7 Family Travel Hacks From Industry Insiders

Take a tip from the pros with family-travel advice from the field.

Apr 27, 2020

DUNCAN FORGAN

Travel writer; one son
Fly smart.

Not all airlines are created equal when it comes to cute—occasionally psychotic— miniature people. I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum: one nightmare long haul involved a tiny screen with the dimensions of an Apple Watch and a stewardess traumatized by the sight of child puke. Forget about nabbing a cheap deal—your priority as a parent should be on choosing an airline known to be liberal with its free crayons.

CINDY SIRINYA BISHOP

Actress, model, host, women’s rights activist; two kids
Seek balance.

Traveling with kids is always an adventure. You want to make sure everything is planned well ahead so as to avoid any unpleasant surprises, but at the same time, leave room for spontaneity and exploration. Since we usually create travel vlogs for our YouTube channel (Cindy Sirinya Bishop), we always make sure there is a good mix of fun and interesting activities for the whole family. And we always bring our favorite board game to unwind together at the end of a long day.

GRACE MA

Travel writer; two kids
Empower the kids.

I have older children and I like to give them responsibilities, such as looking up transport options, entrance fees and interesting neighborhoods. Designate a day or two of doing what they like, even if it means a whole afternoon of jostling with crowds in Akihabara’s anime stores, which was what we did on a recent holiday with our 13- and 15-year-olds. Our wallets were (nearly) empty, but hearts were full (hubby and I also got addicted to the claw machines, but don’t tell the kids). It made compliance to rules like no-devices-unless-we- allow-it less of a battle, too.

KATRINA HOLDEN

Travel editor; three kids
Make mini-shutterbugs, and take foreign language 101.

I like to arm my kids with something so they can capture their own photos— either an old camera or old iPhone, without Internet access. It brings out their creative streak, helps them stay interested and teaches them to take responsibility for the item while on holiday. I’m always amazed at the images they capture and it’s so interesting to see a journey through their own lens, so to speak. I also encourage them to learn a couple of basic expressions such as hello and thank you in the local language.

CHRIS SCHALKX

Travel writer and photographer; one son
Work the system.

Toddler tantrums can be a parent’s worst nightmare, especially when locked up in a metal tube flying 10,000 meters in the air. If you have young children, use the fast-track lanes at immigration and priority boarding onto the plane. Travel while they’re under two, as flight tickets are practically free, and while this technically only counts for kids sitting on an adult’s lap, parents can ask to be booked on a window and aisle seat; often the middle seat will remain empty, leaving you with a full row to yourselves and enough space to lay the little one to rest… for free.

BEK VAN VLIET OWEN

T+L features editor; one daughter
Always have a go-bag.

My nearly four-year-old is the type of child that acts like sitting still is a form of torture, which infuses long car trips and flights with high-level mom anxiety. To keep her busy, I put together an arsenal of toys, songs and snacks that are new or rare: a handheld personal fan, funny cat videos, a miniature torch, books that play music and, on the snack front, homemade popcorn. I also, after an unfortunate incident with air turbulence, always keep chewable kids’ motion-sickness meds at hand, plus a stash of old plastic shopping bags, just in case. For long-haul flights, an inflatable footrest (an off-brand 1st-Class Kid Travel Pillow) lets her stretch her legs.

PIP HARRY

Author and ANZA magazine editor; one daughter
Get some space.

When we’re traveling as a family, we generally look for self-catering apartments or villas, as getting an extra room for my 10-year-old daughter means my husband and I don’t have to sit in the dark on our phones after she falls asleep at 8 p.m.! On the first day we’ll pick up milk, cereal and some local fruits for breakfast, saving us a fortune on hotel breakfast buffets. When we do choose to stay in a hotel for the pool and facilities, we look for a room with a balcony, or a suite with a separate bedroom that can be shut off from the main living area. Kids’ clubs are a must on resort holidays—that way we can have some downtime while she plays with her new instant friends. Win-win!

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