Hot Tips

10 Family Travel Taboos You Should Break

Because some rules are practically made to be broken

Mistakes. Mishaps. Fails.

These Uh-Oh moments are not always a bad thing, if you learn from them that is. Happily, family travel provides plenty of opportunity for learning experiences. I have been traveling with my babies since they popped out of me and believe me, we have had our share of challenges, but I always make note of what didn’t work as to not make the same mistakes again.

Like they say, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Do you have to learn from your own mistakes? No. Why not learn from mine and save yourself the headache. I’m sharing with you 10 Family Travel Taboos You Should Break. You’re welcome.

1. Last Minute Planning:

DO NOT. I repeat. DO NOT plan your family travel last minute. This is probably the biggest way to flush money down the toilet. Planning ahead WILL save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. If you want to find the best deals on flights and hotel rooms, you need to start tracking prices months in advance. Read my Money Saving Tips For The Traveler, HERE, and my post on Life Style Body about saving on flights,  HERE for more information.

Keeping kids entertained during flights

2. Using Your Airfare Miles on Rental Car:

Normally, this is a good way to save money, but if you are traveling with a large family this can present a major issue.
Why? Well, when you use your miles for rental car, you may not get to choose the type of car you rent. If you are traveling with a large group, you NEED to choose your size vehicle. This happened to us and we were presented with a tiny family car while with a group of 6 plus luggage. No Bueno.

Then they were going to charge us a RIDICULOUS upgrade fee for larger car. I went from HOT MAMA to HOT HEADED real quick. Luckily, Hertz heard me my panic and came to our rescue and rented us a van for less than the original rental price. PHEW. Thanks Hertz!

3. Waiting Until Kids Are Older:

I hear this all the time, “We’re going to wait until so-in-so gets older to travel.” My question is, “why?”

Yes, small kids are work. You need to travel with more gear, they require non-stop attention. Etc. Etc. But guess what? Older kids are work too. It doesn’t get easier, the challenges just change forms. In fact, there are actually a ton of advantages to traveling with kids under 3. For one, they are free almost everywhere. They are free in amusement parks, on trains, at attractions, and on planes under 2.

Plus they are actually much easier to manage than older kids. Babies usually just eat then sleep, they are easily entertained by a funny face or squeaky toy, and they are usually confined to highchairs, strollers or baby bjorns. See our guide on travel systems to make traveling with babies even easier, HERE. They get older and they are all over the place, they have opinions, and it becomes harder to entertain them. So take your baby and get out there while it is easy!

Don't wait for kids to be older to travel

4. Thinking Small:

I know that family travel can seem overwhelming, but don’t get trapped into thinking small. You and your family can handle more than you think. So many stick to local, short distance or short duration trips, because they think that they can’t afford grand adventures or the kids can’t handle that big or long of trip.

Don’t be afraid. GO BIG. If you plan ahead you (Tip 1) you can save a tremendous amount of money on flights, making far-distance travel extremely possible for large families on a budget. I do it all the time and I’m not far off from being piss-poor haha. I kid you not; I have spent more money on a local weekend trips than I have on far-distance vacations. It all depends on the deals I find and how well I’ve planned our trip. Another option for big affordable adventures are cruises. Cruises are an easy way to see a bunch of places very inexpensively and conveniently. Cruising is great for large families. Check out our post on cruising the Disney Fantasy, HERE

Some don’t think their kids will appreciate it, so why travel far. Well, let me tell you, they will appreciate it. Don’t underestimate your kids or what they absorb. Mine are very young and it is amazing what they remember and hold dear. In fact, they remember things I have forgotten and they were toddlers! For more tips on preparing for international travel, see our post HERE.

Don't be afraid to travel far and wide with your kids

5. Never taking your kids to restaurants:

Parents, I know kids are hard, but please don’t keep them from restaurants. Many parents don’t take their kids out to eat, because they are afraid of the child’s behavior or they don’t want to waste money on a meal they didn’t enjoy. But, I’m telling you it is so important to expose your kids to restaurants early if you want smooth travels. You have to teach them how to behave in restaurants if you ever want to have an enjoyable dining experience with them. This may take many tries before you see improvement, but eventually they will get there. Practicing at home by having them learn to sit at the table politely is an easy method too. The point is, when you are traveling you will want to enjoy dining-out and experiencing local cuisine without worrying how your kids will behave.

Take you kids to restaurants often, even fancy ones

6. Over-Planning:

I know it is exciting to visit a new destination and it is easy to get caught up in planning a bunch of activities, but slow down. Kids are not predictable, their moods change fast, they get hungry, they get tired and they can get crazy. To avoid constant meltdowns and unpleasant sightseeing, only plan a couple activities a day and leave plenty of space for flexibility.

