Traveling with little ones this summer? From choosing the right hotel to practicing the security line ahead of time, we've got some great tips from Travel Channel host and new mom, Samantha Brown, to help make things easier.
BEFORE YOU GO
Keep a pen and paper handy. It's the little things you don't normally think about that tend to make the biggest difference while traveling. Samantha recommends jotting down all the things you'll need for your next trip a week before you leave, as they come to mind, and turning the list into your main packing checklist.
Plan ahead. Traveling by air? Taking the first flight out—when the airport is nice and empty—can make all the difference in the world, even if you do have to get up a little earlier than usual. Another perk: the earlier the flight is, the more likely it is to leave on time. Samantha also recommends doing an at-home practice-run of the airport security line with the kids. Use a salad bowl as a bin for your keys, the kitchen table as the security belt, and your doorway as the metal detector with one of you acting as the TSA agent. By making it more of a family adventure, the real thing will be less scary and things will move along more smoothly the day of your trip.
Let the kids help plan your trip. Deciding on a budget is always a good idea, especially for souvenirs, activities, and other things like presents for the folks back home. Try to teach your children the value of the dollar by letting them know how much they'll be allowed to spend on treats before you go, and encourage them to decide how to spend the allotted amount. Let the kids get in on the planning action, too—ask each person in the family to pick an activity or a place to go during the trip to ensure a little fun for everyone and make your vacation more memorable.
DURING THE TRIP
Take a break on the road. If you're embarking on a family road trip, remember to stop for breaks every couple of hours. This way, you're not stuck doing all the driving in one shot, and the kids will have a change to unleash some of that pent-up energy from being in the car all day. Bring a frisbee or ball along for the ride and let everyone take a break and play catch while you stretch your legs.
Be kind to your feet. Chances are you're going to be walking around theme parks or touring museums with hard floors for hours on end. Samantha recommends packing a pair of flip flops and some baby powder for a little mid-day refreshment.
Don't forget about naps! Make time for some quiet time throughout the trip—if your children are past the point of naptime, break out the coloring books, or let them read, write in their journals, or draw pictures quietly while everyone else takes a well-deserved break.
OTHER ADVICE FOR FAMILY TRAVEL THIS SUMMER
Choose your hotel wisely. Samantha recommends Embassy Suites, an affordable hotel brand that is dedicated to making vacations easier and and more fun for families. Start the day off right with a full (and free) made-to-order breakfast, and enjoy free snacks and drinks at the hotel's complimentary evening reception at night. The best part: every room at an Embassy Suites property is a two-room suite, giving your family a chance to spread out with two separate sleeping areas and a large table for the kids to use when they want to draw and color.
Explore the city together. Let one of your children become the head navigator, give them a map, and work together to figure out the best ways to get around your new city. Make bus and subway transfers part of the adventure. Get an inside look at a different culture by exploring neighborhoods like Little Italy and Chinatown, and treat yourselves to new foods, snacks, and cultural experiences. Head to the tallest building in town, or second tallest if the lines are too long, to appreciate your new destination from a different point of view.
Visit a children's museum. Local children's museums are usually close to the center of town, affordable, and are a great place for kids to learn new things in a safe, fun environment. Embassy Suites is partnering with the Association of Children's Museums this summer, allowing guests who stay at their hotels in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Miami, New Orleans, Newark (DE), Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa, and Washington D.C. on the hotel's 300% More Days (June 21st, July 8th, and August 1st) to have access to the VIP entry line, special discounts at the museum gift shop, or in some cases, complimentary tickets to the museum itself.