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. 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…
Ideas to Make Traveling with Kids Easier
I don’t dislike traveling with my kids enough that I avoid it all together. Plus, the older my kids get (and they are much older than when I first wrote this post), the better!
The following is a list of things that I have learned making 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 a trip long ago that I throughly dislike visiting if she’s at work all day. My husband usually has to work while on trips, and my kids are totally out of their element. Even though my father and mother-in-law had created a nursery for my son AND a spare room for my daughter, my kids still knew something was up and were a little more difficult to deal with than usual.
Combine that with visiting a place where I don’t have tons of friends, and rainy weather, and it just plain sucked to be home all day (essentially alone) with them. I learned that my trips should be planned around days when I knew my mother-in-law would 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 (way back when) by letting me tin-foil the windows when I had a baby in the nursery. It made it really easy for my kids to sleep there because their rooms were very dark, and because I made sure to use the same type of cheap, loud fans I normally did for white noise at home. Just having these two elements really made an enormous difference in their ability to sleep, especially for my then-21-month-old. He may have slept better there 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 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 they are 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 female. 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 (if your kiddo is not standing yet). Or this Slumberpod if they are standing. These incredible covers do a wonderful job at blocking out light and muffling sound. It’s really hard to share a room with some kids, but these covers can really alleviate several issues that come along with room sharing.
If you’re unable to get either, 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.
For more tips on traveling, dealing with sleep regressions (which are common after travel!), and getting onto an age-appropriate sleep schedule — sign up for my newsletter!