Kids + Travel = Nightmare? [2023 Study]

traveling with kids: new study

If you've ever traveled with kids, you know it can be a rollercoaster ride of joy, spills, and endless questions.


Just how “bad” are these experiences?

To find out, we’ve surveyed ~950 parents all over the US and listened to their tales of woes.

Read on to see our findings.

Key Takeaways

  • Roughly 63% of Americans find traveling with their kids stressful or very stressful.
  • The average US family spends between $2,000 and $5,000 per trip.
  • Parents' biggest challenge when traveling with their children is managing mealtime and sleep schedules: 16%.
  • About 83% of travelers have felt judged or criticized for their little ones’ behavior.
  • Changes in routine or schedule (29%) are the #1 trigger for meltdowns or tantrums in children while on the road.
  • Nearly 83% of families have had to cancel or cut short a trip due to their children’s behavior at least once in their lifetime.
  • Making a mess in public tops the list of embarrassing kid moments experienced by parents at 17%.

Accommodation, Modes, and Costs: Parents’ Choices for Family Travel

Before we get to the crux of our research, let's step back and see how parents navigate the world of travel with their little ones in tow.


To start off, we asked survey respondents how often they go on family trips.

Below are the results:

most parents (57%) travel with their children between two and six times a year

As it turns out, most parents (57%) travel with their children between two and six times a year. That likely includes day trips, weekend getaways, and full-fledged vacations.


As far as the transportation mode goes, families' #1 choice is the car:

What Is Your Preferred Mode of Transportation for Family Trips?Share

That figures.

After all, the car is usually the comfiest option, especially if you travel domestically. You can make stops and adjust the route if need be. Plus, you get to keep snacks and entertainment close at hand.

Moving on, we asked survey participants what lodging options they prefer when traveling with their kids.

Let’s have a look at the data:

most families (38%) prefer to stay at hotels

Hotels are usually the top choice for families. Resorts (18%) and camping (17%) follow.

Finally, let's talk about money. That is, what parents spend on big family trips:

How Much Do You Usually Spend on Family Trips, Including Transportation and Accommodation Costs?Share
More than $5,00027%
Less than $5006%

As we can see, the average family pays between $2,000 and 5,000 per trip.

That's some serious cash.

Taming Children’s Behavior Is Parents’ Biggest Challenge

Let's now dive into the heart of our study: parents' struggles.

The survey results are in:

What Is Your Biggest Challenge When Traveling With Your Kid(s)?Share
Managing mealtime and sleep schedules16.42%
Managing their behavior16.2%
Balancing the needs of different ages and interests15.57%
Keeping them entertained13.97%
Finding kid-friendly activities12.9%
Dealing with unexpected situations (e.g., flight cancellations, lost luggage)12.05%
Packing and transporting gear (e.g., strollers, car seats)11.73%

The data shows that parents' primary headache when traveling with kids is managing mealtime and sleep schedules (16.42%). It’s followed by “managing their behavior” at 16.2%.


With this in mind, we also asked pollees about the triggers that often lead to meltdowns or tantrums to help fellow parents better understand why their kids may act out.

Here’s what they had to say:

changes in routine or schedule (29%) are the top trigger for meltdowns or tantrums in children during travel

“Changes in routine or schedule” took the cake.

It makes sense. 

Children (just like most adults) are creatures of habit. Even a slight change in their routines can throw them off and make them cranky.

Finally, we asked Americans if they'd ever had to cancel or cut short a trip due to their children’s behavior: 83% answered in the affirmative.


Safety Takes Center Stage for Parents of Curious Explorers

As we delved deeper into the experiences that come with traveling with children, we asked respondents about their biggest concerns.

Here are the results:

What Is Your Biggest Concern When Traveling with Your Kid(s)?Share
Safety and security30.56%
Health and medical issues19.28%
Time management and scheduling13.53%
Cultural differences and unfamiliar environments12.57%
Transportation and logistics10.76%

As you can see, parents juggle many challenges to ensure a smooth experience for their little ones, from safety and health to managing expenses and schedules.


It's no wonder 63% of pollees later indicated they find traveling with their kids stressful or very stressful.

Take a look:

63% of Americans find traveling with their kids stressful or very stressful


Making a Mess in Public Tops the List of Embarrassing Kid Moments

There's no question about it:

Kids are wired for mischief. So we gave American parents a list of embarrassing moments and asked them to check which ones they'd experienced on the road.

What’s the Most Embarrassing Thing Your Child(ren) Has/Have Done on a Family Trip?Share
Made a mess or spilled food/drink in a restaurant or public area17.36%
Made loud or disruptive noises in a quiet public area (e.g., library, museum)15.65%
Damaged or broken something in a public place15.55%
Had a bathroom accident in a public place13.1%
Interrupted a public event or performance12.25%
Said something inappropriate to a stranger10.97%
Threw a tantrum in public9.9%

Looking at the top response, the wise words of one of our respondents come to mind:

“Before you leave the house, pack extra wipes…and a sense of humor!”


As our last question, we asked pollees if they'd ever felt judged or criticized by fellow travelers for their kids' behavior to gauge the extent of social pressure parents face.

83% of parents have felt judged or criticized by other travelers for their little ones’ behavior at least once in their lifetime

It turns out 83% of Americans have felt judged or criticized by other travelers for their little ones' behavior at least once in their lifetime.

It's a harsh reality, yet not one parents should face on the road.


We conducted an online survey of 939 US parents via a bespoke online polling tool in March 2023.

The respondents were 52.2% male and 47.8% female. 30.2% of respondents were 26 or younger, 56.7% were aged 27–42, 11.6% were 43–58, and 1.5% were 59 or older.

This survey has a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error of 3%. Given the gender and age makeup of our sample size, the study’s findings are statistically significant for the population at large.

This study was created through multiple research steps, crowdsourcing, and surveying. Data scientists reviewed all survey participants' responses for quality control. The survey also had an attention-check question.

Fair Use Statement

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