Little Pocket Tips
Secrets to Travelling with Kids: 17 Essential and Comprehensive Tips
This site contains affiliate links for products and services we recommend. Read my disclaimer for more information. If you make a purchase through these links, at no extra cost to you, I will earn a small commission (for which I am very grateful).
I have kids, so travelling will have to wait.
Kids don’t have to be a hand break to your ideal getaway or trip, although we do understand that as an initial thought, it’s more about how to travel with kids than the dreaded never.
We’ve gathered 17 essential and comprehensive tips for travelling with kids in New Zealand that will make the whole experience a lot more manageable. From how to plan your journey, to what equipment you’ll need – we have it all covered. So let’s get started!
Kids change things
Packing for, and planning trip with kids is an experience, you might say! Whether they’re young and you’re needing to take a travel cot, buggy, highchair and a thousand changes of clothes, or they’re a bit older and need ALL of sports equipment or a tonne of bags; family travel can have its cringeworthy sides! But, kids can also make your trip unexpectedly fun, as you do things you might not have otherwise, and look at experiences, places and even the people you meet, in a new perspective! Travel is a great educational moment everyone, and also the perfect moment for quality time and making quality memories.
Okay, I’m convinced! How do I do travelling with kids?
All families are different but we know there a few consistent things about all kids (especially young ones) and family travel. Our family travel tips won’t tell you to bring entertainment, keep their drink bottle and snack handy or pack a stroller; here are some genuinely helpful tips to make your trip memorable (the good kind) for everyone.
Start with –
1. Getting them involved in planning the trip
Let kids choose a few activities (or plan the whole day)(if they’re old enough) From about age 3, present options they can choose from – something they might like to do while on tour. This will build self esteem and give them a sense of control over their time away too. This can help with them building their sense of identity, figuring out the things they like and encourage them to be thinking for themselves.
Planning tips – What do kids need when traveling?
Sign your kids up for frequent flyer programs
Many airlines offer special plans for kids, offering them rewards and other incentives to fly with you. In Aotearoa we have one primary airline called Air New Zealand, and another called Jetstar which flies to some regions, but not all.
With Air New Zealand, you can sign all members of the family up to the frequent flyers program (even if you don’t fly often) and earn air points linked to one account, each time you fly. So when you book another flight, you’ll have some extra dollars for free to add to your fare fee.
Air New Zealand also allows 2 child-related items to be included as part of their normal baggage allowance for free. These are a travel stroller, buggy, travel cot, carseat or bassinet.
Check out international and domestic flights for your trip here.
Create and pack a family travel journal
Create and pack a journal for the family to draw pictures, write stories or poems about the places you visit together. This will be a fantastic way to remember your time and preserve the precious ages of your children. This is a great way to connect with each other, discuss and reflect your day and can be pretty cute to look back on when it comes to younger kids in a few years time!
Have your kids pack their own bags or day backpacks
This will get them excited and allow them to take responsibility for their own belongings, while teaching them valuable organisational skills. Letting them pick from some options if they’re young and fill it up with the items they need for the trip. This can be a lot of fun and give them a sense of autonomy!
Teach kids about budgeting money on the trip
This is a great way to get school aged children interested in money management and budgeting. When you are out and about on the trip, discuss with them which treats or souvenirs they can purchase for an agreed upon amount of money. Talking to them about what they should look for when considering if something is worth buying or not will teach them about making wise financial decisions.
Build an activity bag
Bringing along their favourite –
pop it toy
colouring pens – HOT TIP: you can get mess free colouring pens with special paper, which allow kids to colour without being able to draw on anything else
busy book or sensory board
These can give them something quiet to do (without you stressing about mess and noise!) when you are waiting in lines, cafes or if you come across any delays on your journey. These activities can help keep them occupied and help make the journey more enjoyable for everyone!
Create a map
This is a great idea for younger kids. Create a basic map together which has the entire trip and what they can look forward too in each place. They are able tick off each destination and itinerary item for themselves. This can give them a sense of security or predictability and control, especially for an anxious child, without them wondering, what will happen next?
Understand the local public transport
Understanding the local transportation system can make a big difference when travelling with kids. Check out a google map and figure out before hand how to get around some of our larger cities. New Zealand doesn’t have any tubes or underground trains, so things will be by bus mostly, if not a private taxi or uber.
