Every summer I get a little stir crazy, looking forward to packing up the car and hitting the road for a little family time. And every summer I return home exhausted from the process of packing for and traveling with my children. Don’t get me wrong, I love our adventures. But traveling with kids is seriously hard work, unless you are some sort of parenting ninja.
Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up along the way to help preserve my sanity:
- Make sure all of your children wear the same size clothing and shoes to cut down on sorting time while packing.
Have you ever tried to pack for yourself and multiple tiny humans? It’s exhausting. If you spend too much energy on packing, you’ll find yourself burned out before you even begin. Pick one size of clothing that mostly fits all your children and just pack a bunch of clothes in that size. They may be a little big or small but at least you won’t need to separate each person’s inventory or worry about having enough clothing for each child.
- Better yet, don’t pack any clothes. Buy new everything when you arrive.
Just make sure you only vacation in places that have a target.
- Set up individual tents in your hotel room so each child has their own “room.”
Have you ever tried to put a toddler to bed when they can see you or their older siblings hanging out in the same room? Ha. Good luck. Do yourself a favor and do whatever it takes to compartmentalize your small humans. If they are old enough, just get them their own room.
- Eat only carry-out food.
Let’s be honest here. Taking small children out to eat at a restaurant is already a herculean task. Now imagine you’ve been trapped in a car all day and, worse yet, THEY’VE been trapped in a car all day. Do you really want to go to a public place where they will be expected to do MORE sitting while patiently waiting for their food? No. You don’t. Call that food in, pick it up (or better yet, have it delivered) and have a picnic on your hotel room floor where you can almost eat while your offspring run around in a contained space with no one judging you. Sure, you will probably spend more money on food than on the rest of your vacation combined. But at least you’ll be slightly less stressed. Slightly.
- Plan everything you do around meal and nap schedules.
Forget about teaching flexibility. Vacation is about survival. You need to conserve your energy. They have the rest of their life to learn valuable lessons. Right now you just need to live long enough to get them back to home base.
- Hire a Sherpa to carry your things.
Or take a wagon with you everywhere. Because kids come with stuff. So. Much. Stuff. You will need sippy cups and blankies and binkies and toys and extra shoes (because you know we are losing one) and diapers and wipes and milk with coolers and ice and snacks and a stroller and a booster seat and a baby sling because your arms are full because you are carrying so much stuff and ARE YOU FOLLOWING ME? Don’t try to carry it all yourself. Just don’t.
- Plan only indoor vacations so you don’t have to worry about things like bugspray or sunscreen.
Nature can be volatile, unpredictable and harsh. Just like young children. There ain’t room for the both on this vacation boat. Have you ever spent an extended period of time with a young child covered in mosquito bites? ‘Nuff said.
- Bribe, bribe, bribe.
Junk food is your friend. So is TV. So is candy. So are new toys. Get an iPad for every child if you have to. Find what they love most and use it to your advantage. Sometimes buying yourself a few minutes of peace with a few packages of sugar can mean the difference between making it til bedtime or losing your $%&* in public and then later bribing them into forgiving you because you feel guilty. All roads lead to the same place; one is just easier than the other.
- Never go anywhere that requires an airplane, train, bus, or other type of public transport.
In the car you can turn up the radio and pretend they are peacefully playing together. You can ignore the snack debris that has completely covered the floor (and possibly ceiling) of the vehicle. You can strap everyone in to their own seat and sit in your own private front seat kingdom. You can ignore dropped toys and milk and food. If they happen to misbehave, you can choose whether to ignore the error or correct it. You can even choose to ignore “that smell” because you know it’s at least coming from your DNA pool. But public transportation is a different story. You become responsible for their mess, their noise, their behavior. No pretending it doesn’t exist. No putting it off til later. Good luck with that.
- Completely redefine your definition of “travel.”
Rethink that grand trip across the ocean. Or the country. Or the state. You’ll be too exhausted to remember anything. Except you’ll be broke so you won’t be able to forget. Let’s be honest: You’re kids will only remember the hotel pool anyway. So head down the street to your local hotel and book a room for a night or two. No need to even pack—you can run home and change clothes. The kids get the pool and you can save your energy and money for something truly adventurous. Like grocery shopping.