Family Travel Checklist

It is officially that time of year when Chicagoans are fleeing for fun in the sun (I’m looking at you, Kari and Whip!). And while a vacation away from the long and brutal Chicago winter sounds like paradise, traveling back and forth with the kids is anything but. For a while, I was so petrified of my kids having a meltdown on a plan or waking up an entire hotel with night terrors that I was too afraid to travel with them. But after one particularly nasty winter, we decided that we needed to head to the beach in order to save our sanity…and I am oh so glad that we did. So I’ve created this family travel checklist for those of you who are nervous about traveling with kids to help ease your worries and fears. I can’t predict a perfect trip, but I can help you feel more prepared and in control.

The beautiful destination that is oh so worth the stressful day of travel…promise!

Become a snack vending machine
Seriously. Stock up on tons of individually wrapped snacks (Goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, apple sauce pouches, yogurt raisins, granola bars, veggie sticks, cut up fruit, carrot sticks, etc.) And don’t forget the gum and/or suckers if you are traveling by plane for takeoff and landing.
Get the wiggles out before your long plane or car ride
No park nearby? No problem! Use my favorite hack…all you need is a roll of masking tape and a vivid imagination. Use the tape to set up an obstacle course for kids to jump in and out of. Challenge them to dance like a robot all within a square area cornered off by masking tape. Then have them help you clean up when play time is over by pulling the tape off the floor. Easy peasy.
Get the kiddos involved in packing
Even though it is very important to pack new and special toys and prizes in YOUR bag to snap kids out of a tantrum or meltdown, it is also key to have your kids pack their own favorite things. Let them pack whatever they want (as long as TSA isn’t going to stop you) into a toddler sized backpack. And be sure to warn them that they will be carrying the bag so they shouldn’t make it too heavy.
Prepare for the worst but hope for the best
That means that you need to have an entire change of clothes for everyone, extra wipes and diapers, medicine, paper towels and plastic bags…all available at a moment’s notice. And if someone is giving you the stink eye because your kid is having a rough time, rest assured that karma will undoubtedly bit them in the butt…hopefully in the form of food poisoning while on vacation…
Plan more activities than you think you need
Stock up at the Dollar Store, Five Below, Target…anywhere you can get cheap and lightweight toys that aren’t too annoying for those traveling around you. Pack half of your toy/prize stash in your suitcase so you don’t preemptively use them on the first leg of your trip. Need some activity ideas? Here are our favorites:
*Play foam
*Mini play dough
*Water pen coloring books
*Reusable sticker books
*I Spy books and cards
*I Spy bingo (prepare by writing down words or drawing pictures of things you anticipate seeing while on your journey)
*Pipe cleaner sculptures (be sure to supervise so no one pokes an eye out!)
*Dry erase boards and markers
*Flash cards
*Mini etch a sketch
*Colored pencils and stencils
*Finger puppets
Do your research
If you are making a cross country road trip, map out interesting spots to stop and stretch your legs (some suggestions are cool parks, children’s museums, etc.). If traveling my plane, look into the airport amenities. Chicagoans shouldn’t leave the house without reading my tips on navigating O’Hare and Midway.
Get rid of your screen guilt
If you know your child will happily sit still and quietly if Elmo is dancing on the I pad, go for it. You are going on a vacation, and everyone is allowed to relax and have some screen time. Here are my suggestions of great travel apps your family should know about.
Relax. It’s all going to be okay
Really. It is. Our first flight as a family, my husband had the stomach flu. On our second flight our son cried hysterically for 22 straight minutes (it felt like hours). But we all survived. And so will you. We embark on a road trip this month and are hoping we don’t forget pajamas this time (oops).
Need some ideas on where to go? Here are our favorite family friendly travel destinations.
Safe and Happy Travels!
Don’t miss a post…follow me on Blog Lovin’.


  1. Chrishelle Ebner says

    I remember those days of kid filled travel. Being a snack “vending machine” definitely made long trips more tolerable. And back in the day an Ipod definitely made traveling with the kiddos much easier.

  2. Jacqui @FlightsFancyMom says

    This is a great list. However, I will admit, when I saw you start with “Get the masking tape…” I finished with “and tape their mouths shut…” Yes, I’m that horrible mom! LOL! The tip on planning for the worst? Good one! I went the wrong way home one time in a road trip. Stopped at a rest stop to use restroom before turning around and heading back. Got a Gatorade for my daughter and I. Told her not to drink so quickly. We were on the NY Thruway. There are stops every 30 – 35 miles. I had to pull over on the side of the road and let her pop a squat. She drank 90% of the bottle. OMG.

  3. Jeanette says

    I love your checklist! The best thing on that list that I need to do and I haven’t yet is get the wiggles out before we go on a long trip. Last year we flew internationally and by the third hour he was wiggling. Next time we are going to do this obstacle course I love it.

  4. Alli Smith says

    I was just getting ready to flee for warmer weather when that winter storm hit SC last week. I just can’t take the cold. Today it’s back up to 78º so I’m safe. 🙂
    I remember playing I-Spy on road trips when the kids were little. These days, when my daughter and her family travel by plane, she has activities galore. I’ll be sure and show her this post in case you she missed some activities. You’ve got a great list.

    • Amanda says

      78 degrees sounds amazing…and thanks for the sweet compliments. We use this list while taking road trips, too!

  5. Pam says

    Great tips for anyone planning on embarking on a family trip! I definitely relaxed my screen time rules for my kids when we traveled.

  6. Annemarie LeBlanc says

    My kids are all grown up and I would say I have survived traveling with them when they were little. You do have a great list, practically covered everything! I am sharing your post with my daughter. This would be a good resource for her when they do take their kids on a vacation.

  7. Jeanine says

    I would love to family travel. Our family is so big though it would get really expensive and often I think it wouldn’t be worth it. Maybe at some point…. This is really great though, just in case!

  8. Rebecca Swenor says

    This is a great things for a family travel checklist. It is so important to be prepared and in control. The idea of letting the kids watch the shows on the tablet is a great idea while traveling along with making stops frequently to stretch your legs. It is hard for anyone to just sit in one spot for to long while riding in a vehicle. Thanks for sharing the checklist.

  9. Mimi Green says

    Great tips, I believe in snacks when we travel, go to movies, or have to sit for long periods of time. I also purchase a new toy sometimes, it gives the kids something new to be excited over.

  10. Eloise says

    OMG! I’m constantly feeling like a vending machine whether traveling or not, HA! thanks for these tips, I’ll be sure to use them during the summer when we go on vacation : )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.