My family loves to travel and we consider ourselves to be adept at planning and organization. My husband has even taken to making spreadsheets for packing and asking me to analyze the success and failure of each trip when we return home. However, traveling with children adds an entirely new element to any road trip. I don’t claim to be an expert, as a matter of fact, we have had our fair share of mishaps, but these are a few tips I have learned over the years.
“I’m going to pack”
The kids always want to pack their own suitcases and isn’t that terrifying? I reluctantly agree and remind myself that I can fix everything after they go to bed. If they want to take toys, I allow one bag and they can only take what they can fit in that bag. For their clothing, once I begin re-packing for them, I use the Ziploc bag method. I think of every day we will be on the trip and what we will be doing, then I plan the outfits accordingly. I put everything we need, from underwear to hair bows, in the bag. This may seem like an unnecessary step in the packing process, but I can assure you it makes the whole trip much easier.
We have all heard this one entirely too much. Not even an hour into the car trip and they are already bored! I’m even going to admit we allow movies and electronics on long car rides, but the boredom still sets in eventually. We usually take a box of crayons, paper, coloring books, small toys, playing cards, and notebooks so there are plenty of things to keep them busy. I end up doing lots of coloring challenges, but I’m cool with that, because I like to color too. We also like to play music trivia, usually it is Disney, movies, or tv shows. That game isn’t only fun, but I can also be sure the driver is still alert! Not that I’m paranoid…okay I’m paranoid.
Will their hunger never cease? How can such little people eat so much food? I’ve determined the constant hunger is usually just one of their answers to boredom, but the incessant whining that goes along with it is hard to ignore. I pack snacks and try to make them reasonably healthy so that I don’t feel like the worst mom ever. I keep the snack bag up front with me or with the oldest child (she is quite controlling) so that it doesn’t turn into a buffet. We don’t really like to stop much when we are traveling so we eat before we leave and then HOPEFULLY we don’t have to stop for food until we reach our destination. That, of course, all depends on the length of the car ride. My husband and I are foodies so we have usually planned out every meal for the entire trip. It’s very important when traveling with children to make sure the restaurants are kid friendly. We look up reviews and I’ve been known to call and ask just to avoid the disapproving looks of fellow patrons while we eat. For the sake of all involved, it is just easier to find kid friendly restaurants so everyone will be more comfortable.
“I have to go to the bathroom”
Finding decent restrooms has been our greatest obstacle to date. It was particularly hard for my husband when he had to go solo on a 13 hour car ride with our young daughter. You do not want to send a young child into a multi-stall restroom alone, so you hope to find family restrooms, but they are few and far between. Often, if you find one, it is occupied for an inordinate amount of time or it is out of order. My father, after my husband’s adventure, told us that he always stopped at hotels when my sister and I were young. Hotels have restrooms in the lobby and they are usually clean and often empty. I’m not certain this would make all of the hotel clerks happy, but my dad says he still does it to this day and explains to them that he is a rewards member and thinks it should be one of his perks. I can’t promise this will always work, but he has been doing it for over 40 years, so I guess it is worth a shot!
The most important advice I can give on traveling with children is to always have a plan. It may seem tedious to plan trips, but when you already know what you are going to do, it removes the stress and confusion. Be sure to take all of the important little things like a first aid kit and a medicine bag. One time we went to the mountains and in the middle of the night our daughter got sick and my husband had to drive down the mountain and 40 minutes away for medication. You can be sure that we have not traveled without it since. It never hurts to be well-prepared for any situation that may arise. Plan everything, with a bit of wiggle room if necessary, and I can promise that your vacation will be more enjoyable and peaceful.
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