Growing up we were always fortunate enough to go on a vacation every year. It was expensive to fly and I don’t know that my parents really wanted to deal with the hassle of flying with two young children. So, for a lot of summers we’d pack up and make the long drive from Wichita to Florida. Now that my husband and I have young children we’ve made a goal to always travel somewhere for a vacation every year even if it was just a few hours away to Kansas City or Oklahoma or if it was a year we had a little more room in the budget to go to the beach. I think it’s important to for us to take these breaks to reconnect as a family. We’ve been to the beach with them twice and to KC several times, so we’ve got the road trip routine down. Here are my top five tips for traveling with kiddos!
Pack a cooler.
We always try to plan ahead and use the milk, bread, produce and anything else we have before we leave home that could go to waste while we’re gone. However, anything that doesn’t get used up that can travel, we pack it in the cooler and bring it along for something to either eat in the car or when we get to our destination. We’ve done this with yogurt, fruit as well as milk on occasion if the road trip isn’t too long. In my opinion, snacks are so important when traveling with children. My kiddos can get hangry pretty quickly so I like to have healthy food options readily available in the car. I usually go a little overboard with our snacks just to ensure we have plenty of snacks with a fairly wide variety of options for us all. The kids always think it’s fun when we get to go to the store before we go out of town and I let them help choose what snacks they’d like to bring. Another reason we pack more food and a cooler is because we try to save money by having simple foods available to us in our hotel room for either breakfast, lunch or late-night snacks. When we travel, I always make sure we have oatmeal and stuff to make peanut butter sandwiches and it’s been a life saver to have those for quick little meals in our hotel room even if they offer free continental breakfast! Also, make sure you bring some empty trash bags for either trash that seems to pile up so quickly in the car or if someone has to vomit.
Avoid taking the kids into convenience stores.
Recently we traveled to Kansas City when I was six months pregnant with a potty-training toddler and a five-year-old with a pea sized bladder so we had to make several bathroom stops. We tried to choose places that we could stop in that didn’t have too many snacks or other food items. I’m not a fan of rest stops personally so this was a little tougher. Every time we stopped at a convenience store the kids saw all the snacks, candy and drinks and wanted something. It’s not a big deal but when you’re on a budget, spending $10-$15 at every stop adds up quickly! One way to avoid this is by creating room in your budget for this or having them save up their money before you go on vacation and that way they have their own money to spend on their impulse snack purchases. This is also a great way to teach kids about saving money, budgeting and making financial decisions.
Pack an activity bag.
Usually a few days before we load up the car, I have my kids pick out a few toys and books to take in their back packs so they have something fun to do in the car if they get bored or restless. We’re not big on electronics so they don’t have an iPad or a DVD player in the car so we depend on what they pack in their bags to keep them occupied in the car and in the hotel room at our destination. One summer when we went to South Padre, I made a binder full of little activities for our three-year-old to have. It had coloring pages, a small white board, a color matching game with clothespins and a shape sorting game in it. His favorite thing that we brought was a small strainer from the dollar store with some pipe cleaner that he could practice using his fine motor skills while threading the pipe cleaner through the holes. For our one-year-old I brought a tissue box with several bandanas stuffed inside it because she loved pulling items out of things especially tissues!
So far, our kids have been pretty great travelers but a few times we’ve just needed to get out of the car. We usually try to not to plan on traveling taking a certain amount of time. That way when we do need or want to stop to get the kids out we don’t feel rushed to stick to any kind of schedule. If the weather is nice we like to find a fun park where we can stop. The kids get to play and this is another time having a cooler or sandwich stuff pays off because then we can have a picnic! In my experience kids travel so much better if they get little breaks outside of the car to run around and burn some energy!
Always book a hotel that has an indoor pool.
We love to swim and what’s better than letting your kids swim in the evening to get them sleepy before going to bed?
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