My husband and I like to travel and we typically like traveling with our kids. We have traveled to Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., Virginia and took a cruise to the Bahamas. We took a road trip to South Carolina and Tennessee, and we most recently traveled to NYC! I even took a solo trip with all three kids to St. Augustine (what was I thinking?!).
Even with all those trips under my belt I had to reach out to my friend Stephanie to gain her insight on how she maintains her sanity while traveling with children. This woman is what I consider a pro! She has traveled so much with her two children alone! She started traveling with them when her daughter was 7 months old. And with her son at 3 weeks old. Her daughter is now 5 and her son is 3. She is a CHAMP!
So this list is a mashup of Stephanie’s and my 8 tips on keeping your sanity while traveling with kids!
1. Have zero expectations.
Kids can be unpredictable. While they may be well behaved or go with the flow kids at home, putting them in a new environment may throw them off a bit. If your children are still taking naps regularly, keep naps in the back of your mind. Missing a nap here or there may not be a big deal but cutting them out could make your trip very stressful!
2. Have a plan but be willing to bend.
Having an agenda is very helpful. What do you want to do? What are you wanting to see the most? What are your non-negotiable vs. your negotiables? Having an idea of where you want to go and what you want to achieve will help keep the chaos down.
3. Pack snacks and healthy options.
You never know where you will end up or the wait times you may experience in a new town. Adults can fight hunger back a lot easier than a child. Unless you want to deal with a screaming hungry child… have snacks that are easy to eat and easy to access. You may even want to pack a cooler if there is a long car ride involved. With our littlest we learned the hard way after a road trip to Tennessee. Her stomach was a little uneasy once we returned which was no fun at all!
4. Consider Airbnb when staying overnight in places with small children.
You can typically rent a nice house for 75-150 a night. Having comfortable beds with real kitchens can also be a money saver! The hosts are usually incredibly nice, and are the best people to ask what locals do in the area, or what’s worth seeing while you’re there. They always have WiFi and TV with more channels than a hotel (mostly for the kids to veg out after a long day of sightseeing and traveling) and most of them will have small accommodations like bottled water and coffee. Some even keep small amounts of food/snacks for you. You rate them as a host and they rate you as a guest so they want 5 star ratings because they get more guests that way.
5. Check the weather ahead of time!
Just because you are traveling to Florida doesn’t mean it’s going to be warm. And just because you are traveling to NYC doesn’t mean it’s going to be 20 degrees. Be aware of where you are traveling and go prepared! If worse comes to worse you can always pick up extra items once you arrive but if you don’t need to spend the money… why do it?
6. Pack extra changes of clothes in a backpack you carry with you.
You don’t want to be sifting through piled up suitcases and moving stuff around in the back of your car because your son accidentally peed his pants, or your daughter got ketchup on her shirt. Or worse… having to stop and spend extra money on articles of clothing you don’t really need!
7. Pack a potty!
If you have young children that are potty training or are potty trained, pack the portable potty! It’s extremely helpful if you need to pull over and there’s no clean place to go, or if one child is taking a nap and you don’t want to interrupt the nap by having to bring them into the store/bathroom.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you’re a mom traveling alone, don’t be afraid to accept or ask for help. Sometimes going on trips with kids requires extra bags and strollers, etc. When getting into places or onto busses or shuttles, it’s ok to allow others to help with the lifting. Stephanie said, “I would notice (as a single mom traveling with 2 kids a lot all over the U.S.) that it was common to see the wife nudge the husband and make him offer a helping hand. In airports there was typically staff or a kind stranger that would help me with my car seats, strollers and bags when I needed a helping hand.”