05/14/2010 02:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

10 Best Tips For Family Friendly Travel!


Can international family travel or long term travel really be family friendly travel and even easy or cheap? We say yes of course, because we have been traveling the world as a family since 2006 and quite luxuriously on just 23 dollars a day per person!

This morning I came across a great post on Simplemom about how to travel long distance with little ones. I could relate, so when she asked for others ideas, I found that my comment was long enough to be a blog post! Oh dear, my passion for travel did it again. Must learn to do short comments.

Then I thought, "Why not make it a blog post? ". Not only is the original post useful, but there were also other great tips in the comments from other traveling parents. Hopefully, all of you can add even more here.

We have traveling down to an art now. We breeze through every mode of transportation from planes to cargo ships and even camels in the Sahara!

Our trilingual & VERY active daughter was 5 when we began and turned 9 this fall. (We started traveling with her & she spent the night in her first hotel at 2 weeks old!). This is what has worked best for us:

1) Packing light is key (along with those snacks & special toys) for us.

Even when we travel for months at a time in 3 seasons of weather, we only take a small carry on, day pack for each of us. Usually that includes at least 1 laptop, homeschool supplies plus toys, snacks, books & clothes.

In case you missed it, there was a fascinating debate about families traveling light on Budget Travel at Newsweek.

2) Get a duo roll backpack for your kids and let them carry (roll) their own!

(You can add some of the family stuff in here as kid clothes don't take up much space.). We love the basic school knapsack from LLBean. In pink of course & still looks new after 4 years of wear & doubles as her school bag when we winter in Spain.

3) Pack clothes that don't take up much space, don't wrinkle, multi-purpose, hand wash & dry easy.

For example, black cotton stretch yoga pants takes up much less space than jeans.

It's easy to hand wash with your feet when you take a shower, using the shampoo. Kids love it, so teach them to hand wash early!

4) Always have matching LAYERS as one often goes from hot to cold to hot again on plane or travel.

We've gotten TONS of use out of a French black sweater & back vest and almost all my daughter's clothes are in pink &/or black. Teach them the tie the sweater around your waste trick early as a great way to get through hot airports with it handy if one gets chilly while waiting. Note DaVinci modeling that with his jacket in the photo below.


5) Educate them and talk to them about the trip, rules, boundaries LOTS, BEFORE going, so they know what to expect.

Kids CAN do adult venues as mine has done museums, adult opera & Shakespeare since she was a VERY active 15 month old. Keep it an exciting adventure! Even babies like to "discuss" things beforehand.

If prepared, even a long trip or starting at 4 AM can be a thrill to a little one. We had that and a 26 hour, 9 modes of transportation journey into Africa (that I worried about before hand), but our 6 year old loved it and it was easy. Same with a friend that flew alone with 2 toddlers from Malaga, Spain to Argentina.

6) Give them your attention and enjoy the transit time together by playing games & doing things together.

Think "little" for toys & books. Multi-purpose & endlessly engaging types work best. What that is, will depend on your kid, but we have gotten a lot of mileage out of a small sandwich size baggy or two of Polly Pockets, Playmobile & Legos.

Adding special toy or book for destination can add to the fun. ie we brought old fashion paper dolls dressed in native costumes (small book that took little space) when we took our first long flight from California to Europe when she was five.

7) Bring or wear PJ's for long flights.

We like Hanna Anderson long johns as they are multi-purpose (can be worn as long johns or even comfy play clothes).

Do sleep routines as usual ..modified as needed. Changing into pajamas signals to them that it's time for sleep. See if flight attendant can give you 1st class over-night kit. Our daughter loooves these.

8) Where your heaviest clothes and shoes.

That's what we are doing in the pictures above when we left hot Spain to go to cold New York and Denver/Utah with a stop in warm California, then back to cold NYC before heading back to Paris and Spain on our two month trip to see family at home.

Mozart standing up totally on her own initiation at 5 months old, clapping to the music

9) As soon as they can walk, let your kids walk as much as possible.

That way when you have long walks through airports or while touring they are use to it and do not tire or fuss. Young ones need to move and walking is good for them, We never owned a stroller & have been traveling with our child since she was 2 weeks old!

I've got a bad knee and Mozart has been able to out walk and out run me since she was nine months old and a very fast runner who would quickly run a football field away from me. Not always easy, but we've always wanted to encourage her sense of freedom. When we got to Europe and did lots of city walking, we had to teach her the art of hand holding.

10) Don't worry, be happy.

If you are calm and having fun, your child will too.Travel with kids is easier , cheaper & more enriching than most know!

Every child and every family is unique. What great tips and ideas do you have?