Summer is upon us and for many families that means travel time. Whether it’s a long road trip, a short weekend getaway or exotic travels to faraway lands, traveling as a family can be a wonderful way to spend time together and reinforce your connection.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Traveling with kids isn’t a vacation; it’s a trip.” While this may ring true to many of us, the benefits of traveling with kids are real. Getting away from your usual surroundings and traveling to a new place can foster bonding, cooperation, family problem-solving and more. That doesn’t mean that traveling with kids is always easy. Especially when kids are young, a disruption in their routine can mean everyone gets a little grumpy.
While not every possible problem or issue can be avoided when traveling with kids, being prepared and planning ahead can go a long way to help your trip feel smoother. Here are a few real-life tested tips for traveling with kids this summer while still maintaining your sanity:
Stick to a routine
Traveling upends everyone’s typical routine, and while some of that change can be fun, for young children, a dramatic change in routine can be disruptive and may lead to some extra temper tantrums. Mealtimes and bedtimes may be a bit off-track but the closer you can stick to a routine, the more everyone will enjoy the trip. If your kids still nap, try to get them down for a nap at the usual time each day. That might mean heading back to the hotel in the afternoon, or it may mean going for a drive so the kids can nap in the car. Either way, making space in the schedule for naps (if needed) can help your kids stay in a better mood and enjoy experiences more. The same goes with mealtimes. Not all meals will be at their usual time, but trying to stick to a routine can help.
There’s no way to predict all that might happen on a trip with kids. Flights get delayed, babies have diaper blowouts, kids get sick…every possible mishap is on the table. Prepare for a few possible scenarios and pack any extra supplies you may need. For plane rides, it can be helpful to pack extra clothes, diapers and snacks. For car trips, keep extra napkins, trash bags and blankets on hand for any number of mishaps or spills.
Of course kids usually need some sort of entertainment to help pass the time while traveling. Nowadays, many families rely on electronic devices. If you choose to use electronic entertainment, set clear boundaries on screen time during your trip. Even with the most entertaining devices, kids may still get bored or need a change of pace.
Consider bringing along non-screen forms of entertainment as well. If you want to be extra creative, try packing a few new small items (e.g., toys, games, books) into individual bags that the kids can open at different stages of the trip. This can be a fun easy way to build anticipation and help pass the time with kids. Another fun option: Bring family photo books, like Chatbooks, for the kids to flip through in the car and at the hotel. Looking through pictures taken at home and in the backyard can provide your littles with a sense of comfort while in new surroundings.
Almost any trip with kids will involve a lot of snacks. Of course, it’s helpful to pack a balance between healthy items and a few treats. With irregular mealtimes and unpredictable menus while traveling, snacks can be a great way to help kids avoid those “hangry” moments.
Keep expectations low
We go into every trip with an idea of what each day will be like, but reality is often quite different. Real-life travel with kids is often unpredictable, messy and a little chaotic. Try to go with the flow and keep your expectations low. Especially with young kids, things will pretty much never go as planned. Avoid packing too many stops or activities into each day’s itinerary. Prioritize the most important places or activities you’d like to do and aim for those. With kiddos, you probably won’t be able to move as fast or see as many attractions as you think.
And you may have an idea of the “perfect shot” of your family, but in truth, it may be hard to snap those candids and portraits after a long day exploring or a hot day out in the sun. Keep your expectations low, and remember to snap tons of pictures, even the hard moments. Capture every memory, from the posed photo at the museum to the temper tantrum over a sandwich with crusts. Your pictures don’t have to be perfect, what’s important is remembering every moment!
Slow the pace
Young children move slow. It’s part of the joy of early childhood. They still marvel at every new flower or unusual animal they see. They literally take the time to stop and smell the roses. This is helpful to keep in mind as you plan your trip. Understanding that it will probably take longer than expected to see an attraction or go through a museum can help you keep your patience.
Despite the challenges, traveling with kids can be a great experience for you and for them. Even when mishaps occur (and they will), they become a funny memory you can all laugh about years later. The main goal of summer travel as a family is not always to see all the attractions or big events but to make memories and experience new destinations as a family.