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Traveling with children varies from family to family. Many families start traveling in their child’s first year. Some parents wait until their child is older. Traveling with children can be challenging and exhausting, but there are lots of things you can do to help simplify the experience. Below we share our top tips on how to travel with children. This will help you to enjoy your family vacation. Here we will provide an overview to help you decide the best age to travel with kids.
The more planning that you do the easier it will be to make your trip both fun and safe while you travel with kids. Each child’s age group has its own unique characteristics and travel requirements. Therefore, it’s worth doing some research before you travel with your family.
In this post, we will cover when is a good age to start traveling with kids and whether traveling with children is difficult. We will provide tips for family travel with children and discuss the best and worst ages to travel with kids. This will include how and when to travel with a baby, toddler, children, and teens. Overall, we will help you to decide what is the best age to travel with kids.
What is a Good Age to Start Traveling with Kids?
It’s a good idea to start traveling with children early in life. But there is no fixed age for traveling with kids. In fact, your child’s age isn’t really important when you are traveling. Trying to decide the best age to travel with kids is more about the maturity level of your children and how they deal with change.
It’s never too early or too late to travel as a family. Traveling long-distance can be tiring and stressful for parents, but particularly those with babies and preschoolers. However, if you’re willing to put in the effort, then there really isn’t an age limit.
A good age to travel with children depends on the individual parent and what type of trip you are planning. Keep in mind that the fast-paced trips you took before having children are likely not appropriate. You should have different expectations now that you have little ones. Traveling with children needs to be at a slower pace, and with a lot more patience.
Is traveling with children difficult?
As long as you are willing to plan for the trip (see also, ‘How to Plan a Camping Trip‘) and keep your children’s needs in mind, it will be easy to travel with kids. Adjust your expectations and prepare to have a more relaxed vacation. To travel with kids you must be very patient and calm as it can be challenging.
The more you plan for your trip, and the better prepared you are, the easier it will be. For example, pack a diaper bag full of things your baby will need in case of an emergency or lost luggage.
Tips for Family Travel with Children
Traveling with children doesn’t have to be hard or exhausting. Plan ahead and use our helpful travel checklists so you know what to take. We have printable family travel packing lists that can help make your trip easier! If you are traveling long-distance, make sure to check out our Simplifying a Road Trip with Kids article.
Traveling with kids can be an amazing experience that teaches your children about the world and gives your family the chance to bond. It just takes a little bit of planning and patience, but it’s totally worth it.
Here are our top tips on how to travel with children
Explain the Trip
The more you can explain your plans ahead of time, the fewer surprises there will be. Let your kids know what to expect and where you’ll be going. It’s also a good idea to talk about topics that might come up on the trip – like staying in a hotel with family or trying different types of food.
Take it Slow and Leave Plenty of Time
Pace your trip based on the children’s needs, not your own. It is all about keeping kids comfortable and happy. If you are traveling with an infant or a toddler, remember that they can’t go as long without sleep or restroom stops as older children can – so you’ll need to budget in some more rest breaks and limit the times you try new restaurants.
You don’t need to bring along everything you own, especially when it comes to toys and clothes for toddlers and younger children. Bring a selection of age-appropriate travel activities for kids to entertain them on a road trip or flight. And use our Printable Family Travel Packing Lists to help you know exactly what you need to take on a vacation with kids.
Pre-Book Everything You Can
With young kids, most of your activities will be planned in advance. So make sure you have booked your kids’ activities and attractions in advance, including any restaurant reservations.
Pack Plenty of Snacks
You’ll want to pack a lot of snacks for kids, especially when you’re traveling with young children. Around-the-clock snacking can sustain small children on the road, so don’t forget to toss in plenty of (non-messy) snacks for the flight. Check out our article about the Best Road Trip Snacks For Kids.
Know how to Use your Travel Gear
Kids’ gear should be designed to travel, and it’s also helpful if you can learn how to use your gear ahead of time. For example, reading the instructions for your child’s car seat will teach you how to install it and make it comfortable for your child to use in a rental car.
The Best Age to Travel with Kids
The best age to start traveling with a child is when the child is able to walk long distances without tiring easily, eat whatever food is available, has developed good sleeping habits, can be trusted not to wander away, and has enough discipline not to pick up and put in its mouth everything it sees!
The Best and Worst Ages to Travel with Children
Here are a breakdown of the best and worst ages to travel with a baby, toddlers, kids, and teens. It’s important to keep in mind that children of the same age can have different needs from each other due to their personalities, attention spans, and biology. So ultimately, the best age to travel with kids or a baby is when you and your family feel comfortable and ready to take on the adventure.
When trying to decide on the worst or best age to travel with kids, let’s begin with discussing what it’s like to start traveling with a baby at various stages during the first year.
Travel with a Baby
Age 0-3 months
Babies require lots of stuff, and packing will be a bit more involved. They won’t remember your trip or the sights you see. New parents are often overwhelmed and sleep-deprived from having a new baby and trying to establish a routine, especially first-time parents.
