"I Bought This For $3 And It Occupied My Kid For An Entire Flight": Parents Are Sharing Their Best Tips For Traveling With Young Kids, And Some Are Truly Genius

Traveling with the whole family can sometimes be stressful and overwhelming, but with these smart tips and tricks — collected from BuzzFeed writers, travel experts, and frequent fliers from the BuzzFeed Community and Reddit — it can be way more enjoyable.

1.Pack plenty of transitional clothes for your kids.

A child trying their shoes

Center your packing list around staple pieces of clothing that you can pair together in different ways for your kid — depending on things like the weather, location, activities, etc.

"Avoid overpacking by taking kids' clothes that you can mix and match and can transition from day to night. Children only need 1 or 2 'nice' pieces — like a fun dress or skirt, or a nice pair of shorts or lightweight pants. If you do need to purchase any new clothes, do so two to three weeks before your trip to allow sufficient time for delivery and breaking-in time."

—Serena Minott, mother and author of the travel book The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete

Tara Moore / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

2.Save space when packing by rolling your kid's outfits instead of folding them.

Added bonus: You won't have to worry about picking out outfits for your kid each day.

—Mike Spohr

3.Avoid overplanning your vacation.

"Be realistic about what your kids can do before tired meltdowns kick in. Choose what's best for the whole family and be content with those experiences. Don't forget to factor in some downtime, too!"

—Robyn D., Hilton "Mom Voyage" travel blog contributor

4.Let your kids help plan the trip.

"Nothing kick-starts kids' passion for travel more than when you ask them to contribute. Invite kids to participate in your travel planning, and give them an active role during your travels. You can have them help with the research about the country, teach them a few phrases in the local language, help you navigate the streets, or find out the hours for certain attractions."

Vera H.

5.Create kid-friendly road maps to track your progress.

"When they were younger, I printed a map of the trip, with our route outlined, and marked stars on each of the major stops or major cities, and laminated them. They could follow the GPS and road signs and see how far along we were and check off how far we had come."

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6.Or, if you're flying, ease a kid's worries by letting them keep track of their journey in a junior flyer logbook.

Mike Spohr

7.Research ahead of time to find out if your airline considers diaper bags a carry-on item.

A mom with her diaper bag

"Some airlines specifically state that diaper bags, breast pumps, and milk can all be carried on in addition to your normal carry-on bag and personal item allowance. Knowing ahead of time that you’re allowed to bring all of these items free of charge will help you pack more efficiently."

—Ben Walker, father and FinanceBuzz's travel and credit card expert

Richlegg / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

8.Don't forget to bring a nightlight if your kid is used to one!

—Mike Spohr

9.Book attractions in advance to save money.

A woman booking a reservation on her laptop

"Before buying tickets for an attraction, make sure to check online first for discount codes and specials. You may even save when booking online as opposed to purchasing them at the in-person ticket booth. You could also complete an internet search for discounts or check sites like Groupon and Rakuten."

—Zander Buteux, industry expert at VacationRenter

Morsa Images / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

10.Discuss with your family what activities everyone wants to do before your trip.

A family having fun on a beach

"As a family, we all agree on our 'must-do' items, and we book those first. Then have extra activities we'll agree to tack on if there's money left over toward the end of the trip. By discussing plans in advance, it prevents disappointment and stops anyone from feeling like we missed out on something while traveling."

—Keri Baugh, mother and a professional family travel blogger

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11.Keep your children hydrated in the heat with one simple trick.

A young boy drinking water at the beach

"On super hot days, I add Pedialyte Electrolyte Powder to the kids’ water to give an extra boost to their system."

—Stacey Marmolejo, mother and creator of Florida Beach Break.

Artmarie / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

12.Easily and evenly apply sunscreen on your kids using a makeup brush.

A mom applying sunscreen to her toddler

Jeannette Kaplun, mother and founder of Hispana Global, suggests using a makeup brush to spread SPF evenly on her children because it gets the job done quickly and efficiently if you're vacationing in a hot and sunny climate.

Roger Wright / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

13.Plus, consider stocking up on sun-protective clothing, like long-sleeve rashguards.

"As a very fair-skinned person, I sure wish they had these when I was a kid. If you haven’t seen them, sun-protective clothes actually absorb UV radiation in the fabric."

—Stacey Marmolejo

14.Keep kids with food allergies safe by bringing a travel medical kit — and taking other precautions.

Visit Kids on a Plane to find terrific tips for traveling safely with kids who have food allergies.

