The days you’ve spent dreaming of taking a family vacation are here—and the time to do it is now. While you may have put off a getaway with your entire clan, there’s no better moment than the present to enjoy one-on-one time with those who matter most.
Traveling with children of any age can be challenging, but there are tricks to get the job done and keep everyone happy throughout the journey. To help rid yourself of worry and lessen the number of hiccups along the way, we’ve compiled Marriott Bonvoy’s go-to tricks that’ll help moms and dads go on any trip with ease.
1. Find a destination that will keep the entire family happy
What constitutes a vacation means something different for everyone. Some prefer to sit back and relax on the beach, while others thrive off outdoorsy adventures that challenge them. Once you add children to the mix, these preferences change even more.
To help you decide which destination is right for your family, ask yourself what your goal is on this getaway. Are you looking to wind down? South Florida may be calling your name. Do you want to explore historical monuments and cultural experiences with your kiddos? A trip to Washington D.C. may be on your horizon. Perhaps you’re looking to tackle a new activity, like hiking in a state park, where Minneapolis may be the name of your game.
2. Don’t wait until the last minute to book your trip
Once you’ve made up your mind of where your family will be vacationing, it’s time to start coordinating your flight, especially if you plan to travel out of the state and want to avoid a road trip at all costs. Travel booking app Hopper recommends booking domestic flights one two months in advance and to avoid waiting until three to four weeks before your departure, as airfares typically spike by then. For holiday travel, a good rule of thumb is to snag your seat three to four months out.
As for lodging, most hotels, such as Marriott Bonvoy, allow almost a years’ worth of lead time to reserve a room. Fortunately, you don’t need that much time, at least according to Hopper. The sweet spot for guaranteeing your space is three to four months ahead of your trip.
3. Redeem your hotel points for awesome perks
We have good news. If you’re a member of the free Marriott Bonvoy program and have traveled since signing up, you’ve already racked up points. The best part is, you can turn your accrual into paradise—a.k.a. get a free night at any one of Marriott’s nationwide properties, including Chicago, Myrtle Beach, Los Angeles, Atlanta, or Charlotte, to name a few.
Depending on which tier you’ve reached, you can receive even more benefits, from mobile check-ins, late checkouts and free breakfasts to extra rewards points, enhanced free Wi-Fi, and guaranteed room types. Did we mention that your current vacation counts toward future travel plans, earning you points as well?
4. Pack items that’ll keep kids entertained
Whether you’re taking a two-hour flight or have a five-hour road trip mapped out, always have toys, interactive books or a tablet on hand. It’ll keep your children in good spirits and hopefully cut down on the number of times they’ll ask, “Are we there yet?”
To not disturb your peace (and those around you), bring kid-friendly headphones so you can limit the number of times you hear Baby Shark in one sitting.
5. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks
A hangry kiddo is a kiddo to not handle lightly, as they’ll change the tune of your getaway within seconds. Pack a travel bag that’s loaded with low-sugar snacks to keep your little ones’ hunger at bay. We’re talking cheese crackers, granola bars, trail mix, hard pretzel bites, animal crackers, dry cereal, popcorn, fruits, you name it.
Not only are these treats easy to open and (sort of, almost) mess-free, but they’re also convenient when anyone in your group is in need of a pick-me-up.
6. Surprise your little ones with a special gift
For children, nothing beats surprises they can unwrap. Buy them an inexpensive goodie that will keep their attention for hours at hand and keep the feel-good emotions going.
Our favorite travel companion that’s certain to wow your kiddos is an LCD writing tablet. Imaginative minds can sketch as many drawings as they’d like, then once they’re ready to create a new masterpiece, they can erase it and start fresh. Thanks to the tablet’s attached stylus, you can also avoid the need for crayons that’ll end up dropped or lost in no time.
7. Remember to pack light but keep essentials on hand
We know it’s easier said than done, but packing what’s absolutely needed will make for less stress in the end. Also, over-packed suitcases are heavy and inconvenient to lug around, along with your children. Just think about the last time you took a trip and how much of the clothes and shoes you packed you actually used.
Since accidents are almost inevitable with little ones, like spilled juice and a scratched knee, have a list of essentials with you at all times. We advise keeping some items handy, such as a first aid kit, disinfectant wipes, a plastic bag for trash, reusable water bottle, pull-ups and basic, over-the-counter medication for motion sickness, headaches and upset stomachs.
8. Plan travel and events around naps
If you have infants or toddlers, you know all too well the importance of nap time. When traveling, think of it as your secret weapon for a smooth and seamless commute. With an afternoon flight, it’s likely your tots will have started to wind down from all the excitement and are going to want to get some shut-eye.
On the other hand with a road trip, leaving very early in the morning or late at night can help keep them resting peacefully since you’re sticking to their typical, at-home sleep schedule. Similarly, with any activities and events, make sure you book them before or after their nap, so they remain in a good mood and are ready to take on the next adventure.
9. Carve out extra travel time for the unpredictable
Sometimes life just happens and you can’t predict when a random rush hour will hit or when there are flight delays. It’s best to leave yourself wiggle room no matter if you’re commuting on land or in the air.
Allow ample time to get through the airport security, which can feel chaotic with kids in tow, might we add. If you’re bringing breast milk or baby food for the trip, keep in mind that security will stop to test them before you can make your way to your flight gate. On the flip side, map out rest stops along the way when driving long distances. It’s important to give everyone time for restroom breaks and to stretch out their legs.
10. Always create a plan B for your itinerary
While it would be wonderful if we could control Mother Nature every now and then, it’s a possibility that the weather can damper your plans. Have a backup list of indoor activities for rainy days, so you can keep the day moving without any hiccups.
Look to museums, adventure parks, amusement centers and arcades that the whole family will enjoy. Don’t skip over themed restaurants that are kid-friendly and feature fun characters or options that offer both a dinner and a show.
With over 7,000 hotels worldwide, Marriott Bonvoy offers a variety of options to meet your family’s needs. Once you reserve your stay, you can focus on the most important part of your getaway: making memories your children will take with them for years to come.