Welcome to Day #26 in our Travel is… series!
Traveling with Kids is Not for Wimps
The setting was supposed to be perfect. We had driven all the way to Southern Florida so that I could show my 4 year old, 2 year old and 6 month old the place where Mama had grown up vacationing. We were staying at the same campground where my sisters and I had created some wonderful memories. The same campground just miles from the ocean where – in my memories – it never rains and the sun is always shining.
Except now it was 25 years later and that Florida was having a cold snap. So there we were with 3 very young children, a thousand miles from home, trying to stay warm in a tent. There was no hot water in the shower house. Then it started to rain. And then everyone (including me) started to throw up. We were miserable. As I stepped out of the tent and looked around these familiar-yet-different surroundings that I knew so well, I screamed in frustration at the universe…
CAMPING IS WAY BETTER WHEN YOU’RE THE CHILD THAN WHEN YOU’RE THE PARENT!!!
Traveling with children is not for wimps. The fact is that you don’t vacation with children, you just travel with them. All the work that you do at home to keep everyone clean and alive, you still have to do on a road trip. You just have to do it with fewer conveniences. But with a little planning ahead and some life hacks, road trips can be fun for everyone. Here are some tips to help things go smoothly so that Mom and Dad have fun, too!
35 Tips for Traveling with Kids
- Involve The Kids
Involve older children in planning the trip to make sure everyone gets to see and do at least one thing they are looking forward to.
- Plan To Go Slow
Children will slow you down! Plan in extra time for breaks and exploring and be realistic about how much you can see with little ones it tow.
- Research Breastfeeding Laws
Unfortunately, not all destinations are friendly to Breastfeeding Moms. Familiarize yourself with local breastfeeding laws and attitudes towards breastfeeding before you go so that you don’t unexpectedly find yourself in an awkward, difficult position.
- Pack Early.
I went on my first roadtrip as a parent when my first baby was 4 weeks old. A seasoned mom told me to start getting ready a week early. I didn’t listen and turned out she was right. Trying to pack at the last minute while tending to the needs of a child is not fun. Don’t leave your packing until the day before you leave.
- Have a Last-Minute List
In addition to what you are packing, have a separate list of last minute items you need to grab or do on your way out the door. (This might include turning the hot water heater down, checking to make sure all toilets are flushed, grabbing snacks for the road out of the refrigerator, etc.)
- One Parent In Charge
For each task, put just one parent in charge. For example, if one parent is in charge of packing, that person will know exactly what’s packed, where it is, and what still needs to be packed. This can minimize confusion and miscommunication.
- First Aid Kit
Carry a First Aid kit because somebody is bound to get a boo-boo. If you’re a parent who prefers natural remedies, these can be hard to find when you’re on the road. You can see what I carry in my first aid kit here.
- Carry a Letter of Travel Consent
If you will be crossing a border without both parents present, be sure to have a letter of travel consent from the other parent.
- Write Down Medical Conditions
If you or your children have any medical conditions or allergies, carry a travel card describing the situation in the language of your destination. Some medical alert bracelets come with a little card that fits inside the bracelet so that your child always has this information with them. Kid-friendly versions are available as well.
- Back Up Important Documents
Scan your passports, Driver’s License and any other important documents and email them to yourself so that you can access the information from anywhere. Do not carry your social security card with you.
- Notify Your Bank
Notify your bank and credit card companies before you leave so that they are aware that there will be charges on your account coming from unusual locations. You don’t want them to freeze your account due to “suspicious activity” while you’re on the road.
- Designate A Meeting Place
In each new location you visit, designate a meeting point in case anyone gets separated from the group. If you will be in dense crowds, review the importance of staying together.
- Brand The Kids.
If you’re going to be traveling in busy places write your phone number somewhere on your child in case they get lost. A travel wrist band is great way to do this!
- Prepare Through Role Play
Role play unusual situations. What would happen if your child got lost? If you act out what they should do before your trip, they are more likely to remember than if you just tell them what to do.
On The Road
- Plan Extra Traveling Time
You’re going to need to take more potty breaks and stretch-your-leg-breaks than the average person. If you’re driving, historic sites, parks and other interesting places make great places to stop and get the wiggles out. Factor in extra time to allow for the unexpected and for exploring.
If you’ll be driving for more than 1 day, pack a single hotel bag with everyone’s stuff. Then you can bring just one bag into the hotel room, sleep, get dressed and hit the road again in the morning!