—Mike Spohr

15.Carry snacks for hungry kids on the flight.

A mom feeding her baby on an airplane

"Take snacks on the flight and for the first few days of the trip. You can't always find food that kids want to eat at the airport. Plus, with such long lines in many airports, you might not have time to buy a snack once you get through security."

—Suzanne Brown, mom, blogger, and author of The Mompowerment Guide to Work-Life Balance

Images By Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

16.Use flight tracker apps to get the best deals on flights.

Screenshots of flight tracker Apps

"Either check off flexible dates during a search or set a flight tracker such as Google Flights or FlightHopper. Traveling during the week is often less expensive, too."

—Mollie Krengel, mother of three and founder of Wild Bum

Flight Tracker / Via Hopper

17.Pack fun surprises for the plane ride.

A mom and toddler sitting together on an airplane

"Purchase two or three little items you know your child will love that you can pull out on the plane as a distraction. Kids love surprises, and even letting them unwrap the items will buy you some time. Fidgets, easy-peel stickers, or anything related to their favorite characters or animals will help distract and quiet down kids."

—Jenny Meassick, mother and professional travel blogger

"Keep a kid happy on a flight (or long car ride) by giving them a variety of treats in a bead tray. When it's time to land, just put the top back on and pack it away."

—Mike Spohr

Xuanyu Han / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

18.Save money by booking a hotel that isn't located in a highly touristed area.

A hotel room

"Hotels in city centers are pricier and notorious for charging high parking fees, which can add up quickly if you're traveling with a vehicle. Staying a little outside of the city center can save you quite a bit of money. Staying outside of tourist hot spots means you'll usually have a quieter stay. Plus, you can get a better feel for a city by exploring a quieter area you otherwise might not have visited."

—Debbie Fettback, mother and professional family travel blogger

Johannes Kroemer / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

19.Make the most of car or airplane windows.

<div><p>"Bring dry erase markers for drawing on the window!"</p><p>—<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/clairew469e28fce" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:clairew469e28fce" class="link ">clairew469e28fce</a></p><p>"Entertain your kids by letting them play with some dollar-store gel clings on the window. If you're flying and don't have a window seat, they can play with the gel clings on the tray table in front of them."</p><p>—Mike Spohr</p></div><span> Fabrikacr / Getty Images/iStockphoto</span>

"Bring dry erase markers for drawing on the window!"

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"Entertain your kids by letting them play with some dollar-store gel clings on the window. If you're flying and don't have a window seat, they can play with the gel clings on the tray table in front of them."

—Mike Spohr

Fabrikacr / Getty Images/iStockphoto

20.If your destination offers a layaway plan, consider taking it.

A credit card, cellphone, and hotel reservation pass

"Check to see if your destination offers a layaway plan. For example, Walt Disney World Resort allows its guests to set up a payment plan whereby the guest sets the terms so long as the trip is completely paid off 30 days before the departure date. They do not charge interest or a fee for this option. Layaway plans won't really save you money per-se, but they will give you more time to pay off your balance."

—Jaimie Michaels, father and editor at Magic Guides

Travelcouples / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

21.Keep an eye out for hotel discounts.

Plush hotel robes

"Hotel chains such as Hyatt offer a discount for families that book two rooms when one of the rooms is used exclusively by kids. If you have a large family and need more than one room, it’s great to receive a discount rather than pay the full room rates."

—Alex Miller, founder & CEO of Upgraded Points

Heide Benser / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

22.Be strategic about storing snacks for long car rides.

"Use a baby wipe container for each kid with an ice pack in the bottom to store cut fruit and cheese in Ziploc bags that they can easily open. You can also use a plastic pencil case for each kid to store dry snacks in Ziploc bags all within reach."

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23.Use a frisbee as a travel plate.

<div><p>"For food in the car, you can’t beat a frisbee as a plate. Turn it upside down and the curved edges keep things from rolling off. And when you need to get out and stretch your legs, you have a game to play."</p><p>—<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/hollyjeanmorgans" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:hollyjeanmorgans" class="link ">hollyjeanmorgans</a></p></div><span> NBC</span>

"For food in the car, you can’t beat a frisbee as a plate. Turn it upside down and the curved edges keep things from rolling off. And when you need to get out and stretch your legs, you have a game to play."

hollyjeanmorgans

NBC

24.Keep the kids occupied with aluminum foil. Seriously.

"$3 at the dollar store and my kid was occupied from Chicago to Nashville. There was art, sculptures, lots of balls in various sizes, and the cardboard tube was used as a sword, and to point and poke at everything he could."

