In case you have never been, let me tell you a little about spring in the Midwest.
On any given day, we can either be wearing short sleeves or have snow on the ground. And with the winter we have had, I am seriously ready to just get in the car and drive south until I see grass. As Spring Break season approaches, many of us will be packing up the family vehicle and trekking south. And, with summer holiday not too far off, I thought I’d brush up on my top five travel tips with children, as we’ll be venturing off in a few short weeks to South Carolina.
- Be OK with throwing your schedule out the window. You know, I used to feel terribly inadequate when I’d meet parents whose kids all napped at the same time, ate
at the same time, woke at the same time, etc, etc. My kids never did, even with my attempts to set a schedule. But part of living a travel-full life is being able to chuck the kids’ schedule without getting heart palpitations. I know couples who returned to a hotel room so their kids could nap. Maybe this works for some, but I would seriously feel like we were missing out. Lay back the stroller or strap on the baby carrier for a walk. But don’t stress if the naps happen at dinner time. I specifically remember a time in 2010 when my kids both fell asleep in a cab on the way to a restaurant when we were traveling in Egypt. They stayed asleep at the table/booth most of the meal, which equaled instant date night! Yes, they stayed up a little later that night, but it was a decent trade off.
- Snack, snacks and more snacks. I can’t believe how often I have forgotten this one. How easy is it to grab a handful of granola bars (or whatever packaged food your kiddos will eat) before a long day of travel? As we prepare in a few weeks, I am not only stocking up on the tried and true snacks but also grabbing some that can be considered treats we wouldn’t normally have at home.
- Technology can be your friend. I realize screen time is a hotly debated issue these days. However, when we are trapped in a car for 12 plus hours trying to make it to our Spring Break destination, we lower our standards. Yes, I said it. Perfectionist me used to hate it when people would say “lower your standards.” I like to now think of it as being open to alternative resolutions when presented with new challenges. When you arrive (or are on driving breaks), put the games and movies away, find a park and explore! I usually even hide the games until the return trip.
- I think a realtor in Chicago once told me that everything in negotiable. That statement took on a whole new meaning once I had children. I negotiate daily my way in (and out) of situations with my kids. My husband and I are history enthusiasts and have taken our two children (ages somewhere between 1 and 6 at the time) to two presidential museums. My son ate candy and fruit snacks out of my pocket most of the morning, and my daughter got to pick the restaurant where we ate lunch that day; meanwhile, my husband and I got to see at least part of the museum.
- Prepare early. My husband laughed a few years ago when he saw me packing up the suitcases a couple weeks before we were leaving. His fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants attitude leads him to wait until the last minute. However, I know that with my brain only half functioning most days, which inevitably comes from a sleep drought most nights, I work better with a system of lining all suitcases in the hall, and chucking items in as I remember them; then doing one final check at the end. This also ensures I’m not up until all hours the night before. At least, I’m not up until all hours packing suitcases. (Of course as soon as they are old enough, dear children will be doing their packing themselves.)
When disappointments happen, be OK with spending a little more to be happy. Last year in Estes Park, we upgraded our room at the start (a small price to pay for functioning outlets and a closer walk to the dining hall), and we were so much happier and relaxed for it. In San Antonio last spring, we veered off course a little to spend an extra night in a hotel near a theme park so that we could settle one of our sick children, before meeting up with family the next day.
Happy Trails! Maybe we’ll pass each other on South I-75.