20 Travel Hacks Every Parent Should Know

20 Travel Hacks Every Parent Should Know
Image: Nadezhda1906/iStock

travel hacks for kids
Nadezhda1906/iStock

In the days before we had kids, going on vacation was pure fun. We'd spend the flight curled up with a good novel or taking a nap with the help of a neck pillow and eye mask. We strolled from the gate to the car without lugging a giant car seat behind us. Being away meant sleeping in when we wanted, maybe getting a bit of a tan, and never ever worrying if the trendy new restaurant had mac and cheese on the menu. 

Having kids changes everything, and traveling is no different. Taking a trip with a baby (and/or siblings) can add to a trip's stress factor for sure, but time away with the family is still worth it. With a little planning and some handy travel hacks, it can even be fun.

Whether it's a long road trip or baby's first flight, part of what makes traveling with kids difficult is asking them to sit still for long stretches of time. Kids are adorable balls of energy and are naturally curious, so it makes sense that they'll want to explore the car or plane around them. If driving, try to plan regular breaks along the way to help keep them from getting too stir crazy (and to give everyone a chance to use the bathroom!) If flying, consider letting them out of the stroller to roam before boarding, and taking a walk down to the bathroom to stretch those legs once the fasten seat belt light goes off. 

Packing toys to keep kids occupied is a great idea, but think carefully before taking a beloved blanket or teddy on a flight -- if losing it would mean the vacation was ruined, maybe it would be better off "sleeping" in the checked luggage. 

Check out these and other useful travel hacks for kids, and get ready to start enjoying family vacations again. 


  • Bring Antibacterial Wipes

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    travel hacks for kids
    iStock/Ekaterina79

    Everyone knows to bring hand sanitizer along when traveling. But tray tables, window shades, and even armrests can be a hotbed of germs on an airplane. Bring a pack of antibacterial wipes to swipe everything down before taking a seat and get a little peace of mind. 

  • Gate Check the Stroller

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    travel hacks for kids
    iStock/FGorgun

    The trek from the check-in counter to gate 153 can be long for adults, and it's even further for kids with little legs. Gate-checking the stroller allows kids to stay in their stroller until boarding and gives their chariot back right after landing. Just check in with the gate attendant for assistance. 

  • Snack Hack

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    Giving kids a snack helps to pass the time on a flight or long road trip. But so often, whatever we pack isn't what they want right now, and digging options out can be a challenge in tight places. Make everyone happy with a craft organizer filled with a variety of healthy, sweet, and salty treats.

  • Pack Quiet Toys

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    Electronics can make travel with kids easier, but packing some quiet toys keeps boredom at bay better. Rather than risk losing a treasured favorite, opt for toys with simple pieces that won't be missed if they got lost mid-trip. 

  • Ask About Family Security Checkpoints

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    Long lines at security while trying to push a stroller through narrow switchbacks is a recipe for a meltdown (from both mommy and baby!) Some major airports offer a separate security line for those traveling with strollers that are wider, and often have a shorter wait. Just ask a TSA agent before getting in line.  

  • Darken Any Hotel Room

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    Is the crack in the hotel room curtains seriously messing with baby's nap time? Make that sun strip vanish for good with the help of a pants hanger from the hotel closet. Use it to clip the two curtains together and voila -- instant nighttime, anytime. 

  • Have Extra Baby Supplies On Hand

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    travel hacks for kids
    Mukhina1/iStock

    Even on vacation, things can go awry. Flights get delayed or canceled and bags can be lost on the way from check-in to the hotel. Adults can handle these mishaps decently, but it's hard to find diapers or a spare onesie in an airport. Pack extras of all the essentials, just in case disaster strikes. 

  • Pack Headphones

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    Nadezhda1906/iStock

    My 6-year-olds will happily watch My Little Pony all the way from New York to LA, but our fellow passengers might not have such strong feelings about Pinke Pie. The earbuds offered inflight don't always sit well in little ears, which is why packing kid-friendly headphones makes us and our fellow flight mates happy. 

