The Best Tips for Traveling with Kids

June 25, 2019

Happy travel season! It’s that time of year where it seems like everyone is traveling with kids and running off to vacation with their pants on fire – and really, who can blame them?

We are prepping for a trip to Florida soon, and I’m rapidly being reminded of how difficult it can be to travel with kids. We consider ourselves pretty savvy travelers (oh, how I miss the days when we could travel with just a carry on!) and it has still been a learning process for me to figure out how to efficiently pack for two kids and two adults.

I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. Here are my best tricks and tips for traveling with kids.

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1. Use Packing Cubes (a.k.a. the Product I Wish I’d Invented)


If there’s one thing that makes packing for a family easier, it’s packing cubes. They are so simple, yet so helpful. Buy a different color for each family member and you have instant organization. I also like to put specific types of clothing into each cube to make it even easier to find that random pair of socks for my son. Here are the groupings I normally do:

  • Shorts/Pants and Socks
  • Tops and Dresses
  • Pajamas, Sleepsacks, and any lovey – i.e. stuffed animal, blanket, etc. – that your kid cannot sleep without. Depending on how long the travel day is, I will pack the lovey in a carry on so we can access it on the plane.
  • All things swim/pool related – bathing suits, swim coverups, rashguards, hats, etc.
  • Sweaters, sweatshirts, hoodies
  • Burp cloths, swaddle blankets, hair accessories

We own these packing cubes in several different sizes and colors, and these, which are a little more structured and higher quality. Both are great and do the job well. These also get great reviews on Amazon.

2. Figure Out an Easy Way to Travel with Your Carseat

I absolutely love the convertible carseat we have for our son (you can read more about my love for his carseat here), but it is very heavy. Traveling with it once was more than enough. If you have little ones who need a carseat at your destination, I’ve found that there are a few options:

Option 1: Buy a lightweight carseat specifically for travel.

  • This is my preferred option. We purchased this inexpensive seat for our son. It weighs about 10 pounds, is FAA certified, (find the tag on the seat that says this before you get on the plane in case the flight attendants ask) and has easy installation. It was so much easier to get this carseat through the airport, and if we ever have to check it in, I’m not as concerned about it getting damaged and needing to replace it, since it’s much much cheaper than the convertible carseat we own. *Note that the seat I’ve linked is forward facing only.*

Option 2: Buy a backpack or cart to help you haul the seat through the airport.

  • If you’re bringing your carseat on the airplane, having some mechanism to help you travel with it through the airport is key. Backpacks – we own this one and it has held up well – are large, but leave your hands free; carts are better for heavier carseats, but are notably more expensive.

Option 3: Check the carseat with your luggage.

  • This is not my favorite thing to do because of the notorious mistreatment of basically everything by airlines, but if you are not buying a separate seat on the plane for your child and still need to bring their carseat with you, checking it in is an affordable – and usually free – option.

Option 4: Buy a CARES harness and either keep a carseat at your destination, or check your carseat.

  • We opted to buy the CARES harness for our 2 year old son and try it for our upcoming trip. Our families are in Florida, so keeping an extra carseat there makes more sense for us than traveling with one. If you haven’t heard of it, the CARES harness is an FAA approved harness that gives your toddler a little less wiggle room than just an airline seatbelt. It gets great reviews and is obviously very easy to travel with, so we are excited to give it a try.

3. Ask the Airline about Pre-Boarding for Families with Small Children

I never fully understood how helpful pre-boarding is until we moved internationally with our 20-month old, five week old, two carseats, and as many carry-ons as the airline allowed. To be honest, it was a really rough travel day, but pre-boarding allows you to at least fumble your way to your seat without knocking everyone out along the way with your bags.

Tip: Check the pre-boarding regs online for your specific airline before your flight, because occasionally, the gate staff may not know the rules. 

4. Bring Snacks, Wipes, New Toys, and Go Easy on Your Screen Time Rules


Rule number one for airplane or car travel with kids is bring lots of snacks. You don’t want to get caught in an airport or plane without anything for your kids (or yourself) to eat. Bring more than you think you need, and pack snacks for each child in a large ziploc bag to stay organized. Bring extra wipes as well.

We also like to buy a few new toys for the plane so that they’ll hold our kids’ attention longer. New and shiny wins! Another option is to put away some favorite toys two weeks or so before travel, and then give them back on the airplane.

