Traveling with children is truly an art form–one that I have yet to master. I thought I would share a few tips that I learned from our most recent vacation adventure to the Mountains. Some of these things are what we did and some are what I observed other families doing while we were traveling (and wished we had done). :)
1. Drive…if it is feasible. Flying is overrated with young children (not to mention expensive) and does not allow the flexibility that traveling in a car does. Need 2 bathroom breaks in one hour? No problem. Want to stop and look at the World’s Largest Ball of Thread? Go for it.
2. Plan out your rest stops. There is a rest stop about halfway between our house and the mountains. Not only does it have Starbucks, sandwiches, and ice cream…it also has a great playground and picnic tables! We like to stop here every time we make this trip because we know that (a) it’s relatively clean and (b) the boys can stretch their legs and get some energy out. If you are unsure of what stops you want to make ahead of time, you can use a free app like RoadAhead Highway Exit Finder or even this free website. If you’re the type of family that likes to see lots of offbeat attractions while traveling (like the World’s Largest Ball of Yarn or a 5-Legged Cow), you would also enjoy the Roadside America App ($2.99).
3. Bring lots of travel activities, books, and DVDs. The key to traveling with kids is to change it up. For an hour, let them look at books. Next hour, have them play with a travel game. And next, let them watch a DVD. Find lots of ideas here and here.
4. Find lodging that has a kitchen. You might spend a few extra dollars, but you’ll be glad if you’re spending more than a couple of days. One can live on junk food and eating out for only so long!
5. Bring your own frozen meals. In the weeks prior to your trip, double you recipes and put half in a disposable aluminum pan. Jot down the baking instructions, attach, and then throw it in the freezer! Pack all of your meals in a cooler. All the hard work is done…just thaw and throw it in the oven! This means less dishes and MORE vacation for YOU. :)
6. If traveling with young kids, plan 1 activity each day. We like to get out early (especially since the kids are up at the crack of dawn) and do the majority of our activities in the morning. After lunch, everyone is ready for rest (parents included)! One thing we have found that works for us is to just be flexible and don’t over-plan. Most kids enjoy the simple things (like throwing rocks in a river or playing in the sand) just as much, if not more, than the big, expensive activities. Check the website of the place you are traveling ahead of time to see what activities they offer (and how much they cost). You can also check out the following websites for activities based on your destination: Trekaroo.com, KidsCanTravel.com, DeliciousBaby.com.
7. Split the kids up at night and naptime...at least until they fall asleep. Our boys sleep in the same room at home (most nights) but the first night of our vacation, they did not go to sleep until ELEVEN O’CLOCK because they were so excited and were in an unfamiliar environment. We decided to put one of them to sleep in our bed that night and then transfer him once they were both sound asleep.
8. Keep a picnic blanket, paper towels, and baby wipes in your car at all times. You never know when you’ll need them. One traveling mother we met at a rest stop had all of her “goodies” organized in clear plastic tubs. Another thing I have started keeping packed and ready (but not in the car due to temperature issues) is a small box with all the kids toiletries and Children’s Tylenol, Advil, Benadryl, and an extra thermometer. I don’t know about you, but inevitably someone gets sick almost every time we go somewhere. This way, I can grab it on our way out the door and I don’t have to make any 4 am trips to Walgreens in an unknown city (which I have done in the past). :)
What is your best tip for traveling with young children?
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