Breathtaking sights. Exciting new foods. The chance to step out of your comfort zone and share new experiences together. It’s no surprise that traveling with kids can be a rewarding experience for every member of the family!
But planning a family vacation? Let’s just say that “rewarding” isn’t the word most parents would use.
That’s why we’ve compiled our kid-friendly travel checklist below! Take a look for some simple tips on how to plan a trip with kids—while keeping everyone happy.
Before Your Family Vacation
1. Prepare your home for vacation.
Cleaning may not be the most exciting way to kick off your vacation, but when you finally step foot in the door after a week or so away, you’ll be happy you did!
Turn your pre-vacation cleaning into a family activity by turning on some music, setting out a healthy snack tray and tackling these pre-travel checklist to-dos together:
- Sort refrigerated items into categories: eat, freeze, toss
- Wash dishes, bed linens and towels
- Tidy up the kitchen, bathrooms and common areas
- Vacuum, mop and/or sweep
- Take out the trash
- Unplug small appliances
- Adjust the thermostat
If you’re short on time, consider having a cleaning service visit a few days before your trip. You’ll still have to do last-minute tasks like turning down the heater and locking up, but you’ll be able to skip the more time-consuming chores.
2. Pack together.
As your departure date gets closer, turn packing into a family affair. Explain to your kids what to expect in terms of travel time, accommodations, weather and activities, and then help them choose which items to bring (or give them a travel checklist to help guide packing!). Encourage everyone to pack light and leave room for souvenirs or fun finds.
Guided packing will give your school-aged children some ownership in the vacation and build up that excitement even more!
Extra tip: Instead of placing everything into your suitcase directly, try packing cubes! Packing cubes keep clothes neatly rolled or folded flat and often save valuable luggage space. While you’re on vacation, the cubes can multitask as dirty clothes hampers.
3. Coordinate with teachers.
If your kids will be missing any school, make sure that you’ve communicated the absence to their teachers and have gathered any necessary homework or makeup assignments. Long car rides or flights are the perfect opportunity to puzzle out some math problems or practice reading comprehension!
4. Be airport-ready.
No matter how exciting your destination might be, the in-airport experience is often tedious and stressful, even for adults. Get your children ready to fly by:
- Explaining the check-in and security processes beforehand
- Packing for easy security screening (i.e. liquids, foods and electronics easily accessible)
- Wearing easy-to-remove slip-on shoes
- Carrying extra layers for the sometimes subarctic temperatures of airport terminals
- Preparing a fun “busy bag” with your kids’ favorite junk food alternatives, coloring books, games and toys
Extra tip: If you have time as you’re planning a family vacation, you can make the security process faster by signing up for TSA PreCheck, an expedited screening program with shorter lines and fewer checkpoint regulations. Membership requires an online application and brief in-person appointment, so you’ll need to sign up well before departure day.
5. Plan for easy meals and snacks.
You may have several five-star eateries already picked out for your vacation spot, but sometimes you’ll just want something quick and easy in the room. To keep your family eating healthy while traveling, ask for a room with a fridge so that you can stock up on wholesome snacks, easy breakfasts and fresh items that need to be chilled.
Here some great options for grab-and-go, anytime snacks:
- Greek yogurt
- Homemade granola
- High-fiber cereal
- Turkey jerky
- String cheese
- Cut fruit
- Fresh veggie sticks
- Whole grain crackers
- Plain popcorn
For more complete meals in the comfort of your room, have Nurture Life ship our perfectly portioned, ready-to-eat kids meals directly to your hotel! The subscription service lets you add a temporary address during your trip so you don’t have to remember to switch it back when you return from vacation!
After Your Family Vacation
One of the hardest parts about traveling with kids is going back to the real world—and putting off unpacking only makes it harder!
The longer you stare at a messy, half-unpacked bag in the corner, the less you’ll feel like moving beyond vacation mode. So don’t let those bags sit for too long; get the whole family motivated by tackling the task together, as soon as you can.
Remember that you can make unpacking easier by using packing cubes, laundry bags or other bag organizers.
2. Tidy up.
Even if you left the house spotless, little things will definitely build up after some time away. As the adults sort through mail and handle any major issues, children can take on some post-vacation responsibilities depending on their age:
- Gathering dirty laundry
- Starting a load of laundry
- Putting luggage back into storage
- Vacuuming and sweeping
- Tidying up common areas
- Feeding, grooming or walking the pets
If you were traveling with kids on a road trip, it’s a good idea to do a quick clean-out of the car too. Spend a few minutes hand-vacuuming and tossing trash, or go through a local car wash for more thorough detailing.
3. Simplify meal time.
There are always a million things to get in order when you return from vacation, and it’s hard enough to get back into a normal groove without having to think about what to feed your family. Whether for weeknight dinners or thermos lunch boxes, having nutritious meals ready for your kids will ease the transition for everyone.
To make sure your kitchen is freshly stocked, consider placing an order for grocery delivery! Instacart and Amazon Prime are lifesavers, and you can work on your order before you even head home. If you’d rather not deal with meal prep at all, you can also order Nurture Life meals for the week.
4. Talk about it!
The post-vacation blues are real, even if your kids seem excited to see friends and get back to school. Instead of walking in the door and immediately trudging onward, take some time to “decompress” as a family.
Sit down together to reflect on your vacation and share your favorite moments, memories, photos and videos. Get your kids talking with questions like these:
- What was your favorite activity?
- Would you recommend this vacation to your friends?
- What should we do differently next time?
- Where should we go next?!
Whether you’re headed for a Disney theme park, a remote campground or a relaxing week at the beach, these pre- and post-vacation tips will help reduce some of the most common stressors so that you can unlock the joy of traveling with kids. Pack those bags, and bon voyage!