Traveling With Kids: 20 Tips to Ensure a Smooth and Stress-Free Journey

Often my biggest fear about traveling is taking my 2-year-old along. My fears are the same as what any parents with young children will fear. Will our kids behave? Can they sit still for a long period of time? How do we keep them from disrupting others? Yet, through all those fears, I still deign to take my toddler on our travels, because that’s where both he and I learned the most.

If you are going on a safari and bringing the kids along, this is one of the best decisions you can ever make. Exposing them to such experiences at a young age will help them grow and develop in leaps and bounds. Yet, any parent knows that traveling with young children isn’t the easiest of things. At times, it can be downright challenging. Having traveled a fair bit with my young child, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks along the way to make traveling less bumpy and more fun!

20. Plan a Kids’ Friendly Holiday

When traveling with toddlers, the best way to make the most of the trip is to keep it child-friendly. Include kids activities in your travel plans so that the children will have something to look forward to. While going on a safari in Africa may be more of an adult activity, make the trip interesting for the kids by explaining to them the animals that they might see. Create activities based on the wildlife that they are trying to spot to keep them entertained throughout. Include kids activities prior to or at the end of a safari holiday too so that the kids have something to look forward to. Plenty of safari tours also tailor their itinerary to suit children so keep on the lookout for family safari trips!

19. Keep the Bugs Away

Research your destination before you go and be aware of the vaccination requirements and recommendations for each country you are visiting. When traveling to Africa, bring insect repellent and apply them generously on your children as well as on yourself. This is a great way to protect your child’s skin from being bitten by harmful insects such as mosquitoes that carry the yellow fever virus or malaria. Prevent insect bites by also dressing up appropriately – wearing clothing that covers most of the hands and legs. Ensure that your rooms are equipped with mosquito netting and, when indoors, keep the air-conditioner on.

18. Be Extra Cautious About Food and Water

The last thing you want to happen on your family trip is to have the little one sick with food poisoning, or worse, contracting diseases such as cholera and Hepatitis A. An easy way to prevent this is to be vigilant about food and water. Drink only bottled water or, where needed, drink boiled water. Avoid cold and raw food, and instead opt for hot, cooked food. Practice careful sanitation and use plenty of hand sanitizer.

17. Travel Light

When traveling with children, remember that there’s already plenty to carry and lug around. Don’t add to the weight with bulky luggage filled with things you might not really need. Practice packing light! Before you even start packing, create a packing list and scrutinize it. Ask yourself if you need all the items on your list and see what you can afford to leave behind. When packing for cold weather, limit the number of coats that you take along. Instead, bring more inner wears so you can layer them up. Compact clothes into ziplock bags to save space. Remember to pack what you need and not for “just in case” situations.

16. Book Night Flights

Here’s my personal favorite tip to share. When traveling long distance where your estimated flight time is anything between 8 and 12 hours, it might be a good idea to book a night flight. Where possible, try to coincide flying time with bedtime so that your child will use the time on the plane to sleep. A sleeping child is a quiet child, which means that there is a less chance that they’d want to walk about, be entertained or kick up a fuss. Dress them in pajamas and go through their normal bedtime routine even before the flight takes off. Before you know it, they’d be sound asleep and you can get some rest too!

15. Don’t Forget the Medicine at Home!

This is very important and something a lot of parents overlook. Do not forget medicine at home, whatever you do! Bring medicine for pain, upset tummies, fevers, allergies and anything else (prescription or not) that your child might require, but make sure you are allowed to travel with them. When it comes to traveling with young children, always make sure to pack more medicine than you need and be prepared for any sickness. After all, a feverish child is something nobody wants!

14. Book Transportation in Advance

When leaving on vacation with your child, it is important to think ahead of all the steps needed to be taken, from the time you take your first step out your front door until you put your bags down in your hotel room. This is precisely why transportation is so important. Don’t just rely on the fact that you will find a taxi when you get off the airplane! If you don’t, then you’ll be stuck with a tired child outside an airport and that has got to be a horrible situation to find yourself in. Call ahead, reserve a car, ask around; whatever you do, make sure there’s a car waiting for you when you guys land.

13. Board Early

We know it can be hard to leave the house early when going on vacation with a small child, but if you do make it out the door early, you’ll have only benefits to reap. Some airlines will allow parents with children to board just after the first class passengers, so if you make it early, you’re in luck. Boarding early will also release tension and stress, and you and your child will be able to relax on the journey.

