Recently, I’ve had some Mama’s reach out to tell me that I’ve inspired them to travel with their kiddos…I absolutely LOVE this!
I’ve said it before on my blog, and I’ll say it again…
I can’t speak highly enough of the benefits of traveling with your children – for both them and you! It may not always be easy, but it will always be worth it because good or bad, it creates an amazing bonding experience which provides memories you both will never forget. It instills wonder and adventure while encouraging curiosity in our kids, while giving us parents the opportunity to truly see the world through a child’s eyes. I like to think with each new trip we take together, my family and I are clothed in a new sense of fearlessness, ready to take on the world, no matter what it may throw our way!
Multiple Mama’s have asked me for a checklist of sorts to help prepare them to travel with their kids. Below you’ll find some of my best advise and reminders! Another resource for y’all is an older post I wrote called “Traveling With Toddlers”. In it I give my top tips for traveling with young kids so you can survive a drive, fight a flight and keep sane on a plane 😉
I’m going to shoot it to you straight…people will have an opinion of your travels, and far too many will voice it. Whether it be the idea of a trip, while traveling to your destination or while on a vacation, be prepared for people to talk.
I’ve had people say things to my face, I’ve had people say things within my earshot, so I’m quite positive I’ve had people talk behind my back too. It’s not easy, even when expecting it, which is why you need to mentally toughen yourself up prior to a trip!
I’m going to share some things I personally had to withstand on our most recent trip to New Zealand. I share not for sympathy, but to provide examples for you because this trip was an especially hurtful one. Leading up to it, I had an internet bully trolling my pages. They wrote the ugliest comments, claiming I was a bad parent for taking my kids on a 14 hour flight. While boarding that said 14 hour flight, a man vocally displayed his disgust of us saying “Oh great, you guys are on this flight.” And while away, I endured earshot jabs for the silliest things like reading a sign out loud to my children or allowing my child to carry an oversized water bottle. It is appalling the things people think they have the right to say to you or even about you. Especially on or after a flight! On our flight home, a man sitting behind me stated that “Children shouldn’t be allowed on airplanes.” I was “thisclose” to turning around and letting him have it…ultimately I was really thankful I didn’t because Lilybelle did act out for a portion of this flight. I would have felt really foolish had I said something.
My best advise is to give these people the grace you wish they’d give you. Set the example! Personally, I enjoy traveling to non-English speaking countries with my kids…if people are talking about us, at least I can’t understand what they are saying!
Travel Like A Child
If the kids aren’t happy, you won’t be happy! This is why I plan our trips around my children! Now I’m not at all implying that you need to have every vacation at Disney (unless of course that’s your thing!) what I am saying is that you need to find things to see and do that your children are going to enjoy, no matter where you travel. I love the challenge of finding unique things to do that my husband and I will enjoy just as much as our kids! Having fun together is the best experience you can have 🙂
You do have to face a sad reality “Traveling Like A Child” though. Sometimes you just won’t be able to do some of the things that you’d really like to do, and you just have to be okay with that. I missed out on seeing an opera at one of the most famous opera houses in the world. I didn’t get to bungee jump in the place where bungee jumping originated. I missed out on visiting the oldest salt mine in the world. I could dwell on these facts, or I could instead choose to focus on all of the things I did get to do! I look at it this way, the things we miss now because we have children, give us extra incentive to go back and visit again in the future!
Plan, Plan, Plan!
I like to think my ability to plan trips, down to the minute, to places we’ve never been before is a gift…but in actuality, anybody is capable of doing the same thing if they are willing to take the time to do so. My real gifting is the immense enjoyment I get out of this seemingly daunting task! Haha!
To see an example of my itinerary layout, and step-by-step tips, read my post on Itinerary Planning. I can’t stress how important it is to have a plan! Especially with children! Who wants to think while on a trip?! Do all the planning beforehand so you can squeeze the absolute max amount of minutes enjoying your time away!
All of that planning to say you truly need to expect anything when traveling – again – especially with children! I like to leave for a trip with a solid itinerary, and loosely follow it while away. Chances are we won’t be eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I like to have options for whatever meal we will need to have on the road.
