Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Family-Friendly Travel Tips

Traveling with children can be enjoyable and fun with these family-friendly travel tips. No matter if you are traveling by plane, train or automobile you can have a pleasant experience if you prepare and plan ahead of time.

Family-Friendly Travel by Plane

Sometimes the best way to prepare for family travel on a plane is by creating expectation. When children are excited about something, they tend to go into it with a better mindset.

Start by finding a map and point out where you will be traveling to. Explain how the plane will get you there much faster than if you were traveling by car.

For children who are old enough to understand, you might even have them take the map on board the plane and as you fly over different states, point that state out on the map. This helps them to see that they are getting closer and closer to their final destination.

Talk to your children about what it is like to fly on a plane. If children have never flown, they won't know what to expect. By discussing this ahead of time they will be more prepared. This includes discussing the size of the plane, how they will be sitting close to others, respecting those around them, the rules about when they are allowed to get up and walk around and other important flying dos and don'ts.

Since waiting is a common problem when flying, prepare two different travel bags for your children. One travel bag can be pulled out when waiting at the airport and another when on-board the plane.

Take advantage of those waiting times to talk with your child. Talk about what you see at the airport, what they think it will be like when they arrive at their destination or anything else that keeps them engaged.

Families often don't have time for lengthy conversations so take advantage of those moments when you are waiting by interacting with one another. This can be a wonderful bonding experience.

Family-Friendly Travel by Train


Traveling by train can be a bit more exciting for children. Unlike plane rides, there is more room and you can get up more often. You are also able to enjoy a fantastic view, which can keep the family entertained for a longer time.

It's a good idea to read up on the history of the towns, cities or states that you will be traveling through as you ride the train. Then, you can share these interesting facts and tidbits with your children. Traveling by train becomes a wonderful and enjoyable educational experience.

As with traveling by plane, you also want to create a travel bag to keep your children entertained should they become bored.

Family-Friendly Travel by Automobile


This is the most popular mode of transportation when families travel. But it is also the mode of transportation where you are in closer quarters, so it takes a little more planning and creativity to make traveling this way family-friendly.

It's a good idea to make sure that the car you are traveling in is suitable for the distance you are going. Traveling for a day in a minivan is easy; beyond a couple of days and you may start cramped. You may need to choose a more comfortable mode of transportation for longer hauls, such as a traveling van or RV.

If that is not possible then be sure to stop at least every 4 to 6 hours. Typically, the younger your children, the more frequently you will need to stop. This may include needing to stop and stay the night at a hotel. Planning your route ahead of time is the first step to family-friendly travel in an automobile.

There is nothing more stressful than trying to drive to your destination in a short amount of time, not allowing for the opportunity to get out and stretch or make a quick stop at a shop or roadside attraction.

Make sure all of your meals do not take place inside of the car. Instead, plan for at least one meal to be outside at a picnic table or in a restaurant. This helps to break things up and gives everyone an escape from being cooped up in the car.

The infamous question, "Are we there yet?" can easily be eliminated if you give your children a map of your route. You can talk about landmarks, interesting names of towns and streets and quiz them. Any experience can become educational with a little creativity.

Of course, there are also lots of fun question-and-answer games that you can play along the way. It's a good idea to come up with a list of questions before you leave for your trip and pull it out when the moment is right.

If eating in the car is a house no-no, this is probably the time to at least temporarily lift that ban. Snacks can keep your children happy. Happy children make traveling by car far more pleasant. It may also help if your child is able to have their favorite pillow or blanket. That is a plus with traveling by car, allowing you the opportunity to take along comfort items.

The great thing about traveling by car is that your children can be entertained with portable DVD players. If you have more than one child, you can eliminate the argument of what they are going to watch by having more than one DVD player.

Of course, you also can't go wrong with packing a suitable travel bag.

Travel Bags for Any Mode of Transportation

Travel bags are ways to keep your children entertained. Some of the things that you might include, depending on your child's age, are:

  • Portable DVD players;
  • Handheld video games;
  • Laptop computers;
  • Reading material (books, magazines, etc.);
  • Small toys;
  • Stickers;
  • Coloring books;
  • Snacks;
  • iPods (cassettes, MP3 players, etc.);
  • Playing cards (or any type of card game); and
  • Small games.

These family-friendly travel tips will make your trip, whether it's by plane, train or automobile, much more enjoyable and help create lasting memories of a wonderful time together.