Splurge on an airline lounge pass
If your trip involves extensive airport time, Travelzoo's senior editor, Gabe Saglie, advises families to consider buying an airline lounge pass. This can cost you $35–$50, says Saglie, but your kids can tag along — and lounges often offer snacks, family-only rooms and TVs.
"This is an especially good investment when you're getting to the airport early or if your flight is delayed for several hours."
Choose a family-friendly hotel
Many hotels include free meals and activities for families.
"Look for hotels offering free breakfast and resorts offering kids-eat-free incentives," says Saglie.
He also suggests booking hotels with plenty of kid-friendly on-site amenities like pools, water slides and kids' clubs.
Let the kids guide
Travel writer Michele Bigley knows all too well the difference between traveling with kids and without. As someone who was used to strapping on a backpack and exploring far-flung corners of the world completely untethered, traveling with small people involved a bit of an adjustment. One way she's managed to plan trips both adults and kids can enjoy is by giving the kids a chance to be the guides. Each day, she lets her kids choose one of the activities. By putting the kids in charge, she had a few experiences she probably never would have had otherwise — including a Japanese baseball game and taking a bento lunch–making class. (Read more about Michele's adventures on her blog, Planet Playground).
When adventuring with kids (especially young ones), it's best to keep the schedule fairly open. Bigley says she tries to plan one main activity each day, leaving much of the day open to serendipity.
"Kids need downtime to process the stimulus, and parents need a break, too," Bigley says. "I am not saying put them in front of a TV for half the day. Instead, I mean that parents should plan the day to flow with a child's particular needs."
She recommends choosing an activity that can be tailored to fit the whole family.
"If you are doing something cultural that bores your kids, find a way to make it interesting for them," she says. "Let them take the pictures or find out the history."
Worst-case scenario: If the kids stay bored no matter what you try, Bigley says to bribe them with something designed purely for them afterwards. We like it.
Eat and sleep well
Hungry, tired kids (or adults) are a recipe for travel disaster. Try to find a hotel with separate sleeping quarters for the kids so they can get to bed at their regular bedtime (without you having to lie awake in the dark for hours, just so you don't wake them up). Fuel up with a good breakfast and pack a backpack with water and snacks to keep everyone's energy up throughout the day.
If booking air travel for the family, check out Routehappy. It's a new flight search site that displays the "Happiness Factors" of available flights (for example, whether or not the flight has Wi-Fi, entertainment, extra legroom, etc.) alongside prices and schedules.
More family travel tips