  • Prevent Clogged Ears

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    kids travel hacks
    kaisphoto/iStock

    Ear pain from the change in cabin pressure is an awful way to start off a vacation. Adults can pop a piece of gum or suck a hard candy to help prevent their ears from getting blocked. Younger kids can reach for chewy candy, like fruit snacks, to help fight ear pain. 

  • Unclog Blocked Ears

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    travel hacks for kids
    boggy22/iStock

    If ears do get clogged during a flight, there are a few ways to try and get relief naturally. Swallowing can help, so encourage kids to yawn or sip water. Or keep a deflated balloon handy in a carry-on, and have the child try to blow it up. The effort may just get the ear to unclog. 

  • Pack Painters Tape

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    travel hack for kids
    RightFramePhotoVideo/iStock

    Staying out of town overnight? Don't forget to throw a roll of painters tape in the suitcase. It's great for creating makeshift roads for toy cars to zip along. It's great for babyproofing, too. Use a strip to keep the toilet seat closed or cover open electrical sockets. 

  • Get a Headphone Splitter

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    Rather than charging and packing separate tablets or phones for everyone, grab a headphone splitter before hitting the road so the kids (or mom!) can watch the same movie or show together on one device. Ah, sweet silence.

    Headphone Splitter, ($7, Amazon)

  • Naps Can Happen Anywhere

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    There's no need to abandon naptime while traveling. With a little creativity, kids can grab a good snooze on the go.  Don't have a stroller handy? Let them grab some zzzs on a soft duffel bag (bonus points if it has wheels for getting to baggage claim with the snoozer in tow).

  • Pack Outfits in Baggies

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    Make both packing and getting ready in the morning super easy by packing kids' outfits (socks, diaper or undies, top, bottom, and any hair accessories) in individual plastic zip-top bags. It makes packing easier, and the bags can come in handy in case a diaper explosion strikes. 

  • BYO Sippy Cup

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    Some flight attendants are great at bringing littles a lid and straw with their drink, but not all. Rather than risk a spill in a stranger's lap, toss a sippy cup in the carry-on. Don't want the hassle of having to clean out a cup? Travel to-go coffee cups work, too. 

  • Keep Toys Off the Floor

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    Help prevent baby toys from getting lost or hitting the filthy airplane floor with the help of the seat coat hook. (Just make sure everything gets wiped down before hanging up the toys.) Now baby can play without the fear of germs. 

  • Bring a Tot-Friendly Meal

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    travel hack for kids
    LoveSilhouette/iStock

    Sensitive stomachs and picky eaters might not love whatever dining options the airplane or airport vendors have to offer. But tea and coffee service mean its usually possible to get a cup of hot water on board. Pack a travel cup of oatmeal or instant noodles to keep LOs tummies full. 

  • Double-Check Breast Milk Policies Before Leaving

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    travel hacks for kids
    MonthiraYodtiwong/iStock

    It's totally possible to travel with a tot and keep building up that breast milk stash while away. TSA will allow parents to bring breast milk through security when traveling with a child, as long as it's in reasonable amounts. What's reasonable? It's worth a call to the airport before to check, and get a heads up about any procedures specific to that location. 

  • Board Last

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    travel hacks with kids
    FroggyFrogg/iStock

    Many airlines allow families traveling with young kids to board the plane ahead of the crowd, but if an active toddler is along for the ride, consider waiting. Even an extra 10 minutes to stroll around the gate can help LO sit calmly when it's time for take off. 

  • Pack a Spare Shirt for Parents

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    travel hacks for kids
    ferrantraite/iStock

    It's easy to spend so much time worrying about everything the kids need to travel that we completely forget to pack the essentials for ourselves. Meds are a must, but throw a spare shirt in if there's room, in case the baby pukes at 37,000 feet. 

  • Pin It!

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    Travel Hacks Every Parent Should Know Pinterest Image

    Add this graphic to your Pinterest boards to save these hacks as the travel guide for your family trip.   

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