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5 Tips for Traveling With Kids summer article

5 Tips For Traveling With Kids

Constance J Smith

My kiddos might be all grown, but, looking back, there are a few tips that I learned along the way that I thought I might help you on your journeys.

Packing a Bag

One of the things I found very helpful with my kids was to let them assist with the packing.  If your kids are anything like mine when packing for a trip, they would look around and go, “Oh! I need this, and this and this!” The next thing you know, they are trying to bring half of their bedroom along on the trip!

To help with this one year when we were going on a long trip, I bought each child a new backpack. That backpack wasn’t for their clothes, instead, it was their “fun” bag.  This helped limit them because they could only bring along things that would fit in that bag.  Whether it was books to read, games to play  or their favorite stuffed animal to snuggle with, if it didn’t fit in the bag, it couldn’t come.

They were responsible for carrying their bag, whether it was to and from the vehicle or through an airport.  They brought it; they carried it.  That was the deal. If you decide to do something like this, give the younger ones a little guidance. You don’t want them packing a 30lb backpack that they can’t carry.  You also want to make sure that something in that bag will keep them busy.

You could give them the backpack and have it contain brand new coloring books or the newest book in their favorite series.  Just remember that the contents of this bag are to be the things that will keep them content and happy.

Travel Pillow

There was one thing that I made sure each kid had in their backpack: a travel pillow.  It normally fit in one of the outer pockets, so the bulk of the space in the bag still belonged to them.  Let’s face it, most people find themselves wanting to take a nap on a long trip and what’s worse than having to lean your head on a hard window ledge?

Everyone’s got a travel pillow, even me!  If I wasn’t using it to lean my head on, I could also use it behind my back if sitting in the vehicle was making me stiff.  Those inexpensive little pillows are very handy.

Eating on the Road

Be sure to pack along a variety of snacks for the trip.  I always tried to pack some healthy snacks as well as some fun ones.  One thing I tried to avoid was messy snacks.  I steered clear of things that would melt or spill.  Drink bottles with closable spouts were required.

Small containers of crackers, nuts or fruit were ideal.  If we were going on longer trips, I always brought a cooler filled with sandwiches as well.  That way we could eat on the road without having to stop and get fast food.  It was healthier and saved us a little money.

When our family PCSed from North Carolina to Alaska, we traveled over the road for 3 weeks.  We traveled by way of minivan and pulled our pop-up camper behind.  Every day we stopped and had sandwiches that I made for the family for lunches.

In the evenings, we set up camp and I cooked supper for the family on the little camp stove or we cooked over a campfire.  We repeated this entire process when we PCSed again a few years later from Alaska to Alabama.

Cooking may not be an option for every trip, but no need to go overboard.  It’s okay to splurge here and there, but do your best to keep your diet as close to normal as possible. The last thing you want is a hotel room full of upset tummies!

Think About Your Timing

You have your list of sights and attractions that you want to visit: the famous restaurant where that celebrity frequents, that historical home, the museum, those shops… but wait!

Are you remembering about nap time?  Just because you are on vacation, doesn’t mean the kids won’t need their normal sleep.  If you know missing an afternoon nap causes your youngest to go nuclear, visiting that art museum at 1 pm might not be a great idea.

When you are planning out those travel itineraries, don’t forget to take your children’s normal routines into consideration.  Be sure to plan time for them to take a break and play or nap, depending upon their age or needs.  The last thing you want is to be toting around a crying, cranky child.

That doesn’t make for a fun vacation.  That can only to lead to unnecessary stress for both you and your child.

With that said, be sure to write that itinerary in pencil, not ink!  You know you have to expect the unexpected when you are traveling with young ones.

Give Them a Camera

I’m not saying to go out and buy them an expensive camera.  Have an old smartphone in the drawer?  That can work as a great camera!  Just be sure to pack the charger.  Then you can download the photos to your computer later on.  You would be amazed at the things that catch the eye of a child!  It is a great way for them to see things with curiosity, and to be able to look back on the trip and remember the things that they loved about it too!

Looking back, some of my favorite photos from trips were the ones that my children took.  They tend to get those informal, off-the-wall and relaxed shots that people often try to artificially create.

With all of these tips in mind, the most important thing to remember when traveling with children is to relax and have fun!  You are making memories to last for a lifetime.  Make great ones together!

Constance J Smith is a professional blogger, recipe developer, and “seasoned” army wife. She has maintained an active website since 1998 and has been blogging since 2006. Anywhere Constance goes, she chronicles her journey with her readers – from creating family-friendly recipes to hiking in the wilderness of Alaska. Portions of her content have been published in local and national print.