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25.Wrap up surprise toys and snacks to open periodically.

Tim Cocker / Via youtube.com

"We spent a lot of time driving between SoCal and Idaho when I was a kid and what my mom did was make up a backpack full of goodies for each kid. Half were snacks (a Ziploc of Goldfish, box of animal crackers, etc.) wrapped in foil, and half were small trinkets or toys covered in wrapping paper. Roughly every hour or at predetermined times, such as certain pit stops, we got to pick one thing to open — either a snack or a toy."

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26.You can also write times on sticky notes to add some fun to the journey.

When the clock reaches the time on the sticky note, pull it down and give your kid something fun, like an activity kit, trinket, or piece of gum.

—Mike Spohr

27.Give kids something to look forward to with pit stop purchases.

<div><p>"When we moved from WI to FL last fall, we let our daughter pick something (under $5) at each of our many stops because 22 hours of driving needs way more distraction than just some stickers and candy. She picked up on the extra surprise she was getting and it was great for her to have something to look forward to when we were driving four to five-hour stretches."</p><p>—<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/michellecarpentierp" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:michellecarpentierp" class="link ">michellecarpentierp</a></p></div><span> Images By Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images</span>

"When we moved from WI to FL last fall, we let our daughter pick something (under $5) at each of our many stops because 22 hours of driving needs way more distraction than just some stickers and candy. She picked up on the extra surprise she was getting and it was great for her to have something to look forward to when we were driving four to five-hour stretches."

michellecarpentierp

Images By Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images

28."TRIANGLE CRAYONS! They won’t roll."

—sarahf4a2188ebc
Peterhermesfurian / Getty Images/iStockphoto

29.Layer hotel towels in the crib for a sick kid/baby.

"If your kid is vomiting, put down layers of hotel towels in the crib. Peel up a layer after each episode."

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30.Play a clever game that costs them quarters for misbehaving.

Nickelodeon

"When we went on road trips as kids my mom gave us each a roll of quarters and said anytime we were fussing at each other or were generally rude/annoying we lost a quarter. At the end of the trip we could keep whatever was left. You better believe I sat and read my book the entire way to Florida."

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31.Use bungee cords to hang toys in the car.

"My husband and I have three kids. We drive instead of flying. I take a bungee cord and attach them to the handles in back. That way I can hang toys, or whatever off it. Window clings are fun too. Baking trays are great for magnets and as a great backing for coloring pages."

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32.Make laminated travel bingo cards.

<div><p>"I made road trip bingo cards and laminated them. On the reverse side of the cards they have tic-tac-toe boards. They each get a dry erase marker and they can play together or against each other. The bingo was a great success. Winner gets a prize — choosing the type of restaurant we eat in, a souvenir at a gift shop, or an extra snack."</p><p>—<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/leordorone" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:leordorone" class="link ">leordorone</a></p></div><span> Incomible / Getty Images/iStockphoto</span>

"I made road trip bingo cards and laminated them. On the reverse side of the cards they have tic-tac-toe boards. They each get a dry erase marker and they can play together or against each other. The bingo was a great success. Winner gets a prize — choosing the type of restaurant we eat in, a souvenir at a gift shop, or an extra snack."

leordorone

Incomible / Getty Images/iStockphoto

33.Use your kids' outfits to your advantage.

"Cute hats on the kids, especially if the hats match. Increases the likelihood that staff will soften their hearts and help — even in a busy airport when your flight has been canceled for 'maintenance issues.'"

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34.Send postcards to family as a way to memorialize your trips.

<div><p>"Wherever we go, we buy postcards to send to Grandma. My kids write about what we're doing, and she saves them all in the scrapbooks she's creating for them. It will be fun for them to look back at all the places they've visited — and to see how their handwriting has improved over the years!" </p><p>—Erin Murphy, mother and travel writer for Hilton Mom Voyage</p></div><span> Imgorthand / Getty Images</span>

"Wherever we go, we buy postcards to send to Grandma. My kids write about what we're doing, and she saves them all in the scrapbooks she's creating for them. It will be fun for them to look back at all the places they've visited — and to see how their handwriting has improved over the years!"

—Erin Murphy, mother and travel writer for Hilton Mom Voyage

Imgorthand / Getty Images

35.Pack smarter so you can sail through security.

"In the airport, when you pack a diaper bag, put all the liquid, food, and medications in a plastic bag and pack it at the top. When you go through security all you have to do is pull out the plastic bag for them to check instead of digging around for it. Last time I did this a TSA lady thanked me for making it easy."