12. Mind the Toys

No matter where you go and for how long you’re staying, you need to bring some toys! Now, it is advisable that you always travel light, so make sure you scale it down when it comes to toys. Hopefully, that can be done without tears being shed. If not, there are so many great travel toys out there that your little one can enjoy.

11. Avoid Sugar on the Road

Try as much as possible to avoid giving your child sugar before going on a trip. The last thing you want is for your child to have all the energy in the world kick in when you’re taking off. If they do want something sweet, fruit is always a nice choice, or homemade granola. Make the treats small and make sure they eat real food before they have their treats.

10. Don’t Be Afraid of Your Stroller

Some parents can be so apologetic of the stroller. Some avoid it altogether because it’s too heavy or too hard to carry around on vacations, but we advise against that. A stroller can be a huge help, especially on vacations and in airports, when you have to do a lot of walking. You also need to know that strollers don’t count as hand luggage.

9. Do a Little Training Before You Leave

If your child is old enough to remember tasks, then it is wise you do a little training with them before you leave on your vacation. Explain to them what to expect and what is expected from them. Make it short, because we all know kids aren’t too good at paying attention for long periods of time.

8. Invest in a Child Tracker

The thought that you might lose your child is enough to make any parent break out in a cold sweat, which is why we highly recommend that when you’re on vacation, you get a child tracker for them. Here is a list of some of the most popular child trackers. There are trackers that can be worn as a bracelet or can be attached on clothes. Just pick the one you think is best for your kid!

7. Do Your Check-In Online

Online check in has improved airports so much! You can now avoid massive lines by simply checking in online a day in advance from the comfort of your home. I mean, how amazing is that?! If you’re not doing that, we urge you to start checking in online and you’ll see how wonderful it feels to simply breeze through the airport in no time!

6. Flight Attendants are Your Friends

Flight attendants are there to help you and, as a single parent traveling with a small child, you should take advantage of that as much as you can. We’re not saying that you should pester them with non-stop requests, but you shouldn’t feel guilty every time you need them for something. Let’s say you need to use the bathroom and you can’t take your child with you. Instead of asking the person sitting next to you to keep an eye out on them ask one of the flight attendants. They’d be more than happy to help!

5. Research, Research, Research

Researching a hotel is one of the best things a traveler can do before booking a vacation. And this is valid for any traveler, especially for parents traveling with young children, where so many things can go wrong. You need to know if a hotel offers babysitting, or if they have a playpen or a laundry service. Everything you need to have a great vacation! Websites such as Hotels or TripAdvisor are awesome for finding out this type of information.

4. Announce in Advance You Have Kids

Another great tip that will surely make a huge difference in your stay at any hotel is to announce in advance that you have kids. This way, you get all the information about what that particular hotel can offer and you’ll be able to schedule accordingly. These days, many hotels offer great kids programs that can give you some much needed time off, so make sure you let them know about it!

3. Expect the Best, Plan for the Worst, and Prepare to be Surprised

Alright, so your vacation probably won’t really be the worst, but you do need to plan accordingly. Just make sure that, a few days before you leave, you make a list of things that could go wrong and think how you can counteract that. For example, in case you lose an item that is really important, then make sure you pack a spare one. Trips with small children tend to be filled with surprises, so just make sure you do your best to foresee them, as much as you can.

2. Relax!

Alright, now that you’ve planned for the worst and you’re prepared to be surprised, how about you relax? Anxiety is your worst nightmare when leaving on a vacation with your small one, because it produces nothing helpful, just horrible thoughts of things that can go wrong, worrying and stress. We know it’s hard to relax, especially when planning for a vacation, but it’s time to just go with the flow. To ease your worries and pamper yourself, perhaps add a luxury safari trip into your itinerary where you can just sit, relax and enjoy the scenery.

1. Always be Vigilant

Remember that you are in a foreign country and though it may be safe, always err on the side of caution. Hold on to your children’s hands and keep an eye on them at all times. Don’t let them wander off on their own even if they are older. Be aware of your surroundings and take note of any suspicious activities. However, try not to be paranoid. While kidnappings and robbery do happen, they are the exception and not the rule, so go on your family holiday with ease but exercise general caution.

Thinking of the best African destination for your family holiday? Go on safaris for families in South Africa!