Essential Travel Checklist to Ensure the Best Family Vacation

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Family travel is a huge part of the miles & points world.  Lots of folks get into this hobby because they want to visit family, or they want to vacation with their family.

David, author of Wise Flys, is a family travel expert.  So I asked him to share with you his top tips for traveling with a family each week!

David:   Preparing for a family trip can be stressful, especially if you’re taking children out of their normal routine.  If you’re planning your first family getaway, you might not know what to pack or leave at home.
Family Vacation Checklist
Proper Planning Can Help You Make the Most of Your Family Vacation! My Family Uses a Checklist to Ensure Our Daughter Bella Has Everything She Needs While We’re Away.

I’ve put together a handy travel checklist you can use, so you don’t forget anything important!  Having traveled with my wife and daughter to 10+ countries, I have the checklist down to a science!

Family Travel Checklist

You don’t want to overpack for a family getaway.  Then, you’ll be lugging unnecessary items to and from the airport, which can be a nuisance.  At the same time, it’s important not to forget any important items when you take off on your next adventure!

1.   What to Do Before You Leave for Family Vacation

  • Make copies of important travel documents – Make a copy of your child’s identification cards, so you can carry the copy around and leave the real one somewhere safe in your hotel room or Airbnb.  If your baby doesn’t have a passport, a copy of their birth certificate will do.
  • Alert credit cards and banks of travel – Charges or ATM withdrawals can be declined if the bank doesn’t know you’re traveling.
  • Have travel confirmation numbers handy – This is helpful if you’re traveling internationally and will face a language barrier at check-in.  Having the reservation information printed beforehand or a screenshot on your phone in case of no internet.
  • Parental consent forms for traveling minors – This form is required if a minor is traveling with one parent outside the US.  This is one of the efforts made by international governments to prevent child trafficking.  Rules vary depending on the country.  I recommend checking the US State Department International Travel website for information about requirements for your travel destination.
  • Pack fresh diapers and spare clothes It might seem like a no-brainer, but simple tasks can often be overlooked when getting ready to embark on a family trip.  Before leaving for the airport, make sure your baby’s diaper is clean and your toddler goes potty.  This can save you a lot of headaches if there’s a security line at the airport.
Family Vacation Checklist
Leaving a Passport Behind in a Hotel Room Can Happen! Having a Copy of Your Travel Documents Is a Good Backup Plan

2.   Items to Bring on Your Trip

  • ID (passport, driver’s license, student ID, etc.) – For international travel, you must have a passport for each member of the family.  It’s also important to check your passport expiration date.  Some countries require a certain number of months of validity past your date of travel.  If traveling domestically, have a copy of your baby’s birth certificate to verify their age if they’re flying as a lap child.
  • Tickets – Don’t forget your plane, train, or bus tickets!  Or your entry tickets for any fun events you have planned.
  • Health insurance cards – It’s important to understand what your insurance does and does NOT cover while abroad.  Accidents happen and it’s best to know that each member of the family is covered.
  • Medicines and toiletries – I always recommend carrying important medicines and toiletries in your carry-on in case your checked baggage is delayed or lost.  Along with the usual toiletries, band-aids and extra tissues are important.
  • Plan for accidents to happen – An extra pair of clothes and Ziploc bags will help for accidents when in transit.  The bags will come in handy for for soiled clothes, dirty diapers on the road, and other messes along the way.
  • Comfort item to bring security – Whether a blanky or favorite stuffed doll, any prized possession will help your young one cope with the change of scenery and environment.  Don’t forget the pacifier!
  • Overpack on snacks – We like to bring fresh fruits, like grapes and clementines.  If we’re on a long-haul flight, we pack dried fruit and nuts because they store well.
  • Car seat and stroller – Fortunately, the car seat and stroller can be gate checked and waiting for you when you get off the plane.
  • Entertainment besides electronics – Having coloring books and colored pencils for times when tablets aren’t available.  Buses and trains may not be the best place to carry electronics because kids often drop or leave them behind.
Family Vacation Checklist
Having a Coloring Book Was the Perfect Distraction When Taking a Short Bus Ride From the Gate to the Plane.

If you have teenage children, here are some items you don’t want to forget at home:

  • Technology and entertainment – Double check to make sure your teen brings along their cell phone, laptop, or tablet.  If traveling to another country, be sure they have the right adapter to charge the devices.
  • Homework – This can be the least favorite item for your teens to bring on a trip.  But completing school work during a flight or during down time is a great use of time.
  • Addresses of friends for postcards – A list of friend’s addresses your kids can send postcards to is a great way to share experiences from a fun family trip.
  • Family contact information – Give your kids your contact information and hotel address to keep on them at all times.  In case they wander off, they will have a way to find you.

Bottom Line

You can use my family travel checklist when packing for a trip to ensure you don’t forget any important items!

It’s easy to overpack or forget to bring critical items, even if you’re a veteran traveler.  But planning ahead and following a checklist can save you lots of headaches and allow you to enjoy your vacation!

Did I miss any essential items you have on your travel checklist?  Let me know in the comments!

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