I would estimate that I’ve spent about 960 hours on road trips with my kids. That’s a total of 40 entire days people!
And after 960 hours you learn some things you should do. Pack electronics loaded with lots of games and movies. Pack lots of snacks. Make regular potty stops and make them go whether they think they need to or not. (You can check out more tips from a dozen awesome moms in my previous post, Traveling With Kids.)
Along the way to 960 hours you also learn lots of stuff NOT to do.
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1- Don’t let the batteries die.
I’m a mom who works hard to limit screen time. But to expect kids to sit still and quiet in a car for several hours or in an airport terminal without a game to play or a movie to watch, is a certain kind of torture. For the child and the parents.
So I make sure all the tablets and handheld game systems are fully charged and loaded. And we have car chargers to fit every sort of device in case batteries get low.
My daughter will actually spend some time coloring, so we pack that as well.
But not all backseat activities are created equal, which Thena from Hodge Podge Hippie found out the hard way..
“Don’t give them crafts that you can’t control or see what is going on from your seat. We now have glitter covered leather seats plus two windows completely covered with Paw Patrol Halloween stickers. While I love and support the arts….I’ve learned my lesson for our next road trip.”
2- Don’t forget the lovey or other things to help your littles sleep.
Oh heaven forbid the first time we leave ‘Ooh Ah’ the monkey or ‘Gigi’ the giraffe at home. I would almost rather leave my cell phone than forget those sweet tattered little stuffed animals. So check, recheck and check three more times that you have those before leaving your house and before you leave your destination to go back home.
Planning ahead will also help make nap and sleep time less stressful. Nicole from The Professional Mom Project says..
“Don’t forget to call your hotel ahead of time to make sure a crib or cot is in your room. That way if you need to you can let the kiddo have a nap when you arrive.”
Check out more tips from Nicole in her 3 Rules For Stress-Free Travel With Extended Family.
3- Don’t over-schedule.
Depending on the age of your kids, the schedule could make or break your trip. I know you may want to go to all the places and see all the sights, but it’s not as fun with cranky little humans. This is a mistake I’ve made so many times. There was one particularly horrific day in Washington, DC when my kids were way too young for a full day of historical monuments. It was monumentally bad. Seriously, the day has practically become folklore in my family.
Juli from Mostly Caffeinated Mom says..
“I usually plan one big activity per day, and maybe a small one (like dinner and an evening beach stroll) and that’s it. If more gets seen or experienced, great. But packing a day full of sight-seeing and adventure usually leads to crabby kiddos.”
And Alyson from World Travel Family also suggests a more laid back approach..
“Don’t rush them. If your kids are suddenly fascinated by a museum display, a plant or reptile, some crumbling ruins, leave them to enjoy. If they make a new friend of any age, let them hang out. Their schedule is as important as yours and if they’re fascinated by something, encourage that. I’ve seen parents rushing kids along, trying to tick off the next destination on their list, don’t do it. Encourage their explorations of the world every step of the way. Make sure they know that exploring the world is exciting and fun, not another thing your parents force you to do.”
Alyson’s family has been exploring the world, full-time, for the last 4 years. Check out her World Travel Family blog for more awesome tips, insights and adventures.
4- Don’t expect your kids to carry their own bags. They don’t. You carry them all sooner or later.
So many times I have packed adorable little character backpacks and suitcases for my kids and planned for them to carry them. Hello Kitty, Cars, Angry Birds. Adorable. But eventually I end up carrying all of it. So I finally accepted it and now put it all in my giant tote bag. At least that way I can keep track of it all, keep it organized and dole it out when appropriate.
But sometimes you have to let things out of your sight. Like when you check a car seat. But Kristina from All Mom Does has this valuable advice..
“Do NOT check your child’s booster seat with the airline without labeling BOTH pieces and putting them in a garbage bag together.”
Kristina learned that the hard way after checking her car seat’s base and back separately. When the airline lost one of the pieces she was forced to grab a mis-matched set from lost and found until hers was shipped to her house a day later.
