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“What a nightmare.”
“It’s so much work.”
“If I can avoid it, I do.”
These are just a few of the answers you might receive when asking people, “what is it like to travel with kids?” I personally empathize with these reactions, but have never fully understood them. Why has traveling with your children become such a negative concept? Sure, it’s a challenge sometimes, but what parental duty isn’t? You raise human beings on a daily basis – you can do anything!
With summer in full swing, our calendars are full with endless activities. For a lot of people, that means going away on family trips – whether it’s just a day or two at the beach, or a week-long vacation to your favorite spot. It’s the time of the year when you want to put your feet up and enjoy a much needed break from reality.
However, for some, that daydream seems to come to a screeching halt the second that they realize what’s in store for them.
The packing, the traveling, the cost, the nonstop banter of “who gets to do what.” It’s enough to make you sit your butt right on your couch all summer, and forget the idea entirely.
Now, let’s be honest for a minute. Was it easier before we had kids? Of course. Did we have a few less gray hairs? Without a doubt. Would I go back to that time if given the chance? Absolutely not. Because if there’s one thing that’s better than going on a new adventure, it’s being the parent who now gets to experience their child’s first adventures, near or far, right alongside them.
If you love traveling as much as my husband and I do, then don’t throw in the towel just because you decided to reproduce. I’ve taken countless trips throughout my lifetime, but the post-parenthood ones have definitely taken the cake. Although I had my doubts, after recently towing our 2 ½ year old on two back-to-back trips (taking a 7 hour car ride to and from Virginia, then hopping on a plane just a few days later to South Carolina), I’m living proof that it can be done AND fun!
Here are a few tips to help turn your next vacation from a chore into a luxury:
- Make a list. When packing for a trip, do yourself a favor and make individual lists for everyone in the household, with everything that person will need/want. You will feel a million times more organized and it helps to avoid forgetting things. Check items off as you go, consult the lists before you leave the house, and nothing (fingers crossed) will get left behind. It sounds like a lot of extra work, but trust me, it’s worth it.
- Travel smart. If you’re traveling a long distance, then the ride itself is probably the most daunting part of your trip. Nothing makes your stomach turn more than the thought of being stuck in a confined space with restless children who are asking, “are we there yet?!” every 10 minutes. If you can, schedule your travel overnight or at a time when they usually nap/wind down. If it’s during “high energy” time, then be sure to pack tons of things to distract your child. Books, toys, games, music, and snacks go a long way, and switch activities every half hour or so to avoid boredom. If there’s something your child enjoys but can usually only do/have in moderation, consider allowing it as a special treat to pass the time (I.E. candy, electronics, etc.) When driving, make plenty of rest stops. Active children will be much more willing to get back in the car after getting some energy out. You’ll be there before you know it!
- Stick to routine. Children are all about routine, and when they’re taken out of their familiar environment, sometimes it takes a few days to adjust. Plan your days accordingly to avoid any extra meltdowns, and allow time for their regular naps and meals. On a normal schedule, the kids will be ready for fun!
- Save a buck. If you have multiple mouths to feed, eating out can put a strain on your wallet. Try to book a hotel that offers free breakfast, find a local store to buy simple sandwich ingredients for lunch, and treat yourselves to dinner. You’ll still enjoy the local food while saving a few pennies.
- Keep going. The best way to make your little ones good travelers, is to continue to keep them on the go. Take all different forms of transportation, visit new destinations as often as you can, and never put a limit on what you all can handle. The more used to travelling that they become, the more they will grow accustomed to it and grow to love it as much as you do.
Stop dreading the travel idea and go for it! You’ll never forget your children’s faces as they soak up a new culture, or the memories you’ll all make together. Explore new places, discover unknown things, take a ton of pictures, and don’t sweat the small stuff. You’ll never regret living life to the fullest with your kids!