15 tips to tame travel tension

Ah, the family vacation. You’ve done the research. You’ve planned an incredible itinerary for a fantastic family getaway. Now what? Whether you’re heading to Rome, Rio or Rockford, here’s some advice, tips and tricks to help make your next vacation stress-free and fun for everyone—including you!

Get packing

Write up a packing checklist or download one from your favorite travel site. Let older kids use it as a guide to pack their own bags. Do a bag check together to make sure nothing is forgotten. 

For younger kids, turn the checklist into a game; have the little ones “find” the items.


Keep the bag count manageable. Bags with wheels make the luggage challenge easier. Pack an extra “take home” bag (like a duffle bag) sturdy enough to check for trip treasures. 

Weigh all bags with a hand-held luggage scale BEFORE you arrive at the airport. 


Travel days can quickly take a turn when kids get bored. Give them a backpack to fill with their favorite entertainment. Travel Rule: they pack it, they carry it. 

Airport security 

Airport security can be scary. Talk to kids about the security screening process BEFORE you arrive at the airport. Visit tsa.gov/travel/security-screening for info.

Be prepared for security checkpoints. Kids that look 13 years and older are required to follow adult TSA screening procedures. Ask a TSA agent if you’re not sure about strollers or other unusual carry-on items.

If you fly domestically, TSA Precheck may be worth a look. With it, you are routed through shorter, faster-moving security lanes. 

Apply online at tsa.gov/precheck. If you pass, an in-person interview is scheduled at a local TSA office.

The $85 membership is valid for five years.

Road trip

Plan an early morning departure. Wake the kids, let them use the bathroom and snuggle them into the car with their favorite blanket and pillow. They’ll likely fall back to sleep.


Put chargers and charging cables for devices in carry-ons. Portable chargers keep devices charged during long travel days when access to power sources are limited. Bring headphones.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of Chicago Parent’s Going Places. Read the rest of the issue.

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