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, Instagram, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Your Airline’s App
With this free app you just put in your location and find the best prices for gas in the area.
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)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Keep your stroller with you until you have reached your gate. Ask the gate agent how you will gate check your stroller.
Security lines at the airport can create trouble for families. If you have TSA PreCheck, then your children 12 years and younger can get in the same line as you.
If you have a long layer over or a delayed flight be sure to find out if the airport has a child play zone.
Encourage them to drink water or juice while the plane is taking off or landing. The liquids help to keep ears clear.
Going through airport security
TSA allows mothers of Children drinking formula or breast milk to exceed the 3oz limit. Check out the helpful video and below to see what going through security with a baby looks like!
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.
Car Seat Rentals
Car rental places make it easy to travel with toddlers as many offer car seat rentals.
Most dining cars on trains wont have a large selection of food. Make sure to pack meals & snacks for your smaller children.
Mind Your Fabrics
Be sure to buy spot clean before head out on your trip
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.
Dansko makes some of the most comfortable semi-formal shoes.
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.
Many cruises offer daycare in the mornings and the early afternoons.
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.
Bring over the door shoe holder to hold everyone’s toiletries.
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.
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.
If you have the ability to throw a picnic together, this can be a great money saver while on vacation.
Food Trucks are becoming a hit all over the country, their food is great, can be local cuisine, and of course is reasonably priced.
Rent Equipment with BabyQuip
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.
Repair Your Luggage vs Purchasing New
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.
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.
Soft vs. Hard 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.
You’ve gotten to your destination, 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. This way it is fair and fun for the whole group. Sometimes, it’s okay to split up–which also creates special bonding time, too.
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.
Remember that you are traveling with the very young and an older generation. Be sure to build in break times for people to relax. If you are planning a walking-heavy excursion, do your research ahead and ask about rest stops along the route.
Reusable Organizer Bags
No more digging around your luggage for that one lost item! Also consider placing each outfit for your child’s vacation in a separate bag. It’s a great way to get them involved with picking out their outfit while on vacation–and there’s now a 0% chance they’ll mismatch their outfits. (Although, it’s cute when they do mismatch sometimes, isn’t it?)
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!
Take more tops with you and less pants. Try to bring just 1-2 pairs of pants that goes well with your pants selection.
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.
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.
When traveling to city with a transit system make sure to see if they have passes that will give you discounts on rides.
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).
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
Give your teen the space they need but allows parents to keep track of them on a map seen on a cell phone.
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.
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.