- Have a Scavenger Hunt
Having a list of items for your children to look for gives them something to do and can be so much fun! If you want to equip them with a digital camera to record their finds, even better!
- Play the License Plate Game
The License Plate Game is where everyone tries to see how many license plates from various states they can be the first to find. (Get a free printable license plate game when you subscribe to Word Traveling!)
- Bring An Activity Bag
We like to pack a bag of age-appropriate activities for each child to keep at their car seat. We stock the bag with a pad of paper, crayons and educational activity books and games. If each child has their own bag, they have plenty to keep them busy and (hopefully) prevent fighting.
- Avoid Sweets
So that you’re not traveling with hyperactive children. Enough Said.
- Car Seats
Make sure your child’s car seat or booster seat is not only comfortable, but also that it meets the minimum safety requirements for car seats and boosters of each state you will be driving through. Requirements vary from state to state. And a 7 year old who doesn’t need a booster at home, may very well require one at your destination. If you will be traveling in several different vehicles (such as taxis) use a universal model carseat which which works with all kinds of seatbelts.
- Carry Baby Wipes
Even if you don’t have a baby, baby wipes are worth their weight in gold. They are incredibly handy for cleaning up almost any mess you or your child can make on a road trip where you may or may not have water readily available.
If You’re Flying
- Plan for Lost Luggage
Put enough necessities (clothes!) in your carry on luggage for the first few days of your trip, just in case your luggage gets lost.
- Meet and Assist Services
Many airports offer a “meet and assist” service. If you are a single parent traveling with more than one child having this extra set of hands not only provides convenience, it also adds an extra layer of security to your travel plans. The Meet and Assist Service must be reserved when you book your ticket.
- Use the Private Departure Lounge
The Private Departure Lounge offers a supervised place to leave luggage, comfortable chairs, free drinks and snacks and usually a spacious bathroom. If you’re not a member of an airline’s frequent flyer club, you can often purchase a day pass to use the lounges.
- Check In Online
If you use the online check in option, you’ll avoid the line up and you can book your preferred seats from home.
At Your Destination
- Dress For the Weather
This sounds obvious, but nothing ruins a vacation quicker than a child who is crying because they are too hot/cold/wet/etc.
- They Might Wet The Bed
If bedwetting is even remotely a possibility, consider bringing pull ups or a plastic cover for the mattress. (In a pinch, a plastic shower curtain placed under the bedsheet will also work.)
- Somebody Is Probably Going To Get Constipated
Traveling means being in a new location, eating new food and being away from your regular water-drinking routine. It’s almost inevitable that somebody in the family is going to feel a bit impacted sooner or later. Have a remedy handy for mild constipation. Our family usually travels with a package of prunes.
- Double Check Your Destination
If you are heading out to any attractions, double check their websites before you head out the door to make sure you don’t run into the unexpected (closed for renovations, changed schedules, etc.)
- Ask The Local Folks!
People who live in the area know where the best of everything is. Ask your hotel conceirge or the local people you meet for suggestions of what to do, where to eat, etc. Their tips can help make your stay fabulous!
- Get Yourself A Stroller.
Even if your child is already walking, a stroller can serve as a place for young children to take naps when out and about. It can also serve as a place to carry items, much like a wagon would. Used strollers can usually be obtained inexpensively at a local thrift shop.
- Travel Journals
Travel Journal make great souvenirs for older children. Be creative! They can draw and list things they see and eat; collect autographs from people they meet, save ticket stubs and mini-maps of places you visit, record new words they learn while visiting a certain place or compile a photo book.
- Start A Travel Collection
If you will be traveling often, help your children begin a collection to remind them of the places they have been. My grandmother used to collect souvenir spoons to hang on her wall. I like to let each child purchase a post card and write one memory, the date and their age on the back of the post card.
- And most importantly…
Have a GREAT time!
On every trip, something is bound to go wrong. Accept that the unexpected is part of the journey and it is these moments that eventually we will look back on and laugh. Your job is to make memories, because someday you and your children will look back on today and say, “Those sure were the Good Old Days.”
AlinaJoy Dubois lives in Texas with her software-engineer-turned-farmer husband and their 4 children (whom she affectionately calls “the little farmhands”). Their farming schedule allows them to travel more than an average family and in the past year they’ve visited 14 different states! Packing 6 people into a minivan is no easy feat and she and her husband consider themselves road-trip warriors! She can be found blogging their adventures at the Good Old Days Farm Blog.