Screentime is a controversial topic, but in general, we tend to throw our screen time rules away when traveling. If it keeps them (and us) from going crazy on the flight or a long car ride, we think it’s worth it. Our son absolutely loves watching Super Simple Songs on YouTube (download YouTube videos to your tablet before you travel). The Amazon Fire tablet also comes in a kid version, with a tantrum proof case and a ton of toddler friendly apps.

5. Schedule Your Flight During Nap Time

This is a stretch, but if it’s possible, we try to plan our flights so that the bulk of the flight is during at least our toddler’s nap time. If they’re naturally tired and used to sleeping at a certain time, it’s definitely possible they’ll sleep on the airplane as well! Same applies to car travel — we try to leave right before nap time so that they get some rest in the car.


6. Pack at Least One Change of Clothes. For Everyone!

When we moved to Guatemala, our daughter was five weeks old and completely pooped through her clothing right before we boarded our first flight, and twice during the actual flight itself. We didn’t think it was possible, but she did it.

Think about how many changes of clothing you may need for your child, and pack two beyond that. You never know if they will get motion sickness (yes, we’ve been there too; both in the car and on the plane) or just have several blowouts.

Also, don’t forget to pack a change of clothing for yourself! And if your child will be traveling in their carseat, these piddle pads are a lifesaver when it comes to protecting the seat from leaks and blowouts.

What are your best hacks for traveling with kids?

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  • Katie December 4, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    Oh, this post brings back memories of traveling with a tot! All of your suggestions are spot-on! I used to always pray specifically for the passengers in front of/behind us…that they wouldn’t be annoyed by our son!

    • Lisa December 4, 2019 at 8:42 pm

      Thank you! And YES – always hoping that the people around are understanding or have been there. We’ve been pretty lucky so far!

  • Ayanna December 4, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    So many great tips! When my girls were younger, the Cares harness was my favorite travel tool.

    • Lisa December 4, 2019 at 8:43 pm

      It’s such a smart invention! Definitely made things a lot easier for us this last trip.

  • Patrice Payment December 4, 2019 at 10:30 pm

    These are great tips! I haven’t tried packing cubes yet, but everything we go on a trip my kids stuff gets so disorganized so I need to check these out!

    • Lisa December 6, 2019 at 9:05 pm

      They will definitely help keep you organized! It’s a lifesaver for us, especially since I usually pack everything. I know where everything is, but my husband has no idea and would spend ages searching for a pair of shorts for someone if it weren’t organized and easily identifiable in the packing cubes.

  • Karen December 5, 2019 at 4:39 am

    Our favorite thing to take with us when the kids were little was our stroller! It saved so much hassle and we could use it to haul the kids or the luggage if the kids wanted to walk or be carried.

    • Lisa December 6, 2019 at 9:02 pm

      Yup, strollers are definitely a help! It always gets dicey for us once we gatecheck it and have to let our eldest out (our youngest still fits in a carrier), and also suddenly have to carry extra stuff, so we definitely still try to limit the number of bags, or at least consolidate them before boarding.

  • Jessica December 5, 2019 at 5:13 pm

    I purchased packing cubes last year and love them! We also have a backpack carrier bag for our car seat. In addition to the car seat, we use it to throw our coats in last minute, or even shoes if our luggage is overweight… 😉 I always try to remind myself that I need extra patience on travel days. Even with planning for every scenario, things may still go south. On a return flight home last month, my 4 year old cried the last 15 minutes of the flight. We tried everything, books, toys, iPad, even Halloween candy! After an international trip and whole day of traveling, she was just done. Thankfully everyone around us was understanding!

    • Lisa December 6, 2019 at 8:59 pm

      Ooh, yes – great point! We also throw extra things in the carseat bag – diapers, shoes, jackets – anything that’ll fit. Definitely an upside to having the bag vs. the cart. And yes, patience is so key. Sometimes you just can’t control the situation and you have to remind yourself it’ll be over soon. No flight lasts forever, thank goodness. Ha.

  • Linu December 5, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    Ah, this is wonderful! We will be travelling on holiday with a 11-month-old bubba in February so will definitely be using some of these tips!

    • Lisa December 6, 2019 at 1:02 pm

      I’m so glad this helps! Good luck!

  • Gemma December 5, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    Great tips! I need to look into those packing cubes. I have heard of other parents using those and they sound great!

    • Lisa December 6, 2019 at 8:55 pm

      Thank you! Packing cubes are so so helpful. Definitely worth a try!

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    Welcome! I’m Lisa – a mom of two, figuring out this mom thing and sharing what I learn along the way. I love affordable, easy fashion, finding new ways to organize, and sharing all things motherhood. I’m so glad you’re here!

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