Ahhhh, the family trip. Come and get your travel tips for parents who may actually want to sleep on their vacation! If you’re changing time zones, or worried about sleeping on the plane – I’ve got you covered. This particular post covers some extra travel tips for things you may not have considered yet that could make a big difference!

Last Updated Feb 4, 2021.

traveling tips for parents

Photo Credit: Guillaume de Germain

So You’re Planning a Vacation…

Anyone with kids knows that traveling with your kids, especially young kids, doesn’t totally equate to a “vacation.”  I, cynically, like to say that the term “family vacation’ is an oxymoron. I understand now why my own parents, and my husband’s parents, took regular vacations without the kids.

I can, however, think of numerous friends who do seem to genuinely enjoy traveling to far-off lands with their children. And I should probably have one of them write a guest post on this blog…lol! Because one of the very last things I ever wanted to do as a young mom is (willingly) shell out tons of cash, get on a plane with two kids, and then spend several days away from my things. Maybe that’s just me being uptight, or maybe I’m just saying what everyone is thinking… Alas, how about some travel tips for parents who actually want to enjoy themselves a bit more than merely survive!

Travel Tips for Parents to Make Traveling with Kids Easier

I don’t dislike traveling with my kids enough that I avoid it all together. Plus, the older my kids get (and they are much older than when I first wrote this post), the better! In fact, traveling with my older kids now is downright fantastic. It really does get better!

The following is a list of things that I have learned making traveling with (young) kids easier…

1. If you are visiting extended family (and actually like them), plan your trip around times you know people will be off work and at home.

This advice may seem obvious, but it really does help with young kids. I discovered on a trip long ago that I thoroughly dislike visiting my in-laws if they’re at work all day. My husband usually has to work while on trips, and my kids are totally out of their element. This equals more stress for me.

Combine that with visiting a place where I don’t have friends, and rainy weather, and it just plain sucked to be home all day (essentially alone) with them. I learned that my trips should be planned around days when I knew my mother-in-law would be home to hang out with us. You can tailor this to fit your own needs, but having some familial reinforcements can be super helpful and fun!

2. Try to keep your kids on schedule, and try to mimic their sleep environment. 

My in-laws indulged me (way back when) by letting me tin-foil the windows when I had a baby in the nursery. It made it really easy for my kids to sleep there because their rooms were very dark. I also made sure to use the same type of cheap, loud fans I normally did for white noise at home.  Just having these two elements really made an enormous difference in their ability to sleep. Especially for my then-21-month-old. He may have slept better there than at home!

3. Even though you should try to keep your kids on schedule, consider it a vacation for them, and let them have fun!

I would say my kids, in general, watch quite a bit of TV (maybe up to 2 – 2 1/2 hours on some days). When we vacation, especially in someone else’s home, they watch a lot more TV than they normally do. They also skip meals and graze more often. Since I’m already being uptight about making sure they go to sleep on time, and nap, I try to let other things slide.

Letting loose a bit more with your kids can actually help free up your mental real estate to enjoy yourself more.

4. Do your best to research good, local babysitters ahead of time.

If you happen to be religious, it’s helpful to find a local church of your same denomination several weeks before your trip. Get in touch with whatever adult is in charge of the youth or young adult programs. Have them recommend some potential helpers in their congregation that might be interested in babysitting for you. Call these kids, their parents, and ask them if they’d be willing to babysit and what their fees are.

It helps to mention that you are also Jewish, Catholic, Hare Krishna, etc. Speaking with the adult youth leader, and perhaps having that person give you personal references on a particular young person can be very helpful. That way you can have a nice 16-year-old come to your destination, babysit for a low fee, and you can go out an enjoy yourself!

Plus, if your kids sleep well at night, you can likely put them down for the night, and have the babysitter come over after they are asleep. The dream teenage job: just sitting around and watching TV.  It’s also a good idea to check references for your sitter. And let’s be honest, it’s better if the babysitter is female. Again, that’s just what everyone else is thinking.

5. If you’re sharing a room with a kid in a Pack n’ Play, make it as conducive a sleep environment as possible.

I recommend the SnoozeShade for Pack n’ Plays (if your kiddo is not standing yet). Or this Slumberpod if they are standing. These incredible covers do a wonderful job at blocking out light and muffling sound.  It’s really hard to share a room with some kids, but these covers can really alleviate several issues that come along with room sharing.

If you’re unable to get either, I’ve had parents experience success simply by covering the entire Pack n’ Play, save one corner facing away from you, with heavy blankets.  It’s important that you make absolutely certain the child will have adequate air circulation if you have the Pack n’ Play covered, but the heavy blankets block out noise and light, and that will help everyone sleep easier. Also, use a fan, or bring your white noise machine.

For more travel tips for parents, dealing with sleep regressions (which are common after travel!), and getting onto an age-appropriate sleep schedule — sign up for my newsletter!