Over the years, we have done a lot of traveling with our daughters. Both of my daughters were on a plane before they were 10 months old. I've learned a lot about traveling with children. Here are some tipes.
1. Kitchens are Key. We always try to book a condo, cabin, house, suite or stay with family. It's important to have access to a refrigerator, but preferably a whole kitchen. Eating out with young children can be expensive and really not worth the money. We usually take food with us or find a grocery store once at our destination. We save money not having to eat out every meal and we save our sanity by not having to deal with all the drama that eating out with kids can sometimes be. It's hard for them to sit still when they've been in the car along time traveling and when they are excited to be on vacation.
2. Bring lots of new toys, games and books to keep the little ones busy. Usually a month or two before we go anywhere I start watching for little toys, books, activity books on clearance or at the dollar store. Sometimes even things around the house that I can turn into a toy. One of my girls' favorite homemade toys was a wallet with a whole bunch of old store cards and empty gift cards. When they were young, they would go through and pull all the cards out and put them back in. It held their attention. I usually pack a small backpack for each child with their individual toys so they have easy access to them.
3. Food, Food and More Food. Kids love to eat. When we travel I pack some different type of snacks in the diaper bag or carry on bag. If we aren't flying then I pack juice boxes too. I try to find things that I know they really like or snacks that I don't normally buy that I know they will find interesting. Also, I fill a gallon size ziplock bag with snacks for when we are at our location. Oatmeal packets work great for easy breakfasts. Granola bars, sandwich crackers, fruit snacks, those breadsticks that come with the cheese to dip it in, these are all great to have on hand. When we leave for the day, I'll throw a few in my diaper bag or purse. Nothing is worse on vacation than having a hungry grumpy kid. Well, I could think of a few worse things, but this one is easily avoided.
4. If you are flying...don't try to carry on your luggage. It is so worth the $25 or whatever the amount is right now to check a large suitcase. We usually pack one large suitcase with everything we can. We pack light since we always make sure there are laundry facilities wherever we choose to stay. Then we just have to carry on one small bookbag for each of the girls with their toys in it and one larger backpack/diaper bag.
One year we tried to save a few dollars by carrying everything on. That was miserable and a huge mistake. Actually the flight was delayed a couple of hours and I had too little ones with me. My youngest was only about 7 months old and upset and crying. The airline employee at the gate felt so bad for me that she went ahead and checked our luggage at the gate.
5. Take a Stroller. One thing I'm always surprised that traveling parents don't know is that you can take your stroller up to the gate and check it at the plane. Then it is waiting for you right when you get off the plane. Stollers are great to push around tired kids, but they also work really well to stack luggage on.
6. Location is one of the biggest factors to consider when traveling with children. There may be something that the adults really want to do but if the kids are bored, it just makes a rough day for everyone.
7. Keep things simple. On our last vacation we took an excursion on a submarine to see fish. My youngest really didn't enjoy it...so neither did I. There really wasn't a lot of fish to look at and the boat moved so slow it didn't hold her interest. I spent the whole time trying to keep her entertained so she didn't disturb everyone else. Both of my girls really just wanted to stay on the cruise ship and swim. We could have saved a lot of money and had a more enjoyable day just relaxing in the sun.