How to Make Travel with Kids Less Painful
I love weekend getaways. In fact, we used to go so frequently when we had just one child that my oldest still says that his favorite thing to do is stay in a hotel. He loves to travel! Fortunately for us, he was always a mellow kid so family travel with him was never really a challenge.
Enter my second kid. I used to say he was difficult, but after reading blogs about strong willed kids, I realize he totally fits the profile. I can check every box that characterizes a strong willed child. That being said, I didn’t want to stop traveling just because my kid was a bit of a handful. I just adapt our travel schedule to meet his needs.
Family travel with little ones can be challenging. Do you stick with schedules? Do you drop schedules? What do you feed your kids? How do you handle bedtime if you’re all in the same room? There are so many things to consider. I’ve always been laid back about schedules and it works really well with my oldest by my younger son definitely prefers being on schedule. In fact, when we are on Christmas break, he’s kind of miserable because he’s off schedule.
Even though he prefers being on a schedule, there’s something about being on a trip (I rarely call it vacation when you travel with young kids!) that loosens him up. That being said, I still try to follow some routine on trips.
Best Travel Tips for Parents with Young Kids
If you are dreading an upcoming trip, here are my best travel tips for traveling with young kids, particularly if you have a strong willed child!
- Schedule downtime: I usually try not to plan anything on our travel day. We typically do weekend road trips on Friday so we just have a super simple dinner, sometimes in our room the day we arrive and don’t do anything more than maybe hang out on the property. I also plan to have one dinner in the room (usually night two) because my kids are weirdos who don’t enjoy eating in restaurants too often.
- Relax bedtime: Note – this only works if your kids will not still wake up at their normal early time and be crazy the next morning. That being said, we don’t have a bedtime if we are all sleeping in the same room. We are pretty active when we travel so everyone usually falls asleep around 10/10:30 and the boys don’t wake up until around 8 or 9 a.m.
- Bring entertainment with you: Do you remember when you were a kid and stayed in a hotel (back before OnDemand existed)? There was never anything to watch on TV. We usually travel with our Amazon Fire Stick since it can be used with most hotel TVs and we have tablets in case the Fire Stick doesn’t work or the boys can’t agree on TV. We also let them each pack a backpack with some toys, books/color books and Legos.
- Pack snacks to save money: We usually stay at a hotel that has free breakfast and an in-room refrigerator. I stock the fridge with cheese sticks, yogurt and some fruit so we have healthy snacks at night (my kids love a late-night snack) and also bring an assortment of crackers, granola bars and other snacks that we can pack in our day bag.
- Travel with a day bag: We have a backpack that we bought years ago when we were going to Europe. It is now our day bag when we travel with the kids. We can put water bottles and snacks in it, as well as an extra change of clothes for my 3 year old and hats and sunscreen. We take it out anytime we’ll be gone for a few hours so that we don’t have to spend money on water or expensive snacks.
- Schedule car trips around nap time: If you have kids who still nap, try to schedule your car rides around naptime so that you don’t have to waste time doing a nap at your destination. For example, it is takes about two and a half hours to drive to San Diego from Los Angeles. We try to leave at my 3 year old’s nap time so he is well-rested when we arrive.
- Bring some comforts and safety tools from home: If you have really young kids, I highly recommend bringing outlet covers on your vacation. I didn’t do this the first time we traveled with my new walker and I was stressed out the entire time that he’d stick his finger in a socket. To this day, we travel with our white noise machine to help drown out normal hotel noise, although I also play Pandora lullaby music from my iPad to help them fall asleep. I also bring two sippy cups for my three year old and a water bottle for my older son. And finally, if we are staying in a suite, we bring our baby monitor with us so we can keep an ear on the kids. Think of some of your normal comforts of home and if they are packable, bring them with you.
Travel with kids can be tough. You’re basically parenting your kids in an unfamiliar location. They’ll probably have a tantrum or two, even if they’re not prone to tantrums. That being said, it is a really great opportunity to spend time together without the distractions of home.
To me, even a tough trip is better than no trip. I have so many fond memories of traveling with my parents and I want to make similar memories with my kids. I also know that my time to travel with my kids is limited.
I was a pretty terrible teenager on our family vacations and didn’t want to hang out with my parents. Some day, I won’t be the most interesting person in my kids’ lives so for now, I’m taking full advantage of the fact that they love being with me, even if it comes with some struggles (they’ll make for great embarrassing stories later).
My Favorite Travel Gear
Here are some of our favorites for family travel, in case you want to take some comforts with you on your next vacation.
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