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36.Read the fine print so you can potentially take advantage of free family-friendly perks.

A woman reading important papers

"One way to save is to leverage all of the free perks you have access to. If you have an airline or travel rewards card that comes with access to an airport lounge, then you can often check your kids in, too. Sometimes these lounges even come with free food and drinks for them. It’s also worth checking a car seat and a travel crib for free, too. And if you have an airline card, you may be able to check extra suitcases for free as well."

—Kimberly Palmer, mother and NerdWallet's personal finance expert

Peopleimages / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

37.Always pack some resealable zipper storage bags.

"They are light, compact, and easy to store... The freezer-strength press-to-seal ones are the best because they're thicker; just don't go with the slider top kind because they leak. These bags can hold snacks, toys, loose crayons, phones, soiled clothes, and various electronic accessories, and they can catch an unbelievable amount of vomit from an unexpectedly sick child."

—Amy G., mother and travel writer for Hilton Mom Voyage

38."Give your kids a blank journal and a fresh box of colored pencils so they can document your family trip from their very own perspective."

"This keeps kids busy on the road while also making for a wonderful souvenir you'll treasure for years to come. It's also fun to see the vacation highlights from your kid's eyes — you'll be surprised as to what memories they cherish the most!"

Amy Bizzarri

39.Save money by not purchasing a separate plane ticket for children under the age of 2.

A child looking out an airplane window

"Research is key. Most airlines have similar policies when it comes to flying with children under 2 years old: Usually, you can keep them on your lap during the flight. That means you don’t have to worry about paying for a separate seat if you don’t want to."

—Ben Walker

Artmarie / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

40.Make trying new dishes a family affair.

"Trying out local and unfamiliar foods is a big part of the travel experience... Order a local dish for everyone to try since kids are more open to trying it if they see parents or siblings eating and enjoying it. You can also order something familiar but with local twists such as pasta with a local sauce. Compromise by letting kids pick desserts on the menu."

Mary Solio

41.Bring an emergency kit.

"Pack a medical kit. We keep bandages; mini tubes of aloe vera and sunscreen; hand sanitizer; stomach and diarrhea relief; ibuprofen; acetaminophen; motion-sickness remedy; and allergy medicine. I tell the girls I can fix everything except stitches!"

Heather Carnes

42."Arm your kids with a phone, iPad, or old-fashioned point-and-shoot camera and challenge them to an ongoing vacation photo contest."

<div><p>"Announce categories before you go: Coolest Selfie, Most Colorful Sunset, Tastiest Food Picture, Silliest Photo. When you return home, compare pictures and relive your vacation through the eyes of each member of your family!" </p><p>—<a href="https://go.redirectingat.com?id=74679X1524629&sref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.buzzfeed.com%2Ffabianabuontempo%2Ffamily-travel-tips&url=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fobsessedwtravel&xcust=6272020%7CBF-VERIZON&xs=1" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Lisa G." class="link ">Lisa G.</a></p></div><span> Tatiana Buzmakova / Getty Images/iStockphoto</span>

"Announce categories before you go: Coolest Selfie, Most Colorful Sunset, Tastiest Food Picture, Silliest Photo. When you return home, compare pictures and relive your vacation through the eyes of each member of your family!"

Lisa G.

Tatiana Buzmakova / Getty Images/iStockphoto

43.Just...stay at the airport.

<div><p>"If you have a really early-morning flight, do yourself a favor and book a room at an airport hotel...ideally one that is actually connected to the airport terminal. You will be less stressed and better rested for your travels, which is good for the entire family." </p><p>—<a href="https://go.redirectingat.com?id=74679X1524629&sref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.buzzfeed.com%2Ffabianabuontempo%2Ffamily-travel-tips&url=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fspiroamy&xcust=6272020%7CBF-VERIZON&xs=1" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Amy Spiro" class="link ">Amy Spiro</a></p></div><span> Zoran Zeremski / Getty Images/iStockphoto</span>

"If you have a really early-morning flight, do yourself a favor and book a room at an airport hotel...ideally one that is actually connected to the airport terminal. You will be less stressed and better rested for your travels, which is good for the entire family."

Amy Spiro

Zoran Zeremski / Getty Images/iStockphoto

44.Before you leave, research roadside attractions along your journey — then plan to stop at a few.

This will not only break up the monotony of a long drive but also give your kids something fun to look forward to — like seeing California's Cabazon Dinosaurs.

