It’s almost summertime and a lot of families are getting ready for their annual vacation.
We’ve gotten a chance to go away for the last few summers. With four kids, that is no small feat.
Along the way, I’ve picked up a few traveling tips for summer travel with kids that I thought I’d share with you today!
Bear in mind – these are just based on our personal experiences.
But I have a hunch that most of these will apply to all parents, even if your family is smaller or larger than ours.
Keep reading to see the full list of family travel tips. Plus, grab a free printable travel bucket list for easy vacation planning with the kids!
Want some awesome summer activities to try with the family? Don’t miss my list of 50 summer crafts for kids to make!
10 Helpful Tips for Summer Travel with Kids
I didn’t grow up in a large family. It was just four of us and my brother and I are ten years apart.
So I didn’t know any tips for summer travel with kids when I started having children of my own.
I hope these can help some of you avoid the less than pleasant early travel experiences we had to deal with – since I had no idea what I was doing.
1. Bring more of everything than you think you need.
You will run out of something halfway through the trip and I promise it will be the thing you thought you’d need the least of.
We pack twice the amount of kids’ clothes we think they’ll use. They always end up needing it all somehow.
2. Add an extra half hour of travel time for every two hours you spend on the road.
Remember when you and your spouse could get to your destination with just one or two stops along the way?
Those days are long gone.
Whenever Google Maps tells us we can get to our destination in six hours, we add at least an hour and a half to that for stops.
3. Keep plastic shopping bags and wet wipes in your vehicle.
Someone (or more than one someone) will spill something in the back of the vehicle.
Someone will also have an “accident” and will need to change clothes at some point.
The shopping bags and wet wipes will come in handy more often than you think.
4. Tell the hotel staff if you have more than two kids.
One of the problems you run into when you have a large family is that most hotels only allow you to have two kids in the room.
I know some families just book the room anyway and double up the kids in the bed, but I’ve found it best to just tell the staff that we have four children.
They’ve often given us discounts on suites or larger rooms that had more space and better facilities.
5. Pack jackets for the kids, even when it’s blazingly hot outside.
This is one of those tips for summer travel I wish I had known earlier.
Always, always, always have your children bring their jackets with them on a trip.
They’ll end up feeling cold somewhere – in a store, in the car, in a movie theater, or a restaurant.
And you won’t have to run to the store to pick up a blanket.
6. Choose a hotel room with a full kitchen.
On a couple of family trips, we found that eating out ends up costing more than the hotel room, especially if we’re gone for an entire week.
We wised up a few years ago and started booking rooms that have full kitchens and refrigerators. The money we save on eating out more than covers the cost of the larger hotel room.
7. Make a grocery store run as soon as you get into town.
Since you’ve chosen a hotel room with a full kitchen, you’ll have room to store actual groceries.
We stick with simple, low-cost meals like spaghetti, salads, cereal and milk, tuna sandwiches, and snacks.
They’re affordable. I know the kids will eat them. And they don’t take much time to prepare.
At least once during the trip, we go out to eat at a nice restaurant. But most days, we just have what the kids would normally eat at home.
Bonus: They can make most of these meals themselves.
8. Choose a hotel that has on-site attractions.
If you go to a family-friendly destination (think: Orlando, Myrtle Beach, Pigeon Forge), you may think you have to add tickets to a popular attraction like Disney, Dollywood, or Ripley’s Aquarium.
And those are fine.
But if you’re on a budget and your kids are fairly young, you can get a lot out of the on-site attractions at the local resorts.
We usually choose one that has a splash pad and a water park. Then the kids can just walk down to the park and we can hang out by the pool. Win.
9. No matter how fun the trip is, expect the children to complain at least once per day.
This is one of those tips for summer travel with kids that I didn’t pick up on until our second family vacation.
On that trip, we had taken the time to put together an itinerary that we were sure the kids would love. We even booked a room that had a themed kids’ suite with bunkbeds.
They still found a reason to be unhappy with it. (I think it was that the room wasn’t big enough to play in or something.)
But that’s just kids being kids. If you can weather their initial complaints, you’ll probably end up having a great time. We did.
10. Center the trip on a kid-friendly attraction.
And, to round out our list of tips for summer travel with kids, try to visit at least one kid-friendly spot while you’re away.
There are a ton of low-cost and even free places to visit in the United States that are definitely worth a visit and may even be on your way.
Need some ideas for kid-friendly attractions to visit in the U.S.? Pick up our free U.S. Landmarks and Attractions travel bucket list!
This printable is packed with 250 different sights to see in the United States (five for each state).
Choose a couple in the state you plan to visit and let the kids check them off as you tour them all.
You may even come up with some new vacation ideas along the way!
To get this printable family travel bucket list, click the image or the link below to have it sent directly to your inbox!
You’ll also get our weekly newsletter – coming to your inbox this weekend!
Do you have any tips for summer travel with kids? Feel free to share them in the comments!
And if you need some learning activities to keep your kids happy on the road, check out some of these printables for kids!