Top Ten Travel Tips With Children
I'm not the expert, but this comes from having made a couple of long trips with my children in the past year (both car and airplane!). Granted, I didn't fly cross country with six children, like Tristan did... and I didn't take my four children to France like my good friend Cheryl did, but in my own little world I think I've gotten pretty good at traveling with my children.
When we returned home from our last trip my husband declared that he had the traveling "bug", so I'm hoping we'll really make this a priority in the future. Traveling isn't always cheap, so saving in advance, searching out good deals, and taking advantages of free is always key for us.
I believe that exploring new places, meeting new people, and seeing God's wonders firsthand is an invaluable experience for my children. I don't want them to be afraid of new things. I'm willing to make a lot of other sacrifices in my life so we can travel.
*Disclaimer: We didn't start doing this type of thing until my kids were older - seemed like five was the magical age for everything getting easier in our house. We only made car trips before that time... and not a lot of them.
On to the list...
1. Pack LIGHT! In my family the children are old enough to keep up with their own rolling suitcase - it is THEIR responsibility when we travel. A few years ago I bought them each a fun suitcase set and we have used them a TON! There is no need to check bags - they just fit above us on the plane, and there is room in the side pockets for a book, cards, Kindle, etc...
2. Travel EARLY and OFF PEAK! I realize some people aren't early morning people, but our family is... whenever the kids are awoken at a very early hour it's usually because we're driving to Grandma and Grandpa's or we're taking an early plane flight. We have a ROUTINE and everything in it signifies the fun to come! Airports and freeways are also much more quiet in the early morning hours. Additionally, we don't travel on holidays. Period. In fact, we like traveling off peak and can do this since we homeschool. Traveling the week before Thanksgiving was wonderful - it was very quiet. Traveling the first week school is back in session is great, too.
3. Pack FOOD and ACTIVITIES! Yes, I know this is a no-brainer. Any mother in her right mind knows that hungry and bored children are a deadly combination. I stocked up on granola bars and peanut butter and jelly crackers. The kids also had a book (or Kindle), Mad-Libs (these were GREAT!), and playing cards. We hardly ever watch movies on our vacations - I think it turns your children into zombies and they learn less.
4. Give your children a responsibility - In addition to keeping up with their own belongings, I like to have my children remember gate numbers, exit numbers, help read the map - you get the idea. My six year old has a really eye for detail and sometimes he remembers things I can't! My ten year old has a true spirit of adventure and loves learning about new things... giving her some freedom and responsibility is good for her.
5. Give children an allotted amount of money for the trip - On our last trip to San Francisco, my husband told each child they could spend $20 as they chose. This way they aren't begging for everything they want during the trip. My daughter used her money on 4 separate things. My son spotted a Lego set (in the drugstore of all places) on the first day and never forgot about it. We went back the last day to get it. I was a little disappointed he didn't want something vacation related, but guess what? The day we got home and were exhausted from the red eye and time change - we all slept that morning - but not my son. He stayed up and built Legos!
6. Make sure your trip is SCHEDULED, but allow time for flexibility! There's nothing worse than standing around trying to figure out what to do (especially when there are antsy kids around!), so plan your activities in advance. My husband had almost every single thing planned by the time we got to California and it was wonderful! Last year when we visited The Erie Canal and Niagara Falls my sweet sister was our planner. Be careful, however, that you allow time to just "stop and smell the roses" and do some things that meet your children's fancies. AND, let your children help you plan!
7. Save money by eating a big breakfast!! We try to stay in hotels that offer a free breakfast (we like Holiday Inn Express - plus we get a friends and family discount which REALLY helps!)... so we encourage everyone to eat a big breakfast, and then we would pack lots of snacks for the rest of the day. Also, eating breakfast out is cheaper than any other meal. We would have a large dinner around 4:00 or 5:00. This worked perfect for us.
I think my children were more sad to leave the cinnamon rolls at the hotel than they were to leave California!
8. Be patient. And funny. Wow. This one goes a long way. It's hard sometimes, too. When you are walking home and everyone is TIRED from a long day, everyone is bound to be whiny. My husband is really good at making the kids laugh to diffuse a bad mood. (thank goodness, because this is NOT my strong suit!)
9. Study before you go! To get the most from our trips I always try to devote the week before we leave to learning about where we are going. I've done posts about Florida (mostly seashells and hermit crabs!), New York, and California so far and hope to add to this list!
10. Take full advantage of the National Park System -- Are you aware of all of the wonderful resources our National Parks hold? I just wrote a post about becoming Junior Rangers and what a great experience that was. National Parks are inexpensive, educational, and everywhere.
Do you have any travel tips to add? What has worked particularly well for your family?