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Traveling Families: 7 Tips for Traveling with Boys

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Last Updated on June 4, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

My boys sitting on a statue

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Parents of traveling families earn a special merit badge on their parenting sash.  It’s no small feat to travel as an adult and requires lots of planning and patience (not the mention the financial commitment).  Add children into and you’ve got another level of difficulty.  Actually, many levels.  Clothing, equipment, entertainment… it all can be overwhelming with children in tow and trying to fit it all into a traveling package.

Any parent to boys knows that they also present their own challenges.  With three boys ages 4-8 and traveling full-time for the last 1.5 years, we’ve learned a few hacks to make your life easier when traveling with your precious, energetic sons.  Hopefully, these help in your planning and having a wonderful trip!

Energy Output: All parents to boys know how important it is to give boys time to run. Or jump. Or wrestle. Or all three at the same time. Anything, really, to get out some serious energy. This is even more important to remember as traveling families about to get on a plane, train, etc. In fact, this is my goal each and every day: how can I get some energy out of my boys today? This is also true on vacation (sometimes even more so as they are forced to wait, sit still, be patient, etc.), but can be much more challenging to find. Time to get creative!

If it’s a travel day, see if you can squeeze time in before your flight or road trip to make it outside, go to a park or some other activity before you travel.   If not, get creative in the airport itself.  We’ve played many a game on airport moving walkways, empty hallways, even stairwells!  Sometimes I just make my boys run or do stairs.  They may grumble until I make it a competition.  Using a timer and timing them against each other (or against you) always gets them into an activity.  If you are in a car, make sure to stop and let them run when you can.  Going by a beach?  Have swimsuits and towels in a garbage bag and fresh clothes in another bag as backup.  Let them get messy and tired for a while.  I promise it makes for a better day overall for everyone.

traveling family: my boys on the Great Wall of China

2. Use their imagination to your advantage.  If you boys are like mine, they literally live in another world in their minds.  Talking to them is like muting a running TV show and is difficult for them to focus.  If they are getting grumpy or not liking an activity, turn it into a game for them.  When our kids were getting tired on the Great Wall of China, we pretended armies of witches and zombies (our approved targets for violence) were swarming the wall and they boys needed to fight back.  What a turn-around!  A boring adult walk turned into an intense battle and so much fun for my boys.  The same could be done in a museum (find all the color red in this room!  The one with the most gets the first ice cream), waiting in line or a walking tour of a city. This is my biggest life hack for traveling families with boys!

traveling family: boy staring at a hug transformer statue

3. Audiobooks.  I really can’t recommend these enough, especially for road trips.  My boys HATE to drive anywhere until there is an audiobook.  Then they are begging me to get back in the car!  Need some ideas?  Check out my list here.  We are still working our way through this list and loving it.  It’s more difficult if you don’t have a car, but we’ve also listened to our audiobooks (just on mom’s phone) in taxis and trains (if noise is permitted). This will cut down on fighting in the car also: bonus!

traveling family: boys eating food

4. Food.  All boy mamas know (and dads remember) how life revolves around food for many growing boys.  If you boys are getting grumpy, it’s a really good possibility that they are just hungry!  It’s not abnormal or uncommon for kids to be hungry just TWO HOURS after eating, so if you feel like you just finished cleaning and they are already asking for food, you are probably right.  As tiring as this gets, it’s just life with boys.  Packing enough snacks to subsist on is crucial.  We’ve had MANY times when we thought we’d be able to get a meal sometime during a travel day or sightseeing and just can’t find anything or run out of time.  I try to always have some high energy snacks on hand.  My favorites: nuts, cheese, jerky and granola bars.  Also plan for 4-5 meals a day, or at least snacks.  This can get a bit spendy, so we always (even in a hotel) try to have some snacks like peanut butter and bread, cereal and milk, etc.  We also always feed them before walking out the door.

traveling family: a picture of my boys at a train station

5. Book with them in mind.  If booking an Airbnb, ask if their home is good for children or use the “Good for Families” filter.  We’ve booked some places that have NOT been good for young boys and end up paying some pretty steep repair bills after (Portugal being our worst at over 900 Euro!!).  If going to a hotel, see if you can get a kids club, pool, or play area.  Check Google Maps to see where the closest park might be.  An adult-oriented apartment can be OK if there is a park right outside!  You are going to walk sometime NOT sightseeing and these things can make your vacation a lot better overall. Some Airbnbs really go the extra mile to have a few toys on hand, plastic plates, and cups, etc. If yours doesn’t, consider buying some (depending on the length of your vacation).

traveling family: a silly picture of my boys

6. Be patient with pictures.  You are on vacation and will want to document! Set your expectations low. :). Boys don’t want to sit still for pictures and can barely sit still in general, so don’t expect to have amazing family photos on the beach unless you are bribing them or planning ahead somehow.  Otherwise, they’ll be in the water before you can even stop them.

7. Embrace embarrassment.  This comes with all parenting and is no different when you are a traveling families.  You’ve just got to own it all.  Own the tantrums, own the time outs.  I’ve put Harrison in time out worldwide…. In crowded downtown streets in Asia, in restaurants, in museums, in amusement parks.  He screams, he cries, he sometimes tries to run and I have to hold him in place.  It’s OK.  I just smile at everyone walking by and get mostly smiles or chuckles in return.  You have EVERY RIGHT to be there, even with a screaming kid.  There are no rules against traveling with kids.  You bought the tickets, you paid the fare, you aren’t doing anything wrong when your kid acts up in public.  It’s just part of parenting and everyone should be applauding you for trying.  You are giving your boys (and girls) wonderful memories.  When I get really embarrassed, I just remember that all those scornful adults were kids once too and gave their parents heck.  They don’t remember, but they did.  Don’t stress it and don’t let it ruin your vacation when you have a few bad moments with your kiddos.  I PROMISE the good memories will be the ones that stick in your memory when it’s all done and you are back home.

Finally, to my fellow traveling families, remember a few points:

  • In the end, bribery works wonders. Ice cream later, a quick fruit snack for being good on a train ride, etc. Parenting runs on bribery half the time 🙂
  • Prepping your boys for what to expect that day or in the next few hours can go so far. We have weekly planning meetings on Sunday nights, prep talks before we leave the house and often quick reminders before we go inside somewhere. Boys, just like men, like to know what the women in their life really want from them. 🙂
  • Don’t repeat yourself more than once when asking something of your boys. If they didn’t listen the first time, be sure to make eye contact and some gentle physical touch to get their attention and then repeat your request. When we get in the habit of just asking and asking and then yelling, all while our boys (and girls) ignore us, it leads to major frustration.
  • Soak up those memories and enjoy!  

Love to my fellow traveling families,


Catch great fare deals from Booking.com, Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, or Expedia

Find a nice hotel when traveling from Expedia, or Vrbo, (we also love Tripadvisor and Hotels.com)

Discover more of the world while having fun through exciting activities from GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, or Viator

Need to rent a car to navigate the city? Visit Rentalcars.com.

Get insured while traveling with World Nomads.

Want to have a photo shoot while traveling? Check out flytographer!

Capture your best travel memories as we do with a GoPro, Sony camera, or our favorite drones: DJI FPV, Air, and Mini

Check out your travel necessities from a comprehensive list of all the 7Wayfinders Travel Must-Haves. Click Here!

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