Travel Savvy Tips for Families

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Travel Savvy Tips for Families
by:  Rachel Harris,

Summer travel season is here and because I have a daughter traveling 2,000 miles with her show choir and then our own family vacation several weeks later, I have been busy coordinating travel plans.  I am reminded of several very helpful travel tips that I have picked up through the years when it comes to traveling with a family.  So read this before you pack and take off because there may be a few tips here that will prove very helpful to your family on your journey.

Before You Board

*My best tried and true packing tip that never fails is to dry clean the nice items that you plan to pack in your suitcase and hope will arrive free of wrinkles.  Then keep the clothing on the dry cleaner hanger and in the dry cleaning bag it came home in.  Keeping the clothing covered in the dry cleaner clear wrap, loosely roll and pack.  I have no idea why, but my clothes are always wrinkle-free when I pack it this way.  I plan to pack my daughter's show choir dress like this so she can pack it and then have it performance ready upon arrival.

*Determine what entertainment the airline offers before departure day, especially if you have children.  For example a lot of Southwest Airlines flights offer gate to gate free TV on your phone or tablet through DISH Network.  Do know that the movies aren't free and you will have to pay for Wi-Fi if you want it, but a nice selection of television stations are complimentary and you can start watching as soon as you board with the new FAA regulations.  On our way home from Virginia last month, I watched 60 Minutes and then the Country Music Awards and the five hour flight flew by (no pun intended).

However, don't assume because your flight is long that the airline provides in-flight entertainment.  For example even though a Phoenix to Hawaii flight is nonstop and takes over 5 hours to  get there, US Air doesn't have individual entertainment screens in coach and the systems are shared on overhead televisions in first class.  Plus a Wi-Fi all day pass will set you back close to $18 a person and there are no charging ports in coach, with only a few in first class.  So do your homework and call the airline in advance to find out exactly what they offer for food (and it usually is for purchase only) and entertainment before you find yourself stuck on a 7 hour flight with children who have no entertainment and very little food.

*Know the carry-on rules because if you don't you may delay yourself and other passengers in line.  The most recent guidelines are copied here from the TSA website,
When possible, do not pack oversized electronics (laptops, full-size video game consoles, DVD players and video cameras that use cassettes) in checked baggage. However, be advised that these items must be removed from carry-on bags and submitted separately for X-ray screening.  Small electronics, such as smart phones, tablets and certain other mobile/portable electronic devices, can remain in carry-on baggage.

*Get little kids ready for the airport by showing them a cute cartoon video that explains the security and check-in process at  Also kids 12 and under can now leave their shoes on through the security check point and that helps the line to move faster.  

Remember the 3-1-1 Rule

When proceeding through security, your carry-on liquid items must follow these guidelines and it is easy to remember if you think of 3-1-1 which means for carry-ons = 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume) stored in a 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag and 1 bag per passenger is allowed and placed in the screening bin.

*Important tip for families with small children -- Declare larger liquids. Medications, baby formula and food and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. Officers may need to open these items to conduct additional screening.

In Flight Fare

Don't expect much in the way of snacks and meals on airlines today, so be sure to pack your family a good snack bag because on most airlines, you will have to pay for food.  Plus the choices are usually not nutritious and not very tasty, either.  My go to snack bag contains water...but don't buy your water bottle until you have proceeded through security because you will have to throw it away since water bottles are banned past the security checkpoint.  There are plenty of shops by the gates with bottled water for sale.  

I like to include a protein bar, which is filling and satisfies that urge to have something crunchy.  Our family's bar of choice is the KIND line because they have a huge selection of flavors that pleases all of our family members and they have ingredients that can be pronounced, which I appreciate as a health conscious mom.  Next I add some sort of easy to pack fruit like a banana or grapes.  I also like to make mini sandwiches with peanut butter and honey.  These sandwiches work well because you don't have to carry an ice pack in the lunch box.  Baby carrot sticks round out the snack bag and provide a veggie and Hershey kisses are easy to pack and satisfy that dessert urge. I avoid giving my kids caffeine and an overload of empty calories with sugary foods.  With the stress of traveling and often times a time change at your destination, you are doing your family a favor if you can keep them fueled and hydrated with healthy foods on the outbound flight to avoid arriving rundown and susceptible to illness from the shared germs that you can't escape on a plane.

And speaking of how traveling makes our bodies rundown, I always carry Boiron Oscillo to strengthen my family's immune system.  It is perfect to tote along because you don’t need water to take it, it’s portable and TSA friendly.  It also won’t make you drowsy, which I like. For motion sickness issues, Boiron also offers single medicine blue tubes called Borax 30C that can treat motion sickness, stomach upset, stress, cramps and more.  It is simple to take up in the air because you simply dissolve several pellets under your tongue as needed.  Both Boiron products are sold at Sprouts Farmers Market locations.

My Favorite Travel Savvy Products

For Little Ones
*Monkey Mat is a portable floor for babies and kids that measures 5 x 5 and is a water repellant, machine washable mat that works for indoor and outdoor use.  This helpful mat can be spread out at the airport for your little one if you find your family stuck on a long layover.  And it fits quickly and nicely back into the small and convenient pouch that it comes with in the package.  This is a  very cool product for families that is sold for $19.99 at or locally at Baby Town located at 3787 S Gilbert Rd. in Gilbert.

For Bigger Kids & Teens

*Anker Mini Charger for easy quick charging when you are in-flight, in a hotel room and other places and you need your child's entertainment device or smart phone to recharge quickly to keep them busy and quiet.  I bought my pretty pink one for only $19.99 at Amazon here.

*This works for bigger kids and for me as well....Mophie Helium rechargeable iPhone case ($99 at Verizon stores) -  When my phone battery dies while traveling, there goes my calendar, my navigation system to get around and of course the phone.  I absolutely love this invention because once my battery starts to go, I simply turn the case on and it instantly recharges my phone.  For those of you going to one of the Disney theme parks, I'm told that for some reason, phone batteries die faster in the parks, which is another reason to have a Mophie rechargeable phone case.  If you are traveling with teens and plan to split up, this case for your teenager is a good idea, too.

For Me

*Hefty Jumbo 2.5 gallon bag is one of my go to travel items.  The reason I like having this giant clear plastic bag is that it holds all of our travel documents and nothing can fall out.  I can also see in the bag to quickly grab what I need in the security line, the rental car line, etc.  And once I am finished using it to store my travel documents, it doubles as a dirty clothes bag, a bag for wet swim suits, a trash bag and even an air sickness bag if needed.  

So those a few of my favorite tried and true travel tips.  What are your best travel ideas when you are traveling with your family?  Tell us in the comments section and be sure to visit my blog at for more travel tips, resort reviews, an Amtrak vacation review and much more.  Happy summer travels to you!