Travel is in my blood.
A home base keeps me sane, but regularly leaving that home base and striking out into the unknown makes my heart happy, and keeps my wanderlust in check. I want to see everything there is to see in this world, and while I’d be fine with doing it on my own, that wouldn’t work for my family. Having a kid that’s willing to go with me, and a supportive husband, makes it not only doable but I’d say more exciting.
Before her seventh birthday, my girl will have crossed 25 states off her list.
She’ll have driven across the country twice and 3/4 of the way across the country one more times.
She’ll have hit a national park/monument for every year of her life, with one to grow on.
She’ll have spent more time camping then a lot of adults I know! And she loves it.
She’s six, so I’m not going to say she doesn’t have her impatient moments, her cranky times, or her just get me out of this damn car meltdowns; but in general, she’s amazing to travel with. A front seat stocked with food, a big bag of toys and coloring by her side, and a charged kindle on reserve for hour six… this girl is ready to go.
If travel is in your blood, but you’re not sure how to get your kids on board, here are a few tips and tricks to make it more enjoyable for everyone.
Travel with your kids: 8 steps to take to leave without losing your mind!
Make plans, but leave room for improvising!
What are the top things you want to see or do on your trip? Figure them out, plan what needs to be planned, but then… let go a little! Have a few “possibles” in reserve for days when you need some activity, but don’t be afraid of unscheduled time. Too much scheduling and too much going makes everyone cranky.
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Pack with the type of travel in mind.
On a cross-country journey, I made the mistake of packing one bag per person.
Size-wise it worked!
The bags were each the perfect size for the stuff we needed for our two week journey. The problem with that was it looked like we were moving into our tent for a month for each one night stop! Ugh. It was annoying for me, and dragged out the process for Gwen.
On the way home, I was prepared. One bag for our journey home clothes, another bag for our vacation clothes that wouldn’t be needed. Suddenly our nightly setup was so much easier and quicker, and getting dressed in the morning faster too. If you’re making multiple types of stops (camping, staying with friends, etc), divide up your clothes so you can grab the least amount of bags per stop.
Schedule leaving day carefully!
No one wants to start off their trip feeling rushed and harried; and kids pick up on it when you’re feeling annoyed. Know what time you want to leave (and what is your absolute MUST leave by time), and count back to figure out exactly how much time you need to get ready and out the door. Then add some extra time for the inevitable delays.
Build in extra stops.
Fingers crossed you won’t take 10 bathroom breaks in a 5 hour ride, but if you anticipate and build in one an hour, then you’ll feel ahead of the game if you don’t need them. Check your route out too; is it a big road with visitors centers and rest stops right on the road? Or is it a smaller road which will require a little bit of searching. Knowing what’s ahead is half the battle. Make sure you build in a food stop as well if you’ll be traveling over a mealtime. It’s a great way to get in some leg stretching.
Know your travelers.
Driving over nap time? If your kids will sleep in the car, it’s a great way to get some quiet on your drive. Do your kids need a special stuffed animal or blanket to be able to sleep well? Make sure you have it in the main part of the car, not packed in a suitcase in the trunk! Don’t have a napper? Make sure you have some books for your voracious reader, or a pad of paper and some colored pencils for your budding artist.
Stock up your car.
Food, drink, drawing supplies, a new toy or two, books, and maybe a kindle or other electronic devise. We always pack a little bag of things for Gwen to take on longer vacations: books and toys, little things to keep us entertained on rainy afternoons or quiet evenings.
But separately I always put aside a few things that she doesn’t know I’m bringing to break out in the car. This is a great time to get creative with some special road trip games.
Depending on the age of your child, that could be anything from spotting license plates, to car bingo (where you create cards beforehand with things you might spot on your trip), or a simple counting game (how many red cars?). Other things you want to be sure to have (unless you want extra pit stops): some healthy, filling snacks; a refillable water bottle or two (freeze it half full the night before, then top it off before you leave to have nice cold water); some great music.
Show a little extra consideration.
Recognize that this is a unique situation, and that special considerations can go a big way to making the ride a happy one for everyone. Remind yourself all the running and playing your kids normally get to do in the time you will be spending on the road. We aren’t big on TV in our house, but Gwen does enjoy her videos. We do not have a DVD player in the car, and normally Gwen does not get my iPhone or Kindle. However, I will make an exception during our long car rides. A little leniency, in some way, can go far in keeping everyone happy.
Give yourself a chance to recover afterwards.
I always get a little bit of “emotional sniffles” when coming back from vacation. Just thrown off, and while you know it will be back to normal soon, in the meantime you aren’t always sure what day it is, and you just want to sleep it off. Chances are your kids will feel the same (probably minus the sleep it off part)! Plan in a day or two of downtime afterwards if you can, get them to sleep a little early for a few days, and plan to give them a little extra TLC (yourself too!).
Most of all, know that even if things aren’t perfect, even if someone gets grumpy, you are making amazing memories that your kids will remember for life!
Meegs has been blogging for over a decade at A New Day, and is a birth doula and yoga teacher at Rooted Breath; all of which she balances with being the mother to an energetic, sassy first grader named Gwen. Besides yoga, birth, and breastfeeding, her passions are travel, reading, hiking, cooking, and writing. She is a crusader for the environment and LGBTQ rights. You can connect with her on Facebook or Instagram.
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