Newborns are more prone to germs and are generally more at risk of getting sick when traveling. This is a time in your life that you will be extra cautious when it comes to your baby’s well-being, and this caution could affect how much fun you have on the trip. It is generally advised to wait until the baby is at least 3-months-old before taking any long trips and to always talk to your doctor first when considering traveling with a baby this young. Especially if you are taking an international trip with a baby.
Age 3-6 months
Babies over 3 months have built up a stronger immune system, so it’s safer to travel with a baby now they are older. They are more aware of their surroundings and able to hold their heads up. They can now sit with assistance, making it easier for parents who want to use baby carriers or slings. At this age, babies will enjoy looking at new surroundings from their strollers or front carriers. You can do plenty of sightseeing, but the pace will be slower.
Babies this age are still young enough that they won’t remember the trip, but just like older babies, they will get tired quickly if you’re doing any long walks or touring. It is much easier to travel with a little one who can’t crawl or walk yet. They still require lots of stuff and take a long time to pack (and unpack) because they need diapers, wipes, clothes, food, toys, etc.
Ages 6-9 months
At this age, babies are more mobile and can explore their surroundings more by crawling and cruising. This is a perfect age to travel with children because they will enjoy looking at new surroundings. You’ll have an easier time traveling and sightseeing while keeping your little one entertained. They can sit on their own, so a baby carrier or front pack is no longer necessary. But I did find carrying my baby in the Ergo Baby Carrier was a GREAT way for her to take a nap when on the go. Or we would bring our Britax B-Lively Lightweight Stroller which was helpful for carrying the diaper bag and baby accessories. We also had the Britax Stroller Organizer with insulated cup holders which were awesome for carrying a coffee cup and water bottle 😉
Babies over 6 months have started eating some solid foods, so feeding your baby during travel will be much easier. Snacks will help keep them occupied during flights and long trips in the car. It’s also very helpful to have a baby that can stand on his or her own at this age. It will be much easier for you when changing diapers and dressing your baby. They can also hold a bottle, and you won’t need as many bottles while traveling.
Keep in mind that infants sailing on a cruise ship must be between at least 6 months old as of the first day of the cruise. And 12 months for transatlantic and transpacific voyages.
Ages 9-12 months
Babies approaching their first birthdays are able to walk without assistance. They can also speak a few words and wave bye-bye. This is a great age to travel with children because they will enjoy exploring their surroundings and seeing new things, and interacting with the people they meet. They cannot walk for long periods of time, so it’s easier for parents to bring a stroller along when sightseeing.
At each age listed above, these are generalizations and there is a lot of variation among children. It’s very common for babies and toddlers to get cranky when traveling because they’re either too hot, too cold, too cramped, or hungry. There are bound to be some meltdowns when traveling with a baby at this age. But they will generally last for a short time and then it’s over. Babies also have more patience to look at their surroundings than toddlers who get bored much quicker. This could affect how long you can stay in one place.
To learn more about stress-free travel with a baby read this post.
Traveling with a Toddler
Age 12-18 months
Toddlers at this age are walking and running! They’ll enjoy exploring their surroundings and seeing new things. You will have an easier time traveling with them because they don’t require a lot of stuff. However, their mobility could make it harder to keep up with their curiosity.
For toddlers, traveling can be tough because they can’t communicate well and have shorter attention spans. They don’t know how to walk up and down stairs or over curbs, so it’s better for them to have a stroller. Traveling with toddlers is also difficult because they get bored easily and want to do whatever their older siblings are doing. You’ll also have more anxiety about your toddler wandering too far away from you.
Although toddlers are still young enough to be carried in a front pack or held as you walk through airports, It’s much easier to fly with a child who can sit by him/herself and walk around the airport. To learn more read this post with helpful tips for flying with a toddler. If you plan on going on long walks when sightseeing, bring along a stroller because toddlers tire easily from walking.
Be extra careful and watch out for sharp objects that toddlers can reach (ex. broken glass, rocks, dirt). Also, note that they’re much harder to keep entertained because they get bored very easily. They no longer need bottles while traveling, but it is helpful to carry a sippy cup with water.
Ages 18-24 months
There are two schools of thought about taking toddlers on vacation. Namely: ‘Don’t do it’ and ‘Do it‘. The truth is somewhere between the two. Your decision should be based on more than your toddler’s ability to nap in public or their toilet training status. We have a helpful article about how to travel with a potty training toddler.
Children at this age are talking more and love to explore their surroundings more than ever! This is a great age to travel with children because they are able to stand on their own, and are walking without stumbling.
One thing you’ll notice is that toddlers this age tend to like things more “their way”. This means they might have a tantrum over something simple. This may include the color of their outfit, what they eat for snack time or what activity they will or won’t do. Children who are able to walk on their own at this age will be antsy to go where “they” want.
2 years old
The Terrible Twos. A child at this age is not likely to enjoy waiting in lines and sitting still in a confined space for extended periods of time. This can be a very challenging stage, so it might not be the best age to travel with kids for you! But if you can keep your child entertained, and they are able to understand a few simple requests that would make traveling easier for everyone: “Please stay close to me,” “Could you please hold my hand”, or simply “thank you.” Then it might be possible to still enjoy yourself.
