“Parents often worry that their kids will be bored on tours and in museums. Ask about kid-approved ways of seeing historical city centers, such as a scavenger hunt at the Louvre, a sidecar tour in Barcelona, or a golf cart tour of Rome. These are great ways for the whole family to enjoy seeing significant sights and have fun at the same time,” says Phoenix-based advisor Christie Darby.
“In this day of ‘Instant Everything,’ plan a family trip and don’t disclose the destination to your kids until the day of departure. Give them a packing list a week prior, then present them with an itinerary on the day of departure. Provide a book or two about the destination to help them get excited,” says Ellicott City, Maryland-based advisor Allyson Owens. (If you don’t go the “surprise” route, advisors recommend including your kids in the planning process, which can also add to their excitement.)
“Hide a few small, wrapped presents in your kids’ backpacks with activities to do on the plane: new coloring books, crayons, cards, games, or a new book. Unwrapping each will keep them entertained on the plane and as a series of fun surprises,” says Milwaukee-based advisor Peggy Purtell. For longer flights, consider doling out small gifts every hour or so, to break up the monotony and keep them engaged.
“Have kids keep a small notebook where they can draw or list things they’ve seen. Buy postcards from the places you go, and then have the kids write a message and send it to themselves at home. It makes for fun memories after the trip is over,” says Montana-based travel advisor Deborah M. Velli.
“Since sleeping in strange hotel rooms can be daunting for some children, I ask parents in advance who their kids’ favorite character is or what program they love. Then I ask the concierge or my special Virtuoso contact at the hotel to purchase the character and have it waiting on their bed. It could also be a favorite toy or favorite book. It’s not only a surprise and delightful experience for the whole family, but also something to help with sleeping in a strange hotel and city,” says Chicago-area-based advisor Judy Nidetz.
“Draw chalk numbers 1-9 on the tire and an arrow on the wheel well. Let family members draw numbers, and on car stops, whoever has the number pointed to by the arrow is the winner. I often send small candies to clients to give away for this game. It creates a fun reason to be in the car,” says Columbus, Georgia-based advisor Trish Mercer.
“I recommend dividing family members’ outfits between various suitcases in case of delayed or lost luggage,” says Kansas City-based advisor Tim Burke. “Also, have a change of clothes for both kids and adults in your carry-on bag, along with medicine and important documents.”
“If traveling with babies, instead of bringing everything you think you’ll need—Strollers! Toys! Pack-n-play!—ship ahead with a service such as Luggage Free, and have formula or diapers sent through Amazon,” says Mercer.
“For a ski trip I recommend taking two pairs of gloves or mittens, because young children tend to spend as much time playing in the snow as skiing on it and the gloves don’t always dry out overnight,” says Burke.
“Bring along an inexpensive child-friendly camera and allow them to take their own pictures. You’d be surprised what keeps toddlers interested in what’s going on around them. Kids love to show their own photos when everyone gets home,” says Velli.
“Take one of those compartmentalized boxes normally used for crafts, yarns, and sewing, and fill each compartment with the child’s favorite snacks,” says Nidetz. “Cereal, raisins or gummy bears work well for a carrier that fits easily into a backpack.”
“If you’re going to exotic places with picky eaters, take a portable favorite snack, like peanut butter, chocolate, or granola bars. If kids don’t like the food, they can always make a peanut butter sandwich,” says Purtell.
“Traveling as a family has increased our bond and added to each member’s memory bank. It’s wonderful to hear the kids talk about activities or events that were special to them from years ago and still relevant to them today,” says Owens.