I HAVE PAID FOR MYSELF WITH MY FAMILY OR IT COULD BE A REVIEW OF GIFT THAT I RECEIVED FROM A FRIEND.  HOWEVER, SOMETIMES I DO RECEIVE INVITATIONS TO TRY NEW EXPERIENCES OR TEST PRODUCTS.  I DON’T ACCEPT ALL THE INVITATIONS THAT I RECEIVE, BUT I DO ACCEPT SOME!  IF I WRITE A BLOG POST ABOUT SUCH AN EXPERIENCE OR PRODUCT, I WILL GIVE MY HONEST FEEDBACK FROM THE EXPERIENCE AND I WILL LET YOU KNOW AS WELL.
I HOPE YOU ENJOY READING MY REVIEWS, BUT, OF COURSE, I CANNOT BE RESPONSIBLE IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE SAME EXPERIENCE WITH A HOTEL, DESTINATION, ATTRACTION OR PIECE OF TRAVEL GEAR.

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