Before we started having children, he often complained about children in public, and especially about children on planes. It was like nails on a chalkboard listening to him. So when we had our own, the thought of traveling with him drove me nuts. The last thing I wanted was for our daughter to get sick or cry on the plane and give him something to complain about. I really should have been more worried about my daughter's comfort for her sake rather than his.
Then when I became single the thought of traveling and doing everything myself was overwhelming. That is when I decided to always take someone with me when I travel. But let's face it… that is not always possible. The people around us are not always able to drop what they are doing to go play with us. So I had to learn how to do it all myself and I have learned some tricks along the way to take the stress out of traveling with children. Here they are:
1. Make a list of what needs to be packed in each person's bag. Start this list about a week before so that as you go through the week you can add things you forgot. Better yet, create the list on your computer to use over and over again.
Split the list into two sections. On one side of the sheet, put items that you can pack at any time. (I typically pull these items aside into a pile as I pull them out of the dryer as I am doing laundry. On the other side of the list I put items that get packed at the last minute. Things like toothbrushes, medicine, and favorite toys.
Once your children are old enough to read the list, they can start packing for themselves and all you have to do is go through the check list with them when they are done to be sure you approve of the clothing they have chosen. (My youngest loves to pack nice clothes for camping and camping clothes when she needs dress up outfits)
2. Even at a young age, encourage your children to pack their own backpack of things to do while traveling. This could include snacks, dolls/stuffed animals, small cars/trucks, coloring or reading books, or small electronics. Just make sure that they chose quiet toys to help you and the people around you keep your sanity while in route. Last but not least, teach them to carry the pack themselves.
3. Leave early and give yourself plenty of time for potty breaks. How quickly we forget that their bladders are much smaller than ours. If you feel rushed you will be tempted to tell them to hold it which can lead to accidents and cost you more time because now you have to clean everything up. By the way, if your little ones are still young enough that they have accidents, make sure you pack their bag at the top or put a change of clothing in their backpack for easy access.
4. If you are going on vacation and you can avoid agendas or schedules, I highly recommend it. As a parent we spend so much time rushing from one thing to another (soccer, piano, dance, gymnastics, martial arts, school, work... you get the idea). Vacation should be a break. A time to do whatever makes you happy... Not stress you out. So plan some activities but don't set a time to do them or a time limit. If you do have to schedule things, make sure the schedule is flexible so that if you are having a lot of fun you can enjoy what you are doing just a little bit longer.
When my girls and I leave the house for a trip, they know that if they ask me what time it is the answer will be "vacation time".
5. If you are planning on going somewhere you have never been before I highly recommend you search the internet for deals on attractions. Citypass.com has some GREAT deals on select cities. We took advantage of it while in Chicago and basically for the price of admission to two attractions, we had the option of going to 5 different attractions. So our goal was to hit at least two of the attractions just to justify the cost of the books. Luckily, we were able to hit 4 of the 5 attractions available to us. Not too bad for a three day trip.
As you are searching the internet for things to keep you entertained, don’t forget to look at the times everything is open. This is a mistake I almost made in Chicago. After buying the city passes, we found that almost everything on the pass closed between 4:30 and 6:00 pm. This limited what we could reasonably get to but also opened up the door to see other sights in the evening that we were not planning on like Navy Peer and the fun water taxi ride that we took to get from one attraction to another.
6. Look for hotels that cater to children. Many hotels have deals where kids stay and play or stay and eat free with a paying adult. This is true of Snowbird here in Utah. That is why the last two summers we have taken a mini vacation (one night) up the canyon to enjoy Oktoberfest at Snowbird where we enjoy free rides on the tram, a great meal at one of the resort restaurants, and all day activity passes for all the fun things they have going on. It is a great way to save money and create lasting memories.
I want to hear from you. How do you create great memories while keeping your sanity when traveling with children?