Vacationing With Kids - How to Pack and Travel With Kids - Top 11 Tips
The kids are out of school for the summer. Are you planning a summer break adventure? Are you dreaming of a tropical beach vacation? How about a cruise? Are you brave enough to take the kids to Disney World? As a mom with 5 kids, and a lover of all things vacation, I would like to share my favorite tips and tricks to make your trip actually feel like a real vacation.
1. Packing in Zipper Bags
I came across this tip online one day, and it has proven to be a total life saver. That is why I am giving it the number one slot in my top tips list. My girls are young, and my boys struggle with putting together matching outfits. Lay out your kids clothes by outfit, and then pack each outfit in a gallon size zipper bag. Don't forget the socks and underwear! You can even write their names and a day of the week on each bag just in case the suitcases get dumped out. No more letting your toddler dig through a suitcase in search of a new pair of shorts or a swimsuit. The zipper bag technique keeps everything in place until you need it! This also keeps my kids from using multiple outfits in one day. No more putting a new outfit on each time they get out of the pool. They only are allowed to open one bag per day! And the best part - when you get down to the last few days, they still have clean matching outfits to wear. Bonus - squeezing the air out of the bags before you pack them helps save room too!
2. Have the Kids Help You plan
My youngest child gets super stressed out in new situations. Traveling can cause anxiety in even the most seasoned travelers. Help relieve these fears in your kids by enlisting them to help you plan. It usually falls to me to pick out a destination. But after I do a little research, and come up with some choices, I like to have everyone in the family help decide what we should do. It is always interesting for me to hear about what they did or didn't like from other vacations and experiences, and some of our very best ideas have actually come from my kids!
3. Hotel or Rental?
When it was just the 2 of us, a stay in a luxurious hotel with room service and fresh linens every day was our definition of vacation. But now with kids, my idea of vacation is NOT having to eat out every meal. Who doesn't love to eat a bowl of cereal for dinner while laying on the couch watching Netflix? Okay... maybe it's just me! :) But seriously, our favorite vacations recently have been loading up the RV to drive across the country, or down south to a beach house rental in South Carolina. And now that we have a dog, this time of vacation is perfect to bring our furry friend. As our kids have gotten older, personal space has become a consideration. Our little girls will snuggle up with us on the couch for a movie, but our teenage boys will make themselves scarce or head to the game room to play XBOX. It's not for everyone, but lately we love the idea of vacation rentals.
4. Pre-Book and Plan Ahead
We once waited in line for 3 hours to buy tickets for the boat at Niagara Falls. It was well worth it, except I could have saved us such a headache if I had just bought the pre-sale tickets online. We laugh about it now! And from that experience I have learned to always plan head with the purchase of pre-sale, or skip-the-line tickets. This also really helps with budgeting since you can check the prices and options ahead of time, and because often times, pre-sale tickets are discounted.
5. Spend Money and Space on Great Gear
From bike helmets, to baby strollers, to good walking shoes, it always pays to have the right gear. Trying to push a cheap umbrella stroller that keeps tipping over, or nursing blisters caused by the wrong shoes, is a sure way to ruin a vacation. Good gear does cost more, but you reap the benefits in vacation happiness.
Pro-tip: Rent the park stroller at Disney or other amusement parks. These strollers are roomy, usually come with shade, and have ample room for drinks and snacks. The extra cost of renting a stroller is worth it when you save money on food and prevent your kids from getting overly tired from all of the walking.
6. Download Movies and Cartoons
I am a huge fan of streaming services. We don't even have cable anymore. And the best part... you can download shows and moving from many of your favorite streaming services for on the go entertainment even if you don't have WiFi. If you've ever been driving through the mountains of West Virginia with no cell service, or been on a plane at 35,000 feet, then of course that is the exact time your child would love to be watching a favorite show on the iPad. If you plan in advance, and download a few episodes for times without internet, it can be a real lifesaver! And don't forget the headphones. There is nothing worse than sitting next to a kid on the plane or in a restaurant where someone's child is watching cartoons on full volume with no headphones. Don't be the parent without the headphones!
7. Sunscreen Before They Burn
Ohio winters are long and cold. Days are short, and the sun seems like it will never shine again. And our skin can get sensitive to an immediate dose of vacation sunshine. Even if doesn't seem to hot in your vacation destination, it is likely that you are going to be spending more time outside than your skin is used to. Skin that has been hiding from the sun all winter is going to burn. Be proactive with the SPF, hats, and sunglasses. Nothing ruins a vacation quicker than a sun burn early in the week.
8. Travel with Basic Medicines
No one gets sick on vacation, right? Wrong!! The added stress of travel can even make you more vulnerable to illness. It's always a good idea to pack an arsenal of medicines for both you and your kids. It is so much easier to just grab the liquid Tylenol from your bag than to try and find a drug store open at 10:00 at night in a strange city because your child won't swallow a pill (speaking from experience).
Good items to take include: a fever reducer like Advil or Tylenol, an allergy medicine like Benedryl, a steroid itch cream, and even cough medicine for older kids. And don't forget any medications or vitamins your child might take daily, or medical equipment they might need like a nebulizer for asthma. And last but not least, pack some basic first aid items like Bandaids and antibiotic ointment.
9. Try Out Public Transportation
We have been all of the country with our kids. And we have cruised just about everywhere in the Caribbean. I have planned a lot of vacation, but never did I expect to find so much joy in trying out different forms of public transportation. Here in small town Ohio, we drive our cars and ride the school bus. We don't have public transportation like subways or taxis. As adults, we think of using public transportation as a necessity as just a means to get somewhere in a big city. So you can imagine my surprise when subway ride or bus ride ended up being the highlight of the day. Children really do bring a totally different perspective to experiences. Tied for favorite public transportation with my kids - the subway in Washington D.C. and the Cable Car in San Francisco, but our giant tour bus navigating the crowded streets of New York City is a close second!
10. Schedule Down Time
I try to plan down to the minute when laying out a vacation plan. I plan every mile, every meal, and every activity. I admit I do get a little obsessive about my planning when it comes to vacations. But event the best laid plans turn to ruin if you try and over do it. But the best laid plans can turn to disaster if you over do it. My family is very active. We like activities like hiking, bike tours, and even climbing. But if you have younger kids especially (or even older adults), it is important to plan for some down times or even naps Even an entire day with nothing on the agenda can be great. Over scheduling can definitely ruin a vacation. You don't want to feel like you need a vacation after you get home from your vacation!
11. Be Prepared for the Unexpected
And finally, my last tip is the one that every parent knows - be prepared for the unexpected. Even when it's hard, you really need to be flexible and be ready to just go with the flow. Don't put too much pressure on yourself or your family. Remember, you are on vacation, right?
Share your favorite tips in the comments below!