Don't try to plan to much in a day while traveling with small kids

7. All About The Kids:

It is family travel, not kids travel. Not everything has to be about making the kids happy. Mama, Daddy and Grandparents have to be happy too, otherwise the trip will suck. Happy Hours are not an afterthought, they an integral part of the travel itinerary. I’m serious; most the time activities planned are just to kill time until my next cocktail break. I always do something fun with the kids in exchange for good behavior at the pub. It is so important not to forget your needs during family travel. Beer breaks, fun restaurants, and happy hours are like refuels for the adults in the group. Don’t skip them! Cheers.

Make time for adult fun during family travel

8. Drinking Too Much:

Okay, yes making time for some drinks is essential to enjoying family travel, but don’t get crazy. I have made this mistake many times! Hangovers and kids…is not fun! Don’t take advantage of complimentary drinks on international flights and become too sloshed to take care of your kids on the plane. I’ve never had this happen, but I have mixed exhaustion and wine leaving me with low-patience for the constant demands of my kids during a long flight. Wait until they fall asleep or have Daddy sit by them. Haha.

Don't overdo the drinks while traveling with kids

9. Traveling TOO Light:

Normally, traveling light is a good idea, but not for the family traveler. The family traveler needs to be prepared for anything and means bringing EVERYTHING. Bring plenty of snacks, a variety (not necessarily a lot) of toys and activities, strollers, blankets, and change of clothes. You need to have your artillery stocked before setting out on a family trip. It seems like a lot, but it is worth the excess baggage to avoid meltdowns.

10. Leaving Grandma & Grandpa Behind:

Bringing the grandparents might seem like more work, but they come in handy. While you and your spouse are busy handling the children, grandparents great for carrying blankets and extra bags. For instance, on our last trip I had my mom loaded down with stuff, but I don’t travel light. So, don’t forget your pack mule. Papa is great for holding tables and entertaining the kids. It also helps to have more adults to kids ratio. Plus, they can be a lot of fun and add value to your travel experience.

Bring Grandma and Grandpa along on family travels

If your grandma is fun lady, makes for a great drinking buddy too! I tag-a-long on HotDaddy’s business trips all the time and while he is off working, I have my buddy with me to keep my company. She also makes for a trustworthy babysitter, if for sneaking in a night out with your love.

That’s A Wrap!

With every trip I learn something new, but I’m glad I can share my tips with you! The 10 Family Travel Taboos You Should Break will hopefully make you laugh and give you the confidence to travel big with your family. So grab your kids, grab grandma, grab all their stuff and get out town, hit the bars and travel slowly. The biggest taboo in family travel is not booking that trip!

What are some Family Travel Taboos you’ve made?

What other taboos do you think family travelers should break?

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Family Travel Taboos You Should Break - HotMamaTravel: Don't make family travel harder than it has to be. Check out these common travel mistakes and how to fix them fast.


I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".


  1. So true about the dinning out. When we travelled to Singapore with then Mr 3 he was a nightmare in the restaurants – I spent more time out the front of the restaurant with him doing time out than sitting and eating, I quickly realised the benefit to becoming one of those mums who does coffee with her kids at the shopping mall. My son very quickly learnt how to behave when out for a meal.

    • Haha. We’ve all been there! Luckily, those dining experiences spent outside with a screaming kid have dwindled. However, my 3 year old did try to pull some stuff while in Scotland and I had to take him outside. Ugh. Thankfully, it only happened once that trip.

  2. Some good points. I started travelling with my son quite early as a single dad. He was 3 when we took a 12 hour bus ride from Montreal down to Hampton Beach. He was great and never complained. Another thing that worked for me was never to treat him like a baby…the more you treat them like a baby the more they act like a baby. Or maybe I was just lucky to have a good kid. But he was always happy and never complained (until he got to be a teenager that is). And what you say about taking them to restaurants is in the same vein – teach them to eat out. I just always made sure to bring crayons and paper 🙂 And thinking small – you’re right, I’ve had super expensive vacations staying in Canada and having more stressful vacations. I’ve also taken him to all-inclusives in Cuba and the Dominican Republic that ended up costing less and were lots more fun. Especially off season.
    My son’s 22 now and does his own travelling. But some good memories from his childhood.
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Right, I think being clear with your expectations (even with toddlers) goes along away. Glad to hear you & your son have to many travel memories!

  3. Pingback: 6 Powerful things I learned driving cross country with my kids and parents - HotMamaTravel

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