Ahhhh, the family trip. Anyone with kids knows that traveling with your kids, especially young kids, doesn’t really equate to a “vacation.” I, cynically, like to say that the term “family vacation’ is an oxy-moron. I understand now why my own parents and my husband’s parents took regular vacations without the kids. As I write this, I can think of numerous friends I have who seem to genuinely enjoy traveling to far-off lands with their children. I should have one of them write a guest post on this blog because one of the very last things I ever want to do is (willingly) shell out tons of cash, get on a plane with two kids, and then spend several days out of my house/away from my things. I love my children, but traveling with them can be tough! Maybe that’s just for uptight people like myself, or maybe I’m just saying what everyone is thinking (I have a tendency to do that, usually at inopportunes times and places such as weddings, family dinners, and movie theaters).
However, I don’t dislike traveling with my kids enough that I avoid it all together. I still adore my in-laws (lucky, I know!) and since they live in Oregon and we live in LA, I make it a point to visit at least twice a year. Plus, I’m starting to enjoy taking my older daughter, 4, on trips now that she isn’t napping and can appreciate places like the zoo and Disneyland without having to leave halfway through to take a nap. The following is a list of things that makes traveling with kids easier.
1. If you are visiting extended family, and you actually like your extended family, plan your trip around times you know people will be off work and at home.
My mother-in-law is my favorite member of my husband’s side of the family (again, just saying what everyone is thinking). I discovered on my most recent trip to Oregon that I throughly dislike visiting if she’s at work all day. My husband usually has to work while we’re here and my kids are totally out of their element. Even though my father and mother-in-law have created a nursery for my son AND a spare room for my daughter, my kids still know something’s up and can be a little more difficult to deal with than usual. Combine that with visting a place where I don’t have tons of friends and rainy weather and it just plain sucks to be home all day, essentially alone, with them. I don’t know why I didn’t notice this until this last year, but I’ve now decided that my trips will be planed around days when I know my mother-in-law will be home to hang out with me. You can tailor this to fit your own needs, but having some familial reinforcements can be super helpful and fun!
2. Try to keep your kids on schedule, and try to mimic their sleep environment, especially with a very dark room and a very loud fan.
My in-laws indulged me years ago by letting me tin-foil the windows in the nursery. That was four years ago. I walked into that room to put my son to bed last week and was informed that the windows have since been re-tin-foiled. It’s been really easy for my kids to sleep here because their rooms are very dark, and because I’ve made sure to use the same type of cheap, loud fans I normally do for white noise. Just having these two elements has really made an enormous difference in their ability to sleep, especially for my 21 month old. It’s been really easy for him to nap through the noise because it’s so loud and so dark in his room. He might sleep better here than at home!
3. Even though you should try to keep your kids on schedule, consider it a vacation for them and let them have fun!
I would say my kids, in general, watch quite a bit of TV, maybe up to 2 – 2 1/2 hours on some days. When we vacation, especially in someone else’s home, they watch a lot more TV than they normally do. They also skip meals and graze more often. Since I’m already being uptight about making sure they go to sleep on time and nap, I try to let other things slide.
4. Do your best to research local, cheap babysitters ahead of time.
If you happen to be religious, it’s helpful to find a local church of your same denomination several weeks before your trip and get in touch with whatever adult is in charge of the youth program. Have them recommend some potential youth in their congregation that might be interested in babysitting for you. Call these kids and ask them if they’d be willing to babysit and ask them what their fees are, and talk to their parents as well (since they won’t know you). It helps to mention that you are also Jewish, Catholic, Hare Krishna, etc. Speaking with the adult youth leader, and perhaps having that person give you personal references on a particular young person can be very helpful. That way, you can have a a nice 16 year old come to your destination, babysit for a low fee, and you can go out an enjoy yourself! Plus, if your kids sleep well at night, you can likely put them down for the night and have the babysitter come over after their asleep and just sit around and watch TV. It’s also a good idea to speak with a few other people that that person has babysat for, and, let’s be honest, it’s better if the babysitter is a girl. Again, that’s just what everyone else is thinking.
5. If you’re sharing a room with a kid in a Pack n’ Play, make it as conducive a sleep environment as possible.
I’ve heard really great things about the SnoozeShade for Pack n’ Plays. This incredible cover does a wonderful job at blocking out light and muffling sound. It’s really hard to share a room with some kids, but this cover can really alleviate several issues that come along with room sharing. If you’re unable to get the SnoozeShade, I’ve had parents experience success simply by covering the entire Pack n’ Play, save one corner facing away from you, with heavy blankets. It’s important that you make absolutely certain the child will have adequate air circulation if you have the Pack n’ Play covered, but the heavy blankets block out noise and light, and that will help everyone sleep easier. Also, use a fan for white noise.
Hopefully some of these tips will make traveling with your kiddos a bit easier!