With Spring Break and summer vacations in the near future, here are some travel tips when traveling with young children. Everyone is different, but here is what has worked for us when traveling as a family. Be safe, don’t forget to pack the sunscreen and enjoy yourself!
- Make a list of the essentials that would be difficult to replace if you forgot them. Then do not forget them when you pack! For us, this includes a sound machine, video monitor, pack and play, extra sheets for the pack and play, a favorite blanket or comfort item and a few off-season clothes, just in case the weather is warmer or cooler than expected.
- Take a lot of breaks if you are driving. I am the worst road trip companion because I hate driving, and I hate being a passenger even more. However, when we became parents, I learned that frequent breaks from being in the car were necessary to make the trip easier for everyone. Diaper changes are a must as well as snacks and letting everyone run around before getting back in the car.
- If flying, bring lots of snacks and a few toys. During my daughter’s first flight to Florida, she loved to snack on fruit and Cheerios. She was entertained more by watching other people than she was with the couple of toys that we brought for her. If you happen to sit next to someone who likes children, well, consider yourself lucky. If you are not, just remember: you’ll officially be on vacation when that plane lands. And hopefully you’ll never see that person next to you again. Also, you may or may not want to take advantage of the family-first boarding. If you get on the plane first, remember it is just longer you and your kids will have to sit and wait. However, if you have a lot of kids and bags, boarding first may be easier.
- Once you reach your destination, make the grocery store your first stop. We bring diapers and wipes with us if we are driving, but usually buy diapers if we are flying. It saves on luggage space. We stock up on food for the length of our vacation: esay snacks that we can throw in the diaper bag include cheese sticks, Cheerios, animal crackers and yogurt sticks. We usually eat breakfast and lunch where we are staying to save money. For dinner, we find a local restaurant. Do your best at estimating how much food you will need for meals and snacks. You don’t want to throw away much before you go home.
- It may be tempting to pack every single toy your child owns, but do not do it. I packed way too many toys the first time we took a trip. My daughter played with them for maybe 10 minutes the whole vacation. She likes cups and napkins and everything but toys anyway. Remember that you probably will not be spending too much time in your hotel or rental home, so you will not need as many toys. On road trips, I also keep a few toys in the front of the van. I can hand toys back to her throughout the trip when she gets bored with one.
- Keep the kids on the same schedule. This includes nap time and bedtime. Our activities on vacation always revolve around these times. My daughter thrives on routine, so this is something we do not change when we take trips. If a late night or skipped nap happens, try to get the kids back on their schedule as soon as possible.
- Along with keeping a schedule, enforce the same rules that you have at home. For us, among many other rules, this includes sitting (not standing) on the couch, not climbing on furniture and sitting at the table (not walking around the house) for snacks and meal times. It also includes picking up all toys before nap and bedtime. Just because they’re on vacation doesn’t mean the kids get to disrespect someone else’s property or not follow rules that are enforced at home.
- When the kids are awake, do something that they will enjoy. Let me tell you, my daughter does not appreciate visiting wineries, shopping at the outlets or watching her family members zip line. What she does love are trips to the local parks, zoos, aquariums and beaches. Compromise is necessary, but try to do something everyone will enjoy.
- With that said, there will be activities not everyone wants to do. For this reason, my husband and I always take turns doing something we each enjoy. During our daughter’s naptime, one of us stays at home while the other goes out—getting a pedicure, seeing a movie, trying a local brewery or winery, walking or running on the beach, seeing a historic site—for example. It gives us each some alone time to do something we want before joining back up with the rest of the family. If your kids are older and don’t nap, then plan a kid-friendly activity for whoever is staying back with them.
- Finally, go with the flow. There are things that will be beyond your control. You’ll get stuck in traffic or have a flight delay. Someone will get sick or have a potty accident. Someone will have a meltdown (it may be you and not the kids). Plans will change due to weather. Try to relax; you’re on vacation, after all.
Do you have any other tips for traveling with young kids? Let us know!