—Mike Spohr

45.Reward the kids by letting them choose the trip music.

FOX

"We get most of the snacks and drinks the day before we leave so stops are just for gas and bathroom breaks. Lots of toys. They also get to pick two songs every 30 minutes of not fighting. Time starts again once the radio goes back to Dad."

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46.Use clothespins to keep your kid's toothbrush from touching dirty counters while on the road.

—Mike Spohr

47.Book a hotel that includes free breakfast in your stay.

A continental breakfast bar at a hotel

"If you are staying at a hotel, try to book one where breakfast is included. You can hit the ground running in the morning when you leave the hotel instead of having to make a first stop for food. It's easier to start with full bellies rather than struggling to find something to eat as soon as you set out for the day. And it saves time."

—Suzanne Brown

Vostok / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

48.Bring a checklist of your kid's prized possessions to check off before you leave the hotel.

This way you won't have to turn around and drive 64 miles back to the hotel because you forgot a stuffed animal in your rush to make checkout.

—Mike Spohr

49.Pack less by ordering and shipping items to your destination.

A woman ordering something on her cellphone

"Use Amazon to deliver kids' essentials — like diapers, snacks, or formula — to your destination ahead of time. It can significantly lighten your travel load. Plus, you won't have to spend time finding a place to buy these items as soon as you land. If you are visiting family, shipping items is easy, but I think even hotels and resorts are more open to this now."

—Finnian McNeff, father who works at Sparkloft Media, a travel-focused social media agency

Fiordaliso / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

50.Keep an eye out for kid-friendly perks wherever you're visiting.

The entrance to Yellowstone National Park

"Complimentary activities that other people plan for you are awesome for keeping kids engaged while traveling. Many have junior ranger programs where you can sign your little ones up for activities that might even let them learn something while they're having fun. They usually provide free souvenir badges that the family can collect and reminisce on."

—Laurel Douglas, mother and a professional travel blogger

Cavan Images / Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

51.DIY a Lego kit that keeps kids entertained with only a handful of bricks.

Find the tutorial — plus 24 free printable activity cards — at Fun at Home With Kids.

—Mike Spohr

52.Compare theme park ticket prices from different vendors.

A roller coaster at a theme park

"Most people will look at the ticket price listed on a theme park's official website and assume that is the only price. But many theme parks have relationships with a few major travel companies that are authorized to sell tickets at a price lower than the official gate price."

—Alisha Molen, mother and owner of Picture the Magic

Imgorthand / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

53.Bring a change of clothes for both your baby and yourself on a flight.

This way if your baby spits up on your shirt you don't have to wear it the rest of the flight.

—Mike Spohr

54.If you can, avoid traveling during peak season.

A family at Disneyland

"Traveling with kids can be expensive, but one way to save is to take advantage of the lower prices that come with traveling during the off-season. The best times are late September, October, early December, and January. These are especially good times to travel to major attractions like Disney World. There will be fewer crowds and better temperatures."

—Zander Buteux, industry expert at VacationRenter

Disneyland Resort via Getty Images

55.DIY a shape sorter to keep your toddler busy on the plane.

These are more portable than normal shape sorters, and can be left behind if you run out of luggage space at the end of your trip. Learn how to make one here.

—Mike Spohr

56.To find the best deals on flights, clear your browser's cookies.

A laptop's keyboard

"Most travel sites track your actions on their site. Therefore, if you visit their site to look at a flight and later come back to book it, you'll often find that prices have gone up. You can avoid this by simply clearing your browsing cookies, or just searching in private or incognito mode."

—Michael Embrich, author of March On: A Veterans Travel Guide

Marko Geber / Getty Images / Via Getty Images

57.Use a pool noodle to separate kids in a hotel bed.

<div><p>"If you have two kids that need to share a bed in a hotel room, buy a pool noodle from the dollar store. You can slip the pool noodle under the sheet to create a barrier. Now both kids will have their own space and won't accidentally kick each other all night!"</p><p>—<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/erinrmar" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:erinrmar" class="link ">erinrmar</a></p></div><span> Kenwiedemann / Getty Images/iStockphoto</span>

"If you have two kids that need to share a bed in a hotel room, buy a pool noodle from the dollar store. You can slip the pool noodle under the sheet to create a barrier. Now both kids will have their own space and won't accidentally kick each other all night!"

erinrmar

Kenwiedemann / Getty Images/iStockphoto

This article contains content written by Ali Velez, Mike Spohr, and Krista Torres. It was compiled by Laura Frustaci.