Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Traveling with Rugrats

You have seen the commercials: a family laughing at the beach, parents and children happily walking though an amusement park, a family huddled together at a camp fire roasting s’mores. It looks like vacations are easy and relaxed times, right? My vacations tend to be filled with tantrums, diaper explosions, sweat, some blood and bandages, and lots of tears (not just from the babies!). How do you have a successful vacation when you have small children? It is all about strategy, and I will share mine with you, along with the experience having three children has brought me.

The most important thing about traveling with small children is what you do before you leave. You must plan carefully. The first step is picking a vacation that is appropriate for the people involved. If you have four kids under the age of five, backpacking on the Appalachian Trail will be difficult. I am sure it could be done, but I look for easy vacations that most everyone will love. We also don’t have a huge budget since last year we spent a week at Disney World. For this year, our vacations include a week at my in-law’s cabin, a couple weekends visiting family, and day trips near the house.

The next thing I do is write lists. I start this at least a month in advance so that I have time to add on to the list, amend the list, and buy items for the list. Put this list somewhere you can see it often. I recommend the refrigerator door. Here is a version I made and use for myself. When I am finished making my lists, I can cut off the “Things to Buy” strip and take it with me to the store.

Click to Download a printable copy!
It can be difficult planning what to bring, but here are items at the top of my list to pack:

  1. Breakfast. Nutrigrain bars and Sunny-D are my family’s favorite. These also make great snacks for the car. Bringing along breakfast is cheaper than buying out all the time, and trust me: do not ever skip breakfast with kids. Ever.
  2. Extra underwear. This is another “trust me on this” if you have kids that have been potty trained for less than two years. Yes- accidents happen well after they shouldn’t anymore.
  3. Laundry detergent. See above.
  4. Snacks. My family has a list of treats I make before we leave. On car rides it is fun to break out a new snack every couple hours as a reward for staying alive.
  5. Bags for toys. I give each child a bag they may fill with whatever toys they want to bring on the journey. They are limited to that bag. This keeps the insanity to a minimum and gives them a job to do.
  6. Mini first aid kit. This is something I recommend you have on you all the time anyway. I keep one in my diaper bag. You can get a mini-kit from Walmart or Target pre-made, or you can make one yourself using a small container filled with common medicines, bandages, etc.
Some tips for car rides with little children:

  1. Pray. We start our road trips by reciting a family rosary. If you are religious, I suggest spending a few minutes at the beginning of the trip praying together as a family.
  2. Stop every two hours. This helps with toilet accidents, breaking up fights, and stretching legs. It makes the ride take longer, but in the long run it is better to have breaks.
  3. Stop to eat. When it is time for lunch or dinner, do not do it in the car, especially if there is a lot of driving happening. Getting out and running around is important for kids. If you pack meals to save money that is awesome, but consider doing picnics at rest stops so your kids can unwind a bit.
  4. Try to stick to your normal schedule. (at least as much as possible). If your kids normally go to bed at 8pm, keeping them up until 10pm each night will cause them to misbehave. I always bring a book to read or a craft to work on so that when they go to bed I have something to do until my bedtime.

The biggest thing I want to stress to you is that you are creating memories with your family. Try not to do it all. Pick and choose activities for your family. Spend time talking and listening to each other. Put the technology away and spend quality time together. Above all, enjoy being with each other!

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