Tips to planning your family trip to Chicago

When it comes to traveling with kids, not all cities are created equal. Luckily, Chi-Town is one of our favorite kid-approved metropolises, offering loads of fun for the whole family. From the towering T-Rex at the Chicago Field Museum to the Penguin Cove exhibit at the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Windy City is a generous host to kid-friendly adventures. Keep reading for tips on planning your family trip to Chicago.


Essential Items to Pack

Strollers: While Chicago is a fantastic kid-friendly city, it’s still a busy place, and you may need to adjust your plans to accommodate young children. For example, the layout of Chi-Town makes walking through the city a tourist’s dream. But it’s still a busy metropolis with lots of traffic, distractions, and the typical hustle-bustle of a big city. So avoid mishaps by packing a stroller or baby carriage so you can explore Chicago while keeping your tiny tots safe.  Ideally, pack a stroller with an umbrella or enclosures to shelter young ones from the city hubbub.  

Comfortable Shoes: While Chicago has phenomenal public transportation, the hot spots studded throughout the city are easy to get to by foot. With this in mind, be sure to pack good walking shoes because even if you stick to taxis or the L Train, you and the family will have to hoof it in Chicago.

Pack for the Season: What you take on your family trip to Chicago depends on what time of year you go.  Summertime is the most popular because the city gardens are robust, and the temperatures are ideal for a Chicago boat tour or a splash in Lake Michigan.  If you launch your adventure in the Summer, remember that it can get hot and sticky in the city, so pack cool clothing and forget the sunscreen. Spring and autumn pose cooler temperatures and chances of rainfall. These seasons can also be unpredictable, so your best bet is to pack with layers in mind; take sweaters or jackets that can be easily shed and stuffed in a backpack.  If you and the kids opt to brave the winter in the Windy City, bundle up because it gets cold. Take coats, gloves, hats, and good winter boots.

What to Know When You Go to Chicago for a Family Trip

Age-Appropriate Attractions: Chicago offers endless adventures for kids of all ages. Many attractions feature a mixture of options that appeal to adults and children alike. For example, the Lincoln Park Zoo offers engaging activities and exhibits the kids will love and also caters to parents by serving local craft brews, or you can even attend a cocktail-making class on the zoo grounds. The Shedd Aquarium and Millennium Park are also good options as they are entertaining for young minds and also engaging for adults.

Budget-Friendly Options: If your family is vacationing on a budget, you may want to invest in a Chicago City Pass.  The Pass will save you 53% on gate prices at attractions such as Skydeck Chicago, the Museum of Science, Adler Planetarium, or the Field Museum.  An alternative to a Pass might be the Go Chicago Card.  It offers similar discounts with a 55% savings on many attractions that may not be included with the Chicago City Pass.  Another savings option is the For the Explore Pass.  The discount is 40% off gate entry prices, and you’re limited to three to five attractions.  Go to the city of Chicago’s website to get the details on the many pass options available and pick the one that best fits your family’s budget and travel goals.

Eating Out: There are tons of family-friendly restaurants, eateries, and yum-shops in Chi-Town. For example, your kids will swoon over Marie’s Candies; their Atomic Sundae is so sensationally sweet, you’ll be searching for dentists in Plainfield IL! Or try RJ Grunts close to Lincoln Zoo for kid-centric meals served on retro cafeteria trays. Wherever you choose to sample the local cuisine, remember that restaurants can get busy early. Avoid crowds by making reservations whenever you can. If that’s not possible, try to plan dining excursions during off-peak hours or go early before restaurants get packed.


Make Early Reservations: Depending upon when you are planning your family trip to Chicago, do yourself a favor and book early.  The earlier you get your airfare and hotel reservations the better your odds for getting premium amenities at a cheaper rate. Remember that summer is a popular time for tourists, so if you’re going in the summertime, make early reservations to avoid missing out on the accommodations you and your family want.

Get Tickets Online Beforehand:  Chicago is known for famous attractions, museums, and entertainment venues.  Whenever possible, buy your tickets online and in advance.  Chicago’s art festivals, music events, and beloved tourist attractions fill up fast during the peak travel season. So getting your tickets before you go will ensure you and your family have top spots at events and attractions. Buying tickets beforehand will also help your family avoid long lines and waiting to get into your desired destinations.

Remember the Golden Rule

Planning your family trip to Chicago is crucial to having a great time in the Windy City. But don’t get so caught up in strategy that you forget the golden rule: Have fun! No matter which exciting attractions you and the kids visit, always remember to stay safe and have a jolly good time while you make lasting memories during your family trip to Chicago.