As much as you plan, you can’t plan your ideal weather! It’s smart to add a page to your itinerary with rain-friendly activities. And always, always, always pack a rain resistant coat and an umbrella, whether rain is expected or not! Trust me, I’ve learned this one the hard way…while visiting Austria, I had to break down and buy us all new raincoats. Rain wasn’t in the forecast, but let me tell ya, it rained for days!
Things won’t always go according to your plans. In fact, sometimes your plans will get really messed up. We experienced this big time on our latest trip to New Zealand when not one but TWO of our flights were canceled! My heart was just about broken when we missed a booked day trip to see Milford Sound as a result. This excursion was the very reason why we decided to visit the South Island of New Zealand, and we missed it! It was beyond frustrating and felt so unfair…
Messed up plans are a small part of the bigger picture. When I look at our trip as a whole, it was actually really good, though this one part of it was absolutely awful! It’s all about perspective my friend…
Take Too Many Pictures
My rule of thumb is, “If you think you’re taking too many pictures, go ahead and snap a few more for good measure!” This can get tricky, because you don’t want to miss out on living in the moment, but photos are your one form of preservation, especially for little ones who may not remember a certain vacation because of their age. I like to take our photos as soon as we get to a new location, just to get it out of the way so I can enjoy the rest of our time there 🙂
Another thing I love to do with our photos is create a travel scrapbook of sorts for each trip we take. I love to use Shutterfly to make my books. They have dozens of travel themed books you can drop your photos into, or personalize to your exact liking 🙂 These provide a great way to preserve your travel memories, and a great way for your young kiddos to remember all of the fun places they’ve visited!
Though I do keep my camera handy (both my Canon and my iPhone) I otherwise unplug from the technological world when on vacation. I ignore calls and text messages until the evening when the kids are in bed, I ignore all e-mails, and I allow myself to make only one social media post per day of a recap of the entire day. I am so super strict on this because when away, it’s important to be AWAY! Our phones, iPads and computers can tend to suck us in. Before you know it, a half hour of mindless scrolling has gone by! It’s important, especially on a vacation, to not waste your time! Set your devices aside and just enjoy the moment!
Is there any better time to reconnect with your kids than on a vacation? With lots of extra time traveling to your destination, and no other real responsibilities than getting everyone from Point A to Point B, it’s the perfect opportunity to just talk to each other!
One of my favorite things to talk about is our day that we had together. I ask my kids to come up with a high and a low moment from the day, and their responses are priceless! We do this as a family, and I jot them down to add them into our travel book so I can always remember the cute things they say! Many days, the kids say something basic like “going to the playground” as their high…like we couldn’t have done that at home, right?!
I also love to talk about the day ahead, giving my kids something to look forward to…if they behave of course 😉 I’m just sayin’, it’s nice to be able to have something to hold over their heads if they’re misbehaving!
We also love to play all the typical car games, like “I Spy”, “Name That Tune” (From A Disney Movie), and “I’m Going On A Picnic…” We haven’t started searching for license plates yet, but that is another good one for a road trip!
Something Old, Something New
When packing travel activities for the kids, I’m always sure to pack something old, that I know my kids love and will keep them busy, and something new that will perk their interest. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, a new coloring or sticker book will do, or even a new free app downloaded to a phone, but something new for them to discover can kill a lot of time!
Here are some of my personal favorite things to pack as travel activities…clicking the name will take you to it on Amazon 😉
Water Wow! – These books by Melissa and Doug are clutch! They are a part of their “On The Go” line, and they are a favorite in our house! Just fill the included brush with water, swipe on the pages and watch the colors appear! When the water dries, the colors disappear and the pages are ready to be painted again and again and again! They have so many different books from dinosaurs to professions, and letters to numbers. They even have a religious themed book that brings Bible stories to life!
Scratch Art – Also a part of Melissa and Doug’s “On The Go” Line, these are another favorite that my kids graduate into after Water Wow. Use the included stylus to easily scratch off the dotted pieces to reveal a picture underneath! I admit, even I like doing this activity to kill time when traveling!
