8 Easy Tips to Simplify Traveling With Kids

Inside:  Here you’ll find 8 easy tips to simplify traveling with kids. I’d love to hear any of your tried and true tips for simplifying family travel. 

Traveling is one of my most favorite things to do.

I dream of one day pulling my kids out of school for six months to a year, and trying my hand at homeschooling as we travel throughout Europe. Of course, I’d have to get my husband and his employer on board. And I think I’d have some pretty aggravated grandmas on my hands. But seriously, what an incredible experience that would be.

“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves” – Euripides

Since this dreamy scenario is highly unlikely, I’ll take whatever five day family excursion my husband will agree to. Someday it might be Europe, but so far it’s involved some kind of overnight stay in the beautiful state of… Ohio.

Beggars can’t be choosers.

traveling with kids

Travel With Kids Prior to Minimalism

Prior to my minimalism, I figured the more I took with me when we traveled, the easier and more enjoyable our trip would be. Deep down, the goal was to make our accommodations feel exactly like home to ensure everyone slept well.

It doesn’t take much to throw a little one “off schedule” and turn a family vacation into an experiment in sleep deprivation.

But that right there is exactly the point. You can try. You can take all your things, but it will never really be home. It won’t smell the same, feel the same, or look the same. The blinds may not block out as much light or the air conditioning might be too warm or too cold. You’ll likely forget the lavender bath wash or their beloved bedtime book.

What traveling like a minimalist has taught me most is to let go of perfect and pursue present.

Sure, there are ideal scenarios, upgrades and luxuries we can plan and hope for. But the reality is, travel is as much of a wild card as my children are. You really never know how it’s all going to play out. For example, I’m literally typing this while stuck on the runway as a mechanical team repairs the captain’s seat belt. I’m reaaalllly hoping they don’t expect he’ll need it. Deep breaths Rachelle, deep breaths.

Whether you’re camping on the Dunes of Lake Michigan or staying at a luxury resort in Hawaii, family travel will always be an unpredictable adventure.

“In America, there are two classes of travel: first-class and with children.” — Robert Benchley

Here are my 8 best hacks to traveling simply with kids in hopes that you won’t need a vacation from your vacation.

1. Pack Lightly

You probably knew I was going to say that.

At this point, whether we head out of town for a three day weekend or a two week road trip, we pretty much take the same amount of stuff with us. I can confidently tell you that packing lightly has made life easier.

Packing as a minimalist family has come from a lot of trial and error. We’ve tried everything. From packing it all in one large bag to separating adult items from kids. What I’ve found to work the very best for us is to give each of us our own back pack. My husband and I just can’t share a bag. It’s not good for our marriage! I like to keep my items slightly organized and his bag always seems to explode leaving a five foot radius of clothing shrapnel.

We function better as a family when everyone is carrying their own back pack. Well, except for Amelia. She’s not quite ready to carry her own yet. See exhibit A:

My attempt at a photo of our kids each carrying their own backpacks ended like this. 🙂 

The key to packing lightly for yourself and for your kiddos is to pack a capsule wardrobe and plan to wear items more than once.

For help creating, maintaining and packing a capsule wardrobe, don’t miss these important articles:

How to Pack a Capsule Wardrobe

8 Steps to Pack Like a Minimalist

The Perfect Minimalist Backpack For Simplifying Travel

A Simple Approach to Building a Capsule Wardrobe For Kids

2. When Possible Stay in an AirBnB or VRBO

We’ve stayed in both hotels and rental homes via VRBO and AirBnB when traveling with kids. Hands down, the rental home has been a more relaxing and enjoyable experience. It gets you a little closer to that “just like home” feeling without having to bring all of your things.

One of the best perks is easy access to laundry facilities. This helps us pack super light and allows us to wash our clothes before we head home. Leaving with clean clothes makes reentry into your real life less stressful.