Traveling with children this age is much more complicated, but not impossible. Two-year-olds are walking pretty well. But it’s harder for them to get occupied with things they can do themselves (like coloring, etc.). They also tend to sleep less than babies and be dependent on their parents for a longer time than younger children.
This is the perfect age to let your child carry around his or her own backpack with a few toys or snacks. Let your child pack his suitcase with some of his favorite things to help him feel a part of the process and more excited about the trip.
Traveling with Small Children
3-5 years old
Not too young and not too old. This is the ideal age for traveling because kids of this age can play with other children easily or entertain themselves with toys and activities while also being able to understand instructions from adults. I would definitely consider age 3-5 years as the best age to travel with kids.
This is the prime age to take your children on their first plane trip. They will be able to easily sit through a flight, do activities and coloring books on their own as well as behave themselves with other passengers.
At this age, kids are always excited to see new things. Some are even old enough now to begin understanding the meaning of culture shock. That’s right, introducing children to new environments and ideas can be a lot of fun at this age! Most children age 3-5 years can handle being in a new place if there is plenty to do and explore, so it’s a good age for traveling.
You’ll want to make sure your kid has his/her own backpack with some activities inside such as crayons, paper, coloring books, small toys, or games that will keep them occupied without having to ask for your help every five minutes.
Best Age To Travel with Kids
6-9 years old
Kids this age love to see new things just as much as their younger counterparts, but they’re also more interested in staying active while touring a destination. Whether it’s walking around the city streets, going on boat tours of the waterways, or playing games on a rainy day; elementary-age kids always have plenty of things to do.
Traveling with children over age 6 years will provide plenty of time to form memories from their trips. These family vacation memories will form strong family bonds that last a lifetime.
It’s really important that you try to make children feel involved in as many decisions as possible. Ask them what they would like to do and consider their requests before making your final decisions. Trips this age are much more enjoyable if you take the time to let kids explore on their own a bit, but still, keep an eye on them at all times.
At this age, kids are old enough to understand how planes and other forms of transportation work, but oftentimes they don’t fully grasp the concept of time so sitting through a long flight can be difficult. Use our Printable Travel Games For Kids to help entertain your children on long journeys such as a family road trip or flight. These travel games are ideal for children age 3 years plus.
10-12 years old
For the most part, children at this age can understand and remember all of the instructions you give them; so it’s best to make sure they know their schedule before leaving home. They will be more likely to have fun on vacation if they know what’s going on and when to expect certain events or activities.
These are the years when kids can truly start to appreciate the significance of travel, but they also have their own opinions on what they would like to see and do from one day to the next. Tell them about the destination, what they will see, and where you are going before you leave so they have an idea of what to expect.
It’s also important for parents to remember that while children at this age can understand more complex concepts, they’re still very much kids! They need time and space alone if needed, but don’t be afraid to give them a little extra attention or buy them small souvenirs from your travels.
Travel with Teens
13-18 years old
There is no doubt that teenagers have their own minds and therein lies the challenge of traveling with kids this age. Everyone will be in for an entirely new learning experience when vacationing with teens because they have higher expectations than younger children. At this age, teens are old enough to see the world around them and understand how it works.
This is also the age when you are likely to hear, “I’m bored,” quite a bit so it’s important for parents to provide teens with a few options when it comes to activities. Whether it’s going for a walk, visiting a museum, or trying out some outdoor sports; staying busy on their own can be an important part of the travel experience and will keep them occupied if they have too much time to think about going home.
Teens might enjoy the trip more if they can make their own plans sometimes too. So, consider letting them go out with friends or exploring on their own every once in a while, as long as you’re visiting a safe destination. This will help create some memories and teach teens how to have more fun when traveling with family.
That is what makes traveling with teenagers rewarding; getting a chance to see the world and spend some time together as a family. Your children might be growing up quickly, but still, make sure to take time to jump in every once in a while and help them enjoy their childhood memories with adventures that’ll be remembered forever.
Deciding the Best Age to Travel with Kids
Traveling with children spans a wide range of ages and abilities. For the best experience, it is important to keep in mind that at any age, you should be prepared for possible challenges. As long as parents are aware of these potential difficulties, they can plan ahead accordingly and make adjustments when needed. It’s also helpful to remember that different stages require different approaches – from toddlers all the way through teens.
The most rewarding part of traveling with children is when they get to experience new things and learn. It’s also a time for families to spend more quality time together, so stay positive and have fun! So, is it possible to decide when is the best age to travel with kids? Ultimately, the most important thing for parents to remember is that no matter what stage their children are in, travel is an investment in memories for years to come.
And remember, let’s BE Family so you can enjoy the journey.
Until next time,
For more about family travel, check out these posts:
Simplify a Road Trip with Kids
Travel with a Baby Stress-Free this Holiday
How to Pack for a Winter Road Trip with Kids?
Road Trip With A Baby: Tips To Help Parents Survive
Best Road Trip Snacks for Kids