By Clara Sedlak
August 22, 2014

I'm just back from a trip to Italy and like every long adventure with toddlers, it was a schizophrenic mix of life-could-never-be-better moments and how-am-I-going-to-get-through-this hell. There was Sebastian's meltdown at Heathrow because I wouldn't buy him the really big Paddington bear (thank god for the Terminal 5 play area); the relentless "I want milk" requests while driving through the milkless rolling hills of Tuscany; and the constant sticky faces and stained shirts from twice-daily gelato injections (Italian napkins just don't do the job). In anticipation of my next family excursion, I reached out to the pros for some tips on how to make the journey smoother. Here, my favorites:

To reduce the inherent chaos of family travel, eliminate spontaneity from the equation. Translation? Prepare for hunger, headaches and boredom by stocking an easy-to-access bag with necessary gear. My must haves include kids’ Advil, band-aids, activities like Word Search or coloring books, non-perishable snacks and a forbidden food (chocolate, lollipop) to stave off potential tantrums. —Amy Tara Koch, Style expert, TV personality, Journalist

I've found that giving my boys, ages 5 & 8, some ownership in the trip planning helps to make family vacations more fun for everyone. Kids love to be given responsibility, and the process can spark great conversations about budgeting and compromising. Let them select from a list of hotels or destinations, and pull out a map to determine the route! —Amy Norman, co-Founder and co-CEO of Little Passports

Encourage your kids to keep a travel diary: for each day of your trip, have your kids write about or draw a picture of their favorite activity in a spiral notebook. Bring some scissors, glue and tape and add fun mementos from along the way, i.e. ticket stubs, postcards, maps, brochures. This is a great way to keep kids busy during long car trips, and in restaurants waiting for dinner to be served, and will make a great inexpensive and personalized souvenir. —Amy Bizzarri, Family Travel Writer

If you’re flying with babies and/or toddlers, make sure to block your airline seats in advance. Car and booster seats always have to be next to the window as passengers are not allowed to climb over a car seat to exit a row for safety reasons. The correct seating is child next to window, child in the middle, and the parent on the aisle. Also, you can’t have two infants in your laps. This all seems logical, but few travelers know these rules. —Kara Slater, SmartFlyer

We love self-storing and battery free activities, like Flip-to-Win games and ON the GO books. Our “Traveling with Kids” board on Pinterest is also packed with hundreds of fun and practical tips. —Karen Myers, Social Media Director, Melissa & Doug, LLC

After you return, keep the memories alive—and the fun going—by creating a photo album together to memorialize the trip. Have your kids help you pick the photos, write the text, and assemble the layout using an online service such as —Amy Farley, News Editor, Travel + Leisure

Clara Ogden-Sedlak is Special Projects Editor at
Travel + Leisure.

Photo by Aaron Sedlak