The first tip for traveling easy with kids, is to not expect it to be easy all the time. It’s going to be worth it, but it may be a little stressful.
That being said, after about a decade of traveling with kids, we’ve learned some ways to do it fairly stress-free most of the time. That doesn’t mean we don’t have our moments. Remember not to expect a perfect trip, perfectly behaved children, or photo-worthy moments every moment. But good planning with plenty of flexibility can help keep you from feeling utterly overwhelmed. Here are a few of the things I have learned along the way.
FOOD needs to be a main priority. 45% of behavior problems in kids is because they’re hungry. If you’re like me, this means you have become incredibly adept at using google maps to locate every drive-through fast food restaurant within a five mile radius. If you’re a little more sophisticated, you should always be stocked with healthy snacks (in your car, purse, luggage, diaper bag, bra, etc.) and you will have a well planned food schedule that involves feeding them every 2-3 hours, BEFORE they get hangry.
SLEEP needs to be your other main priority, aside from food. Another 45% of your kids’ bad behavior is because they’re tired. Yes, it’s vacation and the schedule’s going to need to be more flexible. And yes, they’re excited and it’s hard to sleep in a new place. But YES, they’re going to turn into tiny little monsters before the end of the trip if you let them get too overtired.
Plan your schedule around the sleep needs of your youngest child, even if that’s a baby that’s napping at 9 and 1 and going to bed at 7. Sometimes that means you can be driving during naptime so they can sleep. Sometimes it means at least one parent needs to be in the hotel room with the littlest napper. But in the end, everyone will enjoy the trip more if everyone is at least somewhat well-rested.
Practice Self-Care, and Self-Improvement
The other 10% of your kids’ bad behavior, is because they’re a jerk. I hate to be the one to tell you, but even your sweet little precious angel was born selfish. They all are. The opposite has to be taught, and the most powerful teacher is your example.
You’re the adult. And 45% of your bad behavior is because you’re hungry and 45% is because you’re tired, so take care of yourself accordingly, the very best that you can. When you’re feeding your kids every 2-3 hours, eat something nutritious yourself. Take the opportunity to go to bed early with your kids while you’re away.
The other 10% of your bad behavior, is because you’re a jerk. So, try your best to be patient and loving with your babies, your partner, and yourself, because you don’t want a moment of anger to cast a cloud over those joyous vacation memories. Figure out your triggers, (hint: being hungry and tired are the two biggest ones) and practice some techniques to stay patient. Maybe that’s counting some breaths; maybe it’s taking a walk outside or a bathroom break (aka, hiding in the bathroom) to regroup. Practice, practice, practice.
If you or your partner do lose your temper, be quick to say “I’m sorry,” “I forgive you,” and “let’s move on with our day.” Traveling can be stressful – be kind to yourself and your loved ones.
Minimize Your Stuff
Less is more, people. One of the reasons I love traveling is that I don’t have to deal with all the junk I’ve unfortunately accumulated over the years in my home. We pack as lightly as we can, and it just makes life much simpler. The focus is on the experience, not on the stuff. Remember, the more stuff you bring, the more time you will spend taking care of it.
Simplify Your Schedule
Again, less is more. You don’t actually need to see 47 different tourist attractions to have a fun time. It’s not about checking things off your list, but about enjoying a new corner of the world with the people you love.
Your kids will be perfectly happy exploring a new space, given the time to do so free of hurry and distractions. And you will be happier if you have two or three activities to do each day that you truly value than if you try to do all the things that you think you’re supposed to be doing with no breathing room in between.
Sure, you should research a few extra options for the weather, or in case some don’t work out or don’t take much time, but don’t try to do it all. It’s vacation… So slow down the pace, breath in the moment, and enjoy the journey!