Tip: Book a rental home with a game room for easy and free entertainment on those rainy days.

traveling with kids
From our VRBO in Orlando, 2015

3. Tidy Your Home Before You Leave

Nothing beats coming home to a clean house. This is always the goal right? We always plan to leave our homes tidied up, but it never seems to work out. We always run out of time!

I was always frantically weighing my oversized suitcase, trying to get as close as possible to that fifty pound weight limit without going over. I’d spend those remaining moments tossing in a few “just in case” items and leave with just enough time to get to the airport.

Living with less and traveling with less, makes a pre-travel tidy an attainable practice. When our homes are uncluttered it takes a fraction of the time to pick up. When we learn to travel with less, it allows us to spend less time packing and avoid adding in random “just in case” items.

4. Road Trip Entertainment

Prior to any trip, especially a road trip, download a family friendly ebook or two from your library. We are currently on book three of the Chronicles of Narnia. 

We do our best to reserve technology for travel emergencies. However, my kids have learned the secret to getting a little extra iPad time on a road trip is to ask us to play Twenty-One Questions for a third time in a row!

We’ve also utilized the Stories Podcast for short stories that keep their attention. Since I can only take so much Kids Bop and Stories Podcast, my husband an I always download a non-fiction book and listen together on wireless ear buds. Might I recommend, Atomic Habits, Start With Why, and Falling Free.

Depending on the length of our trip I may also add these to my grab bag of random kids activities:

5. Have Groceries Delivered

The last thing I want to do after a plane ride or ten hour road trip is stop at the grocery store for milk! We’ve been using Aldi’s Instacart to have our groceries delivered a few hours after we arrive back home. Game…changer.

The same goes for arriving at your vacation destination. Have groceries dropped off at your AirBnB so you can relax and begin your vacation immediately.

We had groceries delivered to our Disney World hotel a few years ago. While that may have been the most expensive half gallon of Milk I’ve ever purchased, it certainly cost less than breakfast at Disney World. Am I right?

As fun as it is to take a family of five to a restaurant (eye roll), eating breakfast in your hotel room or opting to make dinner in your AirBnB helps cut costs, eat healthier and provides a little more consistency.

6. Plan Down Days

If down days feel like a waste of a vacation time to you, I get it. I used to feel the same way. However, my husband desperately needs them. The sure fire way to get him to dread a vacation is for me to have overbooked the previous one. He just needs more down days than I do on vacation.

traveling with kids
Down time makes space for fairy home building.

Since I’ve had to learn how to carve them out for him, I’ve also learned how delightful they can be. The down days on our family vacations usually turn out to be our most favorite ones.

7. Maintain a Simple Bedtime Routine on Vacation

Getting a good night sleep is important to me. We have always operated our home with a pretty early bedtime. The kids need it. We need it.

Sure, we occasionally let them stay up for Disney World fireworks, family movie night or a chance to close down Cedar Point. While I’m flexible to some degree when needed, we stick with our early bedtimes even on vacation.

8. Return Home by Saturday

If possible arrive back home on a Saturday. This gives you a day or two to get acclimated to your real life again before starting back at work and school.

Traveling with kids doesn’t have to leave you needing a vacation from your vacation. Don’t let your unrealistic expectations hijack the fun. Use these practical tips to help you enjoy your family vacation as much as your kids!


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3 thoughts on “8 Easy Tips to Simplify Traveling With Kids

  1. One of our realizations with travel is that children (or at least ours) don’t appreciate a view as a destination. Long hike (or car ride) to sit enjoying an overlook? Not high on a child’s list. But climbing over every log along the path, finding a good stick, scratching in the dirt with the aforementioned stick, collecting rocks to skip in the pond…yes! All day long. If we simplify our plan & not aim for miles or “stretch” for destinations, the experience is enjoying the journey!

  2. If we are going somewhere for a week or more, we always try to stay somewhere with a pool at least every other night. This gives the kids something to look forward to at the next destination.

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