Thursday, April 15, 2010

Traveling with Littles

I remember fondly those days of traveling. Driving to my mom's or my in-laws in the middle of the night. My husband would get home from work and we'd just decide to leave. Throw a few things into a suitcase, gas up and be gone. Our life was full of family get togethers, trips to the mountains, visiting friends in Sacramento. Driving here and there... it was never really a problem. Everything seemed so simple then. We'd just pick up and go whenever we wanted. Easy!

Fast forward four and half years later and we're still traveling, but boy does it look different. Two kids don't pack quite as lightly as we used to. Middle of the night travel is rare. And spur of the moment trips are a thing of the past. But still traveling.

These are just a few of the things that we've learned over the years that's made all of this possible:

*Plan--This might sound like a simple one, but really it's your first challenge. Making that mental change from being carefree to planning can be a tough step. But it's important to remember that once you start planning, you can have a bit of that old "carefree" lifestyle back. It'll just look different.

*Pack for the occasion--We try not to overpack, but with kids that can be a challenge. Still try to pack for what you need, not every possible situation. Believe me, I did this with my first child. And any 6 month old does not need the swing, the walker, and the stroller for a three day trip to Grandma's (mine was never put down that long). If you're going to be gone for three days, think about how many clothes you go through at home and plan accordingly. Yes, there will be accidents, but if you're visiting family or friends, there nearly always a washer and dryer available. Along the same lines, if you're going to the beach don't pack the stroller. If you're going to the lake, don't pack the swing. Think about where you're headed.

*Don't forget the medicine--On the other hand, don't forget the little things that you don't use every day. I've often thought, "Oh, I don't want to pack the Tylenol (or the sunscreen or the teething tablets)" thinking I won't need them and it's a waste of time and space. TAKE THE TIME TO PACK IT. I currently have 3 bottles of half used Tylenol in my cupboard because I keep needing them when I haven't packed them. What a waste!

*Pack snacks-- Even the shortest trip in our family neccessitates snacks. It amazes me how quickly these kids can become hungry and at the most inopertune moments. Like when we're miles from anything and they're screaming in the backseat for food. Goldfish, graham crackers, string cheese, granola bars and fruit are all great options and take little time to pack.

*Teach your children to entertain themselves--I've never owned a new car. Which in turn means my kids have never been in a car with a DVD player (ok, once in a rental). We drive once every 5-6 weeks to either my mom's or my in-laws' which can mean a 3 hr or 5 hr drive. How do we do it? Lots of books, doodle pads, crayons, magnet toys and car games. And this is another trick I learned from a friend...Keep the toy bag in the front seat with you. If the bag is in the backseat, your kids will go through it in 5 minutes and be bored with it. If it's in the front seat, they're more likely to really use what they have and ask for more when they're truly done.

*Plan in a few stops--This is the hardest for my husband and I. I get in the car and don't want to stop till I'm there. I just want to be there. But with little ones, they need to stretch their legs, run off some energy, see you face to face. And honestly it's great for all of us. Sometimes we pack lunches and stop at a park in Sacramento. Some times it's a stop to see friends along the way. Sometimes it's just knowing we'll get gas at a particular place and running around for awhile.

And other that, traveling really isn't bad with little ones. The biggest thing for us has been making a mental change to understand that it's not the same as it was before kids. But then again, nothing's the same as it was before kids. So why should traveling be any different?

If anyone has any experience traveling by plane or train with kids, I'd love to hear your tips. Most of our travel has been in the car, although we did once take a cruise with a 18 month old. That's an experience I'll have to tell you about another time. So how do you make traveling do-able with your little ones?

1 comment:

Sandra said...

Great tips...we have made so many trips to visit family in another state in the past 30 years...700 miles one way and almost 1/2 through desert...I thought I would lose my mind sometimes!

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