5 Family Travel Tips


kids and mom leaning out car windows. family travel. des moines momOur family loves to travel, and we have some unusual tips to share! Whether it’s for a family reunion, a fishing weekend at a vacation rental in Northern Iowa, or visiting the beaches in Southern California for a long week away, we know planning ahead can make a big impact! Here are some things we’ve learned the hard way.

Family Travel Tips

Plan Your Sleep

Sleep is so important for growing kids–and tired adults! Plan ahead for where each person is going to sleep. Do you have snoring adults? Do you have littles that will crawl into bed with you? Make sure your space allows for each person to get decent safe, sleep. Some things we’ve tried are:

  • Rent a home/condo with beds and bedrooms. We find we’re able to save a little money and spread out a bit with a vacation rental. We typically use VRBO or AirBNB
  • Look for deals on a suite-style hotel room with a fold-out couch.
  • Bring an air mattress or pack n play. 
  • Pack everything your kids might need to feel comfortable to sleep. (Favorite pajamas, blankets, pillows, stuffed animal, noise machine, etc.) 
  • Schedule afternoon naps if your kids are nappers. Can they nap during a hike? In the stroller? Driving between destinations? 
  • Stick to their bedtime! This was key for our family. If our kids got too tired, they would get cranky the next day(s) and add extra stress.

    Unusual Travel Tips for Family Getaway Vacations Des Moines Moms
    Naptime during a hike.

Don’t Change Your Routine Too Much

  • As much as possible, try to keep your daily routine somewhat similar. We found when we tried to cram too much into a day, crankiness from all family members was at an all-time high. 
  • Consider bringing breakfast with you. Do your kids like oatmeal and bananas for breakfast? Bring that along! Morning routines are usually easy to stick to during travels. 
Unusual Travel Tips for Family Getaway Vacations Des Moines Moms
Getting ready for bed in the tent.

Stick to Familiar Foods

  • Bring a cooler from home and groceries. We like to have familiar snacks and breakfasts in the car and in diaper bags/backpacks to help counter any crankiness.
  • Now that Target and other grocery stores have order-ahead services, I do a Target (or similar) order at the destination location for curbside pickup. When we are a few hours out from our arrival, I place an order for groceries and snacks. 
  • Of course, part of traveling is trying new places and restaurants too! We try to do a mix of fun local restaurants and family favorites too. Trip Advisor is a great resource! 

Include Something for Everyone

This is something that I’ve learned the hard way. When our kids were little, we planned every minute of the vacation around them and the activities they would enjoy. We would come home feeling like we had a great trip but felt like we missed a few things too.

We still plan our vacations around kids however we now make sure the adults get to do something for themselves too. My husband loves really good coffee so we’ll try to find a few local coffee shops in the morning so he can try new places. He also loves to sit in nature and sip that coffee so I either entertain the kids while he’s away, or we’ll join him and play a game at an outdoor table. In return, he knows I love window shopping and strolling through touristy shops. He keeps the kids occupied while I do some shopping for a few hours one afternoon. 

Pro Tip: Check out the City Mom Collective for the city you’re visiting to see what other moms and families love in their towns! 

Have Realistic Expectations

No one is going to be 100% happy throughout the entire trip. You will want nice pictures of your family but one kid will want his armpit in every picture (see photo below).  Everyone will have a meltdown at some point.

Unusual Travel Tips for Family Getaway Vacations Des Moines Moms
He demanded his arm pit be in every photo.

I personally tend to get really excited for all of the “tourist” possibilities of a family vacation but often find that my fondest memories are breakfasts in a cabin or sitting outside with hot chocolate at night. My expectations have changed over the years and that has made a big shift in our travels! Hopefully you found some of our unusual tips helpful for your next family adventure! 

What are your best family travel tips? 


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