Once upon a time, my husband and I went on vacation. We boarded an airplane. We slept in. We wore fancy clothes and ate fancy food. We read books and had uninterrupted conversation. We RELAXED.
And then we had kids…
After our tiny humans arrived on the scene, vacations became a thing of the past. We still traveled, but an airplane was quickly replaced by our trusty suburban. Sleeping in became barely sleeping. The golden arches (McDonalds, for those of you not versed in childhood cuisine) and yoga pants became our best travel friends, and we always returned home far more weary than when we left. But traveling as a family has still proven to be worth it. It might not always be magical, but I promise you that it will always be memorable. So if the mountains, the beach, the big city, or your relatives in another state are calling, remember these tips for road trippin’ with tiny humans, and don’t let the fear of family travel keep you rooted at home!
(Sidenote: I know family vacations are not always possible because of finances, work schedules, or extenuating circumstances. We’ve had plenty of summers where a season pass to the zoo or neighborhood pool were all of the ‘vacation’ we had, yet we still ended those summers with smiling faces and perhaps a bit more of our sanity in tact.)
Take Help With You
My number one tip for traveling with small children is to bring Grandma along for the ride! Seriously. Grandma gets a free trip, and you get another set of hands and eyes. It might be an added cost, but the extra help and the memories made are priceless. This was the first year in over a decade that we ventured out without grandparents in tow and thought, “Hey! We can do this!” However, if bringing Grandma along is not an option, traveling with another family can prove to be helpful (and fun!). When it comes to road trippin’ with small children, there will always be solidarity in numbers.
Manage Your Mindset
vacation: a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday
adventure: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity
We no longer vacation. We adventure! And this mindset has made all of the difference in the world.
Start Them Young
Just go. Get out there! Don’t let the idea of traveling with children keep you confined to your city. My children are excellent at road trips because it has always been a part of their lives. From year one, we have strapped them into their car seats and hit the open road. Not all of our trips were pleasant, mind you. Sometimes our trips have ended with all six of us crying and vowing never to speak to each other again, but those are our most favorite memories and stories to tell now that the kids have grown. So don’t wait to travel until your children are older or you have more money and time. Time is something you can never get back. You might as well make the most of the moments you have been given! Today is the perfect day for an adventure.
Provide Adventure Packs
For small children, I buy out the dollar spot and wrap small activities/toys for them to open every time we cross a new state line. This keeps morale up (grumpy children do not get gifts), and it prevents them from using all of their activities before we’ve even left our neighborhood. For older children, we utilize the internet and make adventure notebooks. We print off coloring pages, crossword puzzles, word finds, travel bingo, maps for crossing off the license plates we pass and put all of their sheets in a three ring binder. A trip to the library before we leave also helps to alleviate travel boredom. And if all else fails, I am not above letting them watch Netflix as we navigate down the road.
Journey vs. Destination
Sometimes its best to throw everyone in the car, power through, and reach your destination as soon as possible. But if circumstances allow, enjoying the journey has proven to be one of our favorite aspects of road trippin’. My family just returned from a 3,000 mile adventure that spanned over nine different states. We never drove more than seven hours at a time, and we planned different stops (or mini adventures) along the way. It helped break the trip up and allowed us to see far more of our beautiful country that we would have missed had we not stopped. We also planned a different route home, so the scenery was always fresh.