Whenever I talk about our crazy schedule and how often we travel, we hear things like “How do you do all that traveling with 4 kids?” or “I’d pull my hair out if I had to be in the car that long with my kids.” While there have been times I’ve considered pulling my hair out, most of our trips have been pretty good. Here are some things I’ve figured out along the way.
1. Pick a Good “Time” to Travel
If you are traveling with young kids and you’re not sure how well they’ll travel, you may find it very beneficial to plan the bulk of your traveling during the hours your children normally sleep. For example, if you are traveling by car and your destination is 12 hours away, consider leaving at night, around your kids’ bedtime. If you have another adult driving with you, you can drive in shifts to ensure traveling all night is possible. Then, when the kids wake up in the morning, most of your traveling will have already been done.
Our kids are all currently over the age of 7 which means traveling during the day works just as well for us as long as we have things to entertain the kids and food for them to snack on.
If you’re traveling with infants or toddlers, early flights may work well for you, however, if you’re traveling with school age children or teenagers, you may want to choose a flight a little later in the day so you don’t have to deal with sleep deprived children in the airport!
2. Pack More Than You Think You Need
Always pack more than you think you will need. This goes for all things, but especially toys. A toy that you think will keep your child entertained for 15-20 minutes, will probably only hold their attention for 5-10 minutes. Therefore, make sure you have plenty of things to keep your child busy. If you’re on a car trip, consider putting a bunch of small toys in a box and letting your child pick 1 each hour. We often alternate fun snacks with fun toys.
3. Allow Time for “Pit” Stops
There is no such thing as a non-stop trip with kids (although I wish there were). It doesn’t matter how short of a trip you’re going on, kids aren’t able to sit for hours on end without stopping and without potty breaks. If you’re planning on traveling long stretches of road with no bathrooms, you may want to consider Underjams. This will keep your kids from having an accident that damages their clothes or your seat. While I always think it’s best to make pit stops, I know that there will be times when bathrooms are few and far between and stopping by the side of the road is not an option!
4. Pack Food for the Journey
There is nothing worse than a car full of hungry kids (unless it’s a car full on hungry lions which means you probably have a host of other issues as well). My kids have a lot of food sensitivities which lead not only to stomach issues but also to behavior issues. If we’re going on a long road trip, we pack a cooler full of healthy snacks that they love. I prep them in advance and typically include organic baby carrots, orange wedges, bananas, laughing cow cheese, turkey, string cheese, apples and granola bars. If we’re going to be traveling during meal time, I make sandwiches as well.
5. Plan a Few “Fun” Things
To ensure everyone in the family has a good time, make sure you plan a few activities that your kids will find fun. Having fun activities planned specifically for the kids will give them something to look forward to. For our family, one of our favorite “fun” things is a trip to the Russian Grocery in Indianapolis followed by dinner at Boston Market. We have traveled regularly from Indiana to Tennessee to visit my father-in-law and we’ve made it a tradition to stop at Babushka’s deli where the kids can get their favorite Russian candies and foods and then we follow it up with dinner at Boston Market (a treat since we don’t have one nearby). Your “fun” things don’t have to be extravagant (although I’m sure your kids wouldn’t turn down a trip to an amusement park). Whatever it is, make sure it’s something your kids will enjoy!
6. Bring along entertainment
Whenever we travel, my little kids each pack a backpack full of things to keep them entertained. We’ve traveled so frequently that they pack their own bags now with whatever they’re currently into. If I were to pack their backpacks I would include a Flashpad, coloring books, crayons, loom bands (they can make the bracelets on their fingers without actually bringing the loom), books, and a few small toys.
My older kids make sure their iPods, tablets, etc are charged and also bring a book or two for the trip.
7. Bring Your Sense of Humor
There are times when Murphy’s Law comes into play and whatever can and will go wrong, does. In those moments, a sense of humor will take you far! I’ve had trips where our luggage didn’t arrive, trips where we had car trouble, I can’t even count the number of times we’ve had planes delayed and cancelled and I’ve even had trips where one child threw up on another child. Yep…anything can happen, but a sense of humor can make all the difference in how your trip goes!
It’s hard to imagine any parent getting excited about traveling with their kids (the actual traveling part, anyways), but if you follow theses tips, the thought and act of traveling with your kids shouldn’t be as stressful. Just remember: kids are kids. They don’t have the patience or attention span of adults; therefore, traveling with them will require a little more thought and patience on your part.