How to travel with kids
The only place to book connecting hotel rooms and suites. Here's how.
Ask any parent about a recent vacation with their kids and they’ll say “What vacation?” Traveling with kids can feel like work—a lot of work—but it’s worth all the whining, fussing, and tantrums to witness the joy on your child’s face as they discover a new place. For a moment, you can almost see the world through their eyes.
After a full day of fun with the kids, it’s important to find time for you and your partner—but sneaking date night into a family vacation doesn’t always go as planned. Luckily, you have options. Using our tips, you’ll be prepared to make the absolute most out of your next family trip.
Do your research
Be sure your destination is kid friendly and age appropriate—that dream backpacking trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon probably won’t be enjoyable if you have a toddler in tow, but Orlando has enough kid-pleasing activities to warrant repeat visits. Once you settle on a destination, you’ll need to plan kid-friendly adventures, where you’re going to stay, and how much downtime you’re going to take so that your vacation is relaxing. Create an experience in which adults can enjoy privacy and adult time while the kids get some space of their own.
Pro tip: Share the loose itinerary with your children, so they know what to expect. Explain how the airport, airplane, and sightseeing tours will work—especially if this is their first trip—and review any expectations about how they should behave.
Find the perfect hotel
A hotel offers a level of comfort and convenience unavailable at a vacation rental, including housekeeping, room service, security, and other amenities just for kids. Look for hotels with children’s pools and water slides, game arcades, and family-friendly activities such as arts and crafts and evening s’mores roasting. Many family hotels have kitchenettes too, a great way to help cut meal costs and keep your kids’ favorite cereals, yogurts, and juices on hand for morning or late-night snacks. Select hotels also feature kids’ clubs and day camps to accommodate parents looking for alone time. But the absolute best way to ensure you and your partner have time together is to book a connecting room.
Connecting hotel rooms are a family vacation game changer. Instead of cramming into one room where lights and TV go off when the kids go to sleep, you can tuck in your babies in one room and continue your night in the next room.
At the Hilton Anaheim, located just 1 mile from Disneyland, the 1 King Bed Studio Suite and 2 Queen Bed rooms connect to give families more than 900 square feet of space and two bathrooms. Also walking distance to Disneyland parks, Peacock Suites’ Two Bedroom Suite has a kitchenette and dining table for four.
A five-minute drive from Universal Studios Hollywood™, The Garland’s Family Suite features a room with bunk beds for the kids, a king-size bed for parents, and a spacious and stylish mid-century modern living room. Walk to Universal Studios Hollywood from the Hilton Los Angeles-Universal City, where the 1 King Bed Directors Suite + 2 Double Beds Executive Level rooms combine for more than 1,200 square feet of space and two-and-a-half bathrooms.
At Universal Orlando, there are fanciful suites designed with kids in mind. xperience the Despicable Me Kids Suite at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando™, which features wall-to-wall Minions for the kids room and a separate plush bedroom for parents. Delight the kids with a room full of dinosaurs in the Jurassic World™ Kids’ Suite at Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando (parents get a dino-free bedroom).
Omni Hotels & Resorts makes kids feel welcome from the moment they check in. Children receive a backpack filled with fun items upon arrival and milk and cookies delivered to their room on the first night. The Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in San Diego offers day and evening childcare at its Kidtopia kids’ club, where they’ll play on small slides and soft climb items and enjoy books, puzzles, games, and a movie lounge. Connect the gorgeous La Costa Suite with the Signature 2 Queens to ensure everyone gets their own bed and sleeps steps from the resort's relaxing pools, which includes waterslides. At the Omni Orlando Resort at Champions Gate in Orlando, the Kids Escape club encourages parents to grab a drink or dinner at one of its two restaurants while the kids play—show your receipt from dinner to receive 50 percent off the first two hours of childcare. Large families will delight in spacious accommodations like the connecting Sunset Lodge Studio Suite with Two Queen Beds and Accessible Sunset Lodge Studio Suite with Two Queen Beds, which combine to sleep 12 in nearly 1,200 square feet of space.
Pro tip: Reservations to kids clubs are required and you should make them soon after you book your hotel.
Keep it walkable
One of the biggest advantages of hotels is their prime locations and you’ll want to incorporate some family walks into your itinerary. Simple outdoor activities can enhance a family vacation—a shuffleboard court, croquet, or badminton can provide fun for adults and kids. Look for hotels near parks, cafes, museums, and bookstores and ask your hotel about bicycles or scooters available to rent. Our agents can help you find hotels near the best tourists attractions with an excellent walking score.
