Family Travel Tips: Just in Time for the Holidays!

Traveling with kids isn’t simple. Sure, it is totally possible, and I someday dream of taking my kids on trips to Australia and Europe, but for now we focus on our twice-yearly trip across the country to see family. We’ve made this trip many times in the past five years, first with just a baby, then with both kiddos. Over time we have developed some systems that help us manage some of the stress that travel can bring. Here are the tips I compiled on our recent fall trip out to California:

Have snacks everywhere!

When we fly places we pack pretty well. We usually have one small suitcase, a small duffle, and two backpacks (one

Apple picking fun just before our travels!
Apple picking fun just before our travels!

kids backpack and one for the G-man). When we put it all in the trunk of the car I’m always impressed by how little luggage we seem to have. Then we go get our food back, and it is a whole different story. We load up one, sometimes two, canvas bags. We pack sandwiches for the plane ride out, several bags of peanuts, almonds, dried cranberries, and usually a chocolate bar or two. We have apples, clementines, pita chips, tortilla chips, and more. We usually have one little container with leftovers like quinoa and some baked tofu that we couldn’t bear to throw away. We eat some of this as our dinner on the flight, but the rest of the goodies we save for our travels. No matter where we are or what we are doing I can whip out a bag of almonds and cranberries and usually appease my children for at least a few minutes.

Scope out food options in advance

Of course, it is good to have other food options as well. During this last trip we were driving all over the place and we needed options for getting food and finding a bathroom at a moments notice. Before we left, I mapped out our various destinations and driving routes on Google maps, and then searched for Jamba Juice, Starbucks, and Chipotle along these routes. These are the chains that I know my kids like, are totally vegan-friendly, and have decent bathrooms! In Northern California these chains are also all over the place, so I know my chances of finding them, even just a bit off the highway, are good. Sure enough, we made our requisite stops at each of these places, and the kids throughly enjoyed their green and mango smoothies from “the smoothie store” (as they have named Jamba Juice).

Driving with kids can suck

OK, this doesn’t sound like a tip; it sounds like a complaint (or just a truism). But I have some ideas to help with the complaint! We try to schedule the longer driving part of our travels during a sleep time for the kids, be it afternoon when they are more likely to nap, or late at night. The G-man and I have logged many caffeine-fueled drives across Northern California late at night because we knew that is when the kids would sleep during the drive and spare us the broke-record sound of “are we there yet?!”

Driving with kids can suck BUT there are usually trucks!

More apple picking fun!
More apple picking fun!

However, we can’t always work out the driving schedule that way, nor do the kids always sleep during the appointed “go the !@!$% to sleep!” times. So, what to do? I’m not ready to let the kids handle my tablet computer without me their to catch it if they drop it, so we have to find some other ways to entertain them. This trip they did well with coloring books and a rousing game of “Count the trucks!” They had to try and count as many trucks as possible, and keep track of different categories (like dump trucks, frieght-trucks, tow-trucks, etc.). This worked well until LP and IP started fighting about whether they saw 2 or 3 tow trucks, but I’ll take that in exchange for the 30 mintues of entertainment that preceded it.

If you are in a hotel, stay on the ground floor whenever possible

We stayed in two hotel rooms this trip, which was a first for the kiddos (well, first time that they will remember). They both announced that they LOVE hotels. In the first hotel the very first thing the kids did was run and jump on the bed, then run around in circle, then they started to move pillows around to build a fort on the bed. Oh, and the next morning when normal people were asleep at 6 am? They were up and going. I was SO glad we were on the ground floor because I would have felt horrible about the people below us otherwise! In our second hotel we were on the third floor, but the kids were completely wiped out after playing all day with their friends, so everyone went RIGHT to sleep (thanks for that Mandy!)

So, these are just some of the lessons we have learned from our recent travels with kids. What other tips do YOU have about kiddo travel? Comment below!

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