Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy, Family

Traveling with Kids

How to Quit Stressing about Traveling with Kids


“The adrenaline and stress of an adventure are 
better than a thousand peaceful days.”

-Paulo Coelho

Travel Anxiety

Traveling can be a lot of things: exciting, adventurous, annoying, mundane, and complicated. But most of all, whether you admit it or not, traveling is stressful. Whether you are jetting off on your much-anticipated honeymoon or a boring work trip, there is always some element of anxiety involved in the logistics of travel. Travelers may get stressed out by:

  • Packing
  • Getting to and from the airport
  • The cost of traveling
  • Timeliness
  • Layovers
  • Delays
  • Losing your baggage

Despite all of reasons why traveling can be a recipe for anxiety, it usually works out. However, when you add in the element of traveling with kids into the equation, traveling stress can be multiplied.

Why Traveling with Kids is Stressful…

It’s no secret that traveling can be stressful; especially with the addition of bringing along the rest of the family. Traveling with young children in particular can increase your stress levels for the following reasons:

  • Explaining where, why, & how you will be traveling
  • Packing all the essentials for the destination, plus more, for the kids
  • Packing for the journey (airplane, train, bus, car travel)
  • Understanding all of the different rules for navigating an airport and airplane with kids
    • What items can be checked for free
    • What items can be gate checked
    • What items can be considered carry-ons
    • What types of identification are accepted for minors
  • Worries about your kids being off schedule
    • Missing a nap
    • Late bedtimes
    • Switching time zones
  • Forgetting to pack something important

10 Tips to Ease the Stress

Taking you and your children out of your daily routine creates a sense of vulnerability to a long list of worries and any issues that may arise during the extent of the travel period. There is no possible way to prepare for all the things that could go wrong. However, implementing some of the following tips can hopefully help you to avoid any major hiccups…

  1. Lists
  • Planning for your trip in advance is a key way to start mapping out the course of what needs to be done in order to have a successful trip
  • Creating lists is the best way to start and stay organized when planning out a vacation
  • Lists visually help to see what needs to be done versus what has been done

2. Don’t overpack

  • Sometimes we tend to overpack in an effort to avoid forgetting something
  • This can end up being a problem because you have too much stuff to carry and manage through an airport
  • Overstuffed bags can also create stress when trying to avoid extra fees at the ticket counter by needing to stay under the baggage weight limits
  • Always remember that you can buy whatever you forgot once you get to your destination

3. Snacks

  • Buying airport food and snacks are usually expensive and unhealthy
  • Pack snacks that you know your children will eat so that you do not waste money on airport food that the kids may or may not like
  • Having enough snacks packed can aid in making sure everyone always has a full belly for the trip

4. New travel toys

  • The novelty of something new and having a surprise element for the trip can be exciting for youngsters, especially if the travel time/distance is long
  • Go to the dollar store and buy inexpensive activities and/or toys that are easy to travel with
  • Cheap toys and activities are great because if you lose it, it does not matter
Child in airplane. Kid in air plane sitting in window seat. Flight entertainment for kids. Traveling with young children. Kids fly and travel. Family summer vacation. Girl with toy in airplane.


5. Travel with a partner if possible

  • Traveling with kids is tough, traveling alone with kids is even tougher
  • If you have the option, travel with another person for the extra help

6. Be prepared for air pressure changes

  • When flying, cabin pressure changes during the ascent and descent of a flight can cause our ears to pop
  • As adults, we cope by chewing gum or swallowing
  • For children, this feeling can be uncomfortable and scary
    • Children, especially young, may cry and scream due to the ear pressure and pain
    • This can be worrisome and stressful for parents because they need to keep their children comfortable as well as minimize any disruption to surrounding passengers
  • There are different ways to ease the discomfort depending on the age of your child
    • Infants: nursing, bottle feeding, pacifier
    • Toddler: eating/drinking a fruit or veggie pouch, pacifier
    • Children over the age of 4: lollipops or gum
Young mother feeding her small daughter from bottle on airplane

7. Do not forget identification for everyone traveling

  • We often double check to make sure we have our ID cards and passports, but can easily forget those for our children
  • Lap children (under the age of 2) can fly for free on a parent’s lap, thus they need to have a birth certificate to prove their age
  • Children typically between the ages of 2-18 do not need any identification, but it can not hurt to bring it along just in case

8. Sit near other families

  • If you have the option to pick your seats on a flight upon boarding, try to sit near other parents with children
  • There is more of an understanding 
  • Who knows? Other parents sitting close by may have special tips, ideas, or activities if you are out of luck mid-air

9. Vacation preparations

  • Do some pre-vacation research on things to do with children at your destination
  • It can be helpful to have an idea of close by parks, playgrounds, and fun activities for the kids
  • Do not overwhelm yourself and plan everything out, this is still vacation!

10. Treat yourself

  • Remember, this is still a vacation for you too!
  • Organize a babysitter to watch your children so you can get some rest, relaxation, and enjoyment for yourself
  • Plan a few nice things for yourself to look forward to; this also gives yourself the mental and physical break that you deserve
    • Date night
    • Massages
    • Day of exploring on your own

Relax, You’re on Vacation!

Yes, traveling is stressful, and yes traveling with kids is even more stressful. But, it’s important to remember that traveling with your family can be some of life’s greatest moments. Do not make vacation something to be dreaded because of all of the potential things that could go wrong. Instead, focus on embracing and soaking up all of these priceless memories with your family!

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