Pro tip: Don’t forget sunscreen, hats, water, and snacks for your outing—you don’t want a sunburn or grumbling stomachs to kill the mood.
Be sure to check the weather forecast and pack accordingly. In addition to optional cold-weather gear, t-shirts, pants, shorts, swimsuits, sun hats, and a nice outfit, and so on, you’ll need to think about special items for yourself for the kids. Pack prescriptions and health insurance information, a first-aid kit, spare eyeglasses, and sunscreen and baseball caps to protect your family from sunburns. Infants require lots of diapers, a changing mat, wipes, diaper cream, a teething ring, bottles, toys, and more—all the stuff you bring on a day trip and then some. Don’t forget their electronics, chargers, and headphones for you and the kids.
Pro tip: If your kids are a little older, give them each a carry-on backpack or rolling bag. Being responsible for their own stuff will not only ease your burden, it’ll also teach them not to overpack!
Don’t fear the flight
Comics love to complain about the bratty kids they encounter on flights, but there are ways to help ensure your flight doesn’t become the subject of an HBO comedy special. Airlines vary on requirements that you have identification for children, so be on the safe side and bring a copy of their birth certificate or a picture ID, especially if your child is under two and flying for free. Take advantage of early boarding, so you can deal with extra carry-on luggage. Keep your kids’ favorite stuffed animal or comfort blanket accessible and bring lots of snacks.
Even if your home is generally electronics-free, now’s the time to let your kids play with your phone, tablet, or any device with games and videos. Be sure to pack comfortable headphones for each child. You should also pack other activities to keep their hands and brains busy, such as coloring books, sticker books, crayons, markers, and playing cards.
Pro tip: Instead of having both adults sit with the kids, book a nearby “sanity seat” so parents can trade off on childcare duties and get a little downtime.
Mix it up
Children, especially teens, are criticized for having short attention spans. But, in fact, they’re most engaged when they are interested in a particular activity. So your child might not share your fascination with the Japanese egret flowers you discovered at the Chicago Botanic Garden, but they might enjoy the facility’s model railroad garden. Or maybe you could split the day between your botanic interests and a trip to the Field Museum to see Sue, the world’s largest, best-preserved, and most complete T. Rex ever discovered. Or visit Chicago’s Millennium Park and take a selfie in front of the Cloud Gate (the huge mirrored sculpture that looks like a giant sideways bean). You get the idea. Our agents can help you find activities that will please parents and kids alike.
Pro tip: Be flexible. Stick to a loose itinerary, but build in extra time to make spontaneous stops as the kids see things they want to explore. Unexpected discoveries are one of the most beautiful parts of traveling and you’ll want your kids to associate family vacations with positive experiences, not a stressful schedule.
Leave time for a time out
Not that kinda time out—let’s hope none of those are required! If your kids are older, they may protest bringing back nap time, but everyone needs time to recharge on a long and active family vacation. Carve out time in your itinerary for a leisurely lunch followed by a couple of hours poolside or a late-morning sleep-in. You’ll find everyone is in a better mood and ready to get back on schedule after some downtime.
Pro tip: Pack eye masks and earplugs so even the fussiest sleepers in your family can doze off with ease.
Don't get hangry!
A hangry kid is a kid who’s not having much fun, so plan your meals. But also carry healthy snacks (it’s all too easy to eat rich, heavy foods while on vacation)—a trail mix loaded with nutritious nuts, seeds, and dried fruit is a good option and it keeps well.
Pro tip: Hydration is important too! Give each kid a reusable water bottle, which allows them to refill at a water station or restroom—plus it’s better for the environment than disposable plastic bottles.
Limit screen time
No one wants to pay thousands of dollars for a family vacation only to watch their child with his or her face glued to a smartphone screen. Explain that devices are allowed while you’re traveling by airplane or car, but they’re not permitted to chat with friends or post to social media while you’re sightseeing. On international trips, all that data use can incur big expenses—make the kids aware of that. Cell phones can also be a good thing when you’re on a trip; it gives adults a way to track kids and allows older teens to wander a bit while staying in touch.
Pro tip: Be a good example to your kids and stay off your personal devices as much as possible. Save your screen time for when you retire to your connecting room after dinner.