2. Packing tips – what to pack when traveling as a family in New Zealand
Create a packing checklist, so you can make sure you’ve got everything for the whole family and check out our New Zealand day trip packing guide for adults. Here are some more packing tips for family travel!
Prepare snacks that are healthy and easy to carry to keep everyone feeling good
Pack ‘meals’ that you don’t have to cook, just incase you get caught out i.e canned chicken or tuna, veggies to can have raw i.e carrots, celery and spinach, salad bits. Get a small chilly bin, cooler or esky to take with you from any of the hardware stores – highly recommend this for longer journeys + young kids.
Bring earth-friendly disposable wipes, tissues and antibacterial hand gel – this is a great idea for long haul flights, too.
Don’t forget the first aid kit – pack essential items in case of minor injuries
Pack a day bag for each day with food, water, extra outfits and their activity bag.
Organising little activities – give your kids something to look forward to during the journey (especially for longer car rides) like knowing about simple but fun car games for the whole family i.e, I spy, car cricket or make a road trip bingo! This can make a fun family trip!
HOT TIP: Use packing cubes for the family (they’re like drawers for your suitcase) – each cube has one item or one group of items (just like drawers). For example – 1 cube will have underwear, another will have jerseys, and another will have pants and shorts. These keep everything tidy and easy to find! Such a win when you’re not only keeping track of your own stuff.
Keep the honorary family member handy – Their favorite stuffed animal! And bring a few extras, to make sure if one gets lost, it’s not a full blown disaster.By following these tips you can ensure that your family trip is a success! Enjoy your journey!
3. Keep a routine
Yes, you will be exploring and doing new things each day but keeping a routine of their personal needs will help them to remain feeling regulated. Meal and snack times, quiet or chill time, their sleep schedule times and sleep routine like at home – i.e bath/shower, book, songs, sleep. They’ll know what to expect, even when everything around them is changing constantly. Keeping their personal needs consistent will keep them comfortable and feeling safe, even in a new environment every night.
If you are on a long flights for your family vacation and are changing time zones, there will obviously be a bit of an adjustment period! At the start of the family vacation, book at comfortable hotel room to house you nicely, and allow everyone to get through the jet lag. Once the jet lag is over, continue their routine like at home.
4. Pick the best time of day for activities
Picking a time when everyone can get the most out of that days main adventure will make for a better time overall for everyone. Most often, this is first-thing in the morning as everyone is rested, fed and ready to go. If doing your main activity early in the day isn’t going to work, try having a short break and regroup right before you do; even a half-hour rest after travelling (or whichever it is you need to do first!) to sit back, relax and get some water and a snack, can make all the difference for making sure everyone is ready to have fun and be present with the experiences.
5. Listen to everyone and consider the ages of your kids
Getting out and exploring with your family should be a fun bonding experience for all involved. It’s important to listen to everyone when planning the day, so that all family members have a say in what goes on and feel that their opinion is valued. By doing so, any compromises required can be made with the whole family in mind, instead of just one or two peoples wishes dominating the plans. When everyone has had their say, and this is planned for, everyones (including small children) experience of family travel will be positive!
6. Talk to them about everything!
No matter what age they are 2 or 17 – strike up conversations with them! Meet them where they are at, and make sure they’re completely involved in the travel experience too.
If they’re young school kids – answer their million questions, as much as possible, and fill up their little brain with the ability to be open-minded, curious and love learning. (Haha, yes we know it can be tough!)
Take the educational opportunities to discuss various topics – seek out their opinions, view points, understanding and natural interests. This kind of moment is where you can really start to get to know your child and they will lap up the attention and special time spent (even if your teenager try’s to hide it!)
7. Find one-on-one time with each kid
One kid, one parent. What a magic moment to pour time and love into your child’s heart, mind and soul. Kids are so impressionable and what they want most in life, is your undivided attention. Both younger children and older kids will enjoy this option. You could surprise them with it one day or schedule a few hours with each child into your itinerary. You will make lifelong memories.
They may need a few more than normal, travelling is fun but also can be tiring, even for adults. Kids have so much going on in their brains and growing body’s – learning, growing and making sense of everything, excitement, disappointment….. etc! Travelling is likely to increase their need for a little break.
9. Keep it simple
Avoid frustration and disappointment by lowering your expectations for what you’ll get done in a day. Let go of rigid plans, allow yourself to flow with the day and not force activities.
