January in Northeast Ohio can be brutally cold. It’s right about that time when I start dreaming of the beach. But the thought of traveling with young kids can be stressful enough for many parents to skip the vacation altogether. Not us. With a little planning, you too can escape the winter blues and actually enjoy your family vacation.

Tips for traveling with young kids

Our first time traveling with our son Jacob, he was 7 months old. Since then, we’ve taken 6 vacations that required an airplane right to our destination. Here are a few of the things we’ve learned along the way.

  1. Select a destination within your time zone. My kids are creatures of habit. The clock strikes 8 pm and they’re ready for bed. While there is some wiggle room, staying in our home time zone has helped us avoid meltdowns at meals, naps, and bedtime.
  2. Find a direct flight or, if one is not available, select the option with the shortest total travel time.
  3. Signup for TSA pre-check to avoid a long wait at the security checkpoint.
  4. Most airlines allow families with small children board first. This is helpful on Southwest flights where seats aren’t pre-selected. It’s also helpful when you’re carrying on luggage and space is limited in the overhead bins. If these aren’t an issue for your flight, wait until the last passenger has boarded before boarding to allow your kids time to stretch their legs before being confined to the small airplane space/seat.
  5. Buy diapers at your destination instead of packing them. This will free up space in your suitcase.
  6. Snacks, snacks and more snacks! Most airlines charge for snacks these days so pack your own! Having sugar-free lollipops on hand also help ease the pressure build up in their ears on take off and landing.
  7. Invest in travel a car seat, like this one from Peg-Perego. This foldable option is great to use on the airplane or in the rental car upon your arrival.
  8. Download games or movies onto an iPad in advance of the flight. Not all flights offer free wifi or have monitors in the seat backs. Charge the battery before you leave, invest in a set of headphones, and your child will stay occupied for a solid 30 minutes (or more if you’re lucky!)
  9. Make dinner reservations ahead of time to avoid long waits. Apps like Open Table are perfect for this! This has saved us on more than one occasion in Orlando where wait times at kid-friendly restaurants can be upwards of 2 hours!
  10. Find a hotel that offers perks for kids. Many hotels and resorts offer a “kids eat free” meal option, or have activities for hotel guests, like movie night out by the pool.
Jacob on an airplane

Remember to have fun!

Family vacations can be stressful. A little planning can help the days move along smoothly. Kids will know what to expect next and you can worry less about potential tantrums and more about enjoying your time away.