Check out Kristina’s Best Tips For Air Travel With Preschool And School-Aged Children.
And sometimes you might just want to leave that car seat behind. Jalisa from Thrifty Haute Mom says..
“If you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort taking a car seat isn’t always necessary if you’re [using] the resort’s transportation (bus). There’s no place to buckle or use the car seat. There’s no sense in taking the time and effort of taking it and checking it with the airline if it’s not going to be used.”
5- Don’t expect to relax.
I have a good friend (a mother of 3) who says, “It’s a trip, not a vacation.” And it’s so true. Vacations are for people without children. And if you have a chance to vacation without your children, congratulations! Otherwise, good luck on your trip.
But it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Eileen from Families Go says..
“Don’t get caught up in what you think your vacation should be or look like. With kids vacations are easier and more enjoyable when you can go with the flow and adjust course when you need to. Part of this is under scheduling, so you have room for a do-over or to change plans when the line is too long, the kids are too cranky, etc.”
Check out Eileen’s travel blog including 10 Things To Not Pack For A Family Vacation.
Jalisa from Thrifty Haute Mom also suggests a light schedule..
“Don’t always go by an itinerary. When you have little ones it’s too hard to always be right on schedule.”
6- Don’t expect your kids.. or you.. to be on any sort of regular schedule.
Eating, sleeping, everything is thrown off when traveling. Your baby or toddler won’t nap and your older kids are turning the hotel bed into a trampoline when they should be tucked sweetly under the covers.
The best thing to do is to try to roll with it and have contingency plans. If you don’t think your little ones will nap on their own, schedule an outing that might induce sleep or plan for some time devoted to napping.
On one trip I drove my two littles all over a city I didn’t know in a rental car for an hour and a half so they would sleep. Best gas money ever spent.
Caitlin from Better With Babies says..
“DON’T stress! Routines will be a little off, kids might be cranky if they’re tired, but the fun and memories you have with your family will last a lifetime so have fun and relax.
Also, something I did on our first trip with a 10 month old. I expected him to sleep soundly all night in the pack and play. He ended up in bed with us which I was stressed about at first but soon realized it was a nice treat for the week for all of us.”
7- Don’t forget the small details.. that can become big deals.
Liz from It’s A Twinkie Life says..
“When the unexpected happens, when your toddler gets sick during vacation, you want to be prepared. This is why you should always carry a first aid kit complete with children’s Tylenol, Motrin, bandages, and nose suckers.”
Liz knows this from experience. Don’t miss her incredible story and more tips on what not to do when traveling to a tropical destination or an all-inclusive resort, in her post: How To Avoid A Disastrous Vacation With Twin Toddlers.
Niki from Toot’s Mom Is Tired says..
“Don’t forget to check the weather for where you’re going. We went north for the weekend to a friend’s house. Didn’t check the weather. I had no idea it was going to snow 10 inches. It hadn’t snowed in a while so obviously we didn’t pack boots and snow pants. We had to carry her outside because the snow was up to her thighs. Also, my husband only brought flip-flops. But that’s his own fault.”
I hope some of these tips help. Above all, I hope you have a great time traveling and making amazing memories with your family.
And I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
And be sure to check out the rest of the Frugal Mom’s Guide To Summer series.
Free Kids Activities has lots of ideas for summer activities for kids that are free or nearly free like bowling, skating, crafting and building. You can also get a Free printable Summer Activity Calendar and a Summer Adventure Checklist.
Library Games has a Free printable Silly Summer Mad Libs, Library Scavenger Hunt game and a Summer Reading Challenge sheet.
Educational Subscription Boxes has reviews on eight of the most popular boxes for kids of all ages. From science, to language and nature, you can find a subscription box that’s perfect for your child and your budget. It’s a great way to keep kids learning over the summer.
And Traveling With Kids has advice from several well traveled moms on what to do to keep your sanity on summer vacation.
Have a great summer!