Creating memories is what it’s all about. So make sure to have some time where everyone can just relax and enjoy each other’s company. Play a game, watch a movie (if possible – maybe even go to a theatre!) or take that spontaneous drive in a new area. Embrace the moment.
A few extra cuddles, never hurt either. After all, if travelling with your precious kids isn’t about connection, growing and learning together, then what is?
10. Free or cheap walking tours, or self-guided tours
Free walking tours are a great way to get familiar with the cities you visit. It can be a fun family activity and it will help you decide which attractions you want to explore during your stay. Most cities offer these types of tours, so make sure to check them out! Some places have specific walking tours, such as art or the ‘old town’.
Do one in the morning of the first day, that your in the vacation destination, this will give you a tour to orientate you to the city, get a history of the place your visiting and some more interesting points plus give you an opportunity to ask questions and get some great recommendations!
11. Preschedule car or shuttle service from the airport
This is a great resource to help you get from the airport to your accomodation. Most airports in New Zealand have a shuttle service you can look up, to get you where you need to be, if you don’t have a car to pick up. HOT TIP: When booking, make sure the company is aware you have children if they require carseats as this can then be taken into account on their behalf for timing and cost.
You can also look into pre-scheduling a car service from the airport with your car rental company or if you’re not getting a rental car you can book a private car or taxi, so you don’t have to worry about transportation to your accomodation when you arrive. By doing this, you’ll be able to jump in the car and head off, no messing about! And lets be honest, the kids will love you for this!
12. Hire equipment
When flying to your destination of choice, having a lot of bulky baby gear can make things tricky! We recommend hiring the items when you get here! Car and booster seats can be hired from your car rental company, otherwise everything can be hired together from baby stores such as Baby on the Move.
Chilly bin or esky or cooler or cool box! Depending on where you’re from!! (to take food with you on the road) These are available at any hardware store (which are everywhere due to our love of DIY) the main ones are Bunnings Warehouse and Mitre10 MEGA.
13. Bring a boppy or feeding pillow if you’re holding an infant on the plane
A boppy or feeding pillow is one of those pillows that wrap around an adult snuggly, to save your arms from doing all the holding and lifting – infants can be heavy after the 3rd hour of delicious snuggles! And, sometimes babies like to be put down and not held for a bit. This can be a great way to get them to fall asleep and give you your arms back for a short while!
14. Consider an inflatable booster seat
If you’re considering your options with what to take, what not and how to manage it all, consider an inflatable booster seat. These are genius. They take up almost no room, no weight and can be easily transferred from car, to coach to taxi.
15. Get a travel tracker that doubles as a memento
Go into the app store of your phone – android or apple and type in ‘travel tracker’.
There are heaps out there and they plot on a map where you have been, you can add photos to the destinations, journal about your days fun; and some of them will make you a keep-sake photo book at the end of it all too! Very cute, very convenient.
16. Encourage kids to take pictures of places and things
Kids love taking pictures, so why not encourage them to document their trips? Taking pictures of the places they visit and the things they do throughout the day will help create lasting memories, both visually and through writing stories or journaling. They will be able to share these memories with family members who may have stayed home, as well as remember all the amazing experiences they shared together.
17. Role model self care behaviours, and routines while tripping
Role modelling healthy self love and self care will be noticed and mimicked. The old, ” Do as I say, not as I do”, trick isn’t the best advice unfortunately! Here’s a few ideas: (psst, they’ll make you feel good too, its not all about the kids!)
Early to bed
Keep up good practices like pilates, running, journalling and reading
Making healthy food choices, not just constant indulging because you’re away
Taking care of your parental relationship, have time for yourselves if/where possible, make each other laugh and be present.
Kids don’t have to be a hand break to your ideal getaway or trip, and now you have some seriously good tools in your belt to make your hard-earned holiday or vacation one where everyone is valued, seen and ready for and amazing family trip.
Well done parents and guardians! Have fun, and enjoy those kids.
Ka Kite Ano! (I’ll see you again in Te Reo Maori/the Maori language)
Grab yourself a FREE and comprehensive travel planner!
We have put together a comprehensive, easy-on-the-eye and free, travel planner with over 50 pages of helpful planning sheets and handy hints for you to have everything sorted!
Flight and Accomodation Informaion
How to get the Most out of your Getaway
Things to Experience
Simply add your details in the boxes below to download the PDF
The document can be easily customised to suit your travel plans in the free version of Canva, and can be downloaded as a PDF again for your phone, tablet or computer – or it can be printed.