Color Wonder – Crayola really set the bar when they came out with Color Wonder! Colored markers that only mark on a Color Wonder coloring book…every moms prayer answered! Crayola continues to release new on point character books and new colors of their “magic” markers! If you haven’t discovered the wonderfulness of Color Wonder, the link to this pack is a great place to start! It comes with a book and few colors to get you started 😉
Sticker By Number – Again, this is an activity even I find fun! To create colorful pictures out of stickers, just match the numbered sticker to the numbered spot on the page. Kids love watching their project come to life in this fun way!
Reusable Stickers – Melissa and Doug do it again – love that brand! Their reusable puffy stickers are super fun! With a printed scene on the front and back, kiddos can get super creative moving the stickers all over the place, again and again!
Hidden Pictures Book – If you grew up reading Highlights for kids, you’ll be pleased to know that they now have entire books dedicated to their Hidden Pictures page! If you are anything like me, you begged your parents for a subscription just so you could complete the Hidden Pictures haha! Let me assure you, it’s just as fun now as it was then and brings back all the feels sharing something from your childhood with your children!
Magformers – If you have a builder, these are for you! These magnetic blocks are fun for ALL ages! We once packed them for a wedding, and by the end of the night, there was a crowd of people building with our kids! These stack up nice and secure so they aren’t at all difficult to travel with. They are a bit pricey, but they are worth every penny because they are super durable and super fun!
Gel Window Clings – For $10, I admit, these are a little pricey for window clings, but these aren’t your average window clings! They have a thick, gel bottom, making them more durable than the typical window clings. I can’t even explain how invaluable these were to my 1 year old when we traveled to New Zealand. My husband and I spent hours playing with these with her, and on a 14 hour flight, they were a complete God send! She would peel them off the page, stick them somewhere, them peel them off and hand them to us over and over again. Even my 4 year old had fun with them making the different bugs become friends and talk to each other! There are loads of different ones to choose, from jungle animals to mermaids, they will surely have something to keep your baby busy!
Magnetic Maze – Melissa and Doug, can you tell I’m obsessed with them?! Another favorite travel toy is their Magnetic Maze that allows kids to move parts without losing parts! Amazon didn’t have this product, but another great one is their wooden maze puzzle which again, allows kids to move the parts without losing the parts!
Buckle Toy – Keep babies minds and hands busy with a buckle toy! These little plush toys easily clip onto the outside of a bag or backpack, essentially taking up no room inside your bag, and allowing you to pack more! Yay!
Search and Find – This is a link to our first Search and Find book, which was Curious George themed and great for beginners! Disney also has a line of these books, and of course there is the classic, Where’s Waldo as your kiddos get older. Highlights even has a sticker version that is a hit in our house!
Muddle and Match – If you don’t have yourself an Usborne book lady, you should definitely find you one, because they offer the absolute best bundle deals on the absolute best books you’ll ever find! I love all the Usborne books, but a favorite to travel with is their Muddle and Match books. These are great because they are just downright silly and kids love silly things! It’s also great because the page is cut into three parts, which means extra pages to turn for the little ones who loves to turn pages!
Letter Bingo – There are a lot of good travel bingo games out there, but this one is my favorite by far. I like it because it’s educational, if we can learn as we play, it’s all the better! I like it because there are no moving parts..calling an item is as easy as spilling a wheel, and marking an item is as easy as pulling a tab down. Most of all, I love this bingo because it’s just fun! It combines a storybook with a game of bingo, making it so much more than just your average bingo!
Pack An Overnight Bag
Whether you plan to stop somewhere for the night or not, I’ve learned it’s always smart to just pack an overnight bag! This saves you from lugging ALL of your stuff into a hotel on a roadtrip…it also saves you if you have missing checked luggage on a flight! Yes, it can be a pain to pack and tote around an extra bag, but it has proved invaluable over our personal travels!
I hope you find these tips useful in planning your next family vacation!
Be Blessed + Be A Blessing