Summer is officially here -- bring on the vacation! And to make sure the vacation is as close to a vacation as one can be with kids, take this advice from Nicole Hockin, author of the Travel Smart Blog.
- Pack light. Bring only the essentials. The more you bring, the more you have to keep up with. Kids can require a lot of stuff: car seats, strollers, cribs, high chairs. Babys Away tells you where you can rent gear instead of packing it all. Some car rental companies rent child safety seats and some hotels offer childproof rooms or cribs upon request. Call ahead to find out which items you can cut from your packing list.
- Expect the unexpected. Make sure you have plenty of what you need in your carry-on: diapers, wipes (which are great for a multitude of things), medications, change of clothes, snacks, and a secret coloring book.
- Bring quiet games and toys. Bring something to keep everyone entertained, but leave the singing Barneys and beeping video games at home. You (and everyone else) will be glad you did.
- Remember car seats count as checked luggage on any airline. You will NOT be charged. Get yourself a durable car seat cover and check it for your trip. (Nicole’s secret tip: When your suitcase is over 50 pounds, avoid the overweight fees and stick some of those extra clothes in the car seat bag.)
- Children over 2 need their own airplane seat. But you should purchase a seat for your infant once the child is mobile even if he’s younger, especially for flights over 2 hours. The airplane seat allows them their own space to wiggle -- and dramatically reduces on-board meltdowns.
- Be ready for airport security screening. It can really delay you if you aren’t prepared. Know this: Medications, baby formula and food, breast milk, and juice are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces and aren't required to be in the zip-top bag. Kids do have to take off their shoes, too.
- Eat breakfast where kids eat free and split meals. This can save a lot of money. Restaurants that are kid-friendly are more than happy to accommodate special requests for extra plates, and many offer free meals for kids (with the purchase of an adult meal) on different days of the week.
- Bring your own stroller. If you’re going to visit theme parks, you'll save $7 to $30 (for a double) a day in rental fees.
- Bring along individual refillable water bottles. These can be refilled at the hotel and at restaurants around your destination. A family of four could easily spend $20 or more a day just buying water.
- Be flexible. Lines will be long, traffic will be heavy, flights will be delayed, and children (and adults) will get grumpy. But with just a little planning -- and an open mind -- you’ll survive and enjoy another family vacation.
What are your best summer vacation traveling tips?
Image via D.B. Bias/Flickr