Monday, July 10, 2017

Traveling with Kids

How many of you take vacations with your kids? 


Want to know how I know? 

There's no such thing as a vacation with kids - you simply take trips with them. 

Vacation implies resting and happiness and relaxation. 

Trips with small children are not restful or relaxing and whether or not they're happy is a crap shoot. 

We travel quite a bit with our kids in the car. My parents live in Kansas City and we live outside of Chicago. The trek to my parent's house is 8 hours of driving. We make the trip probably every other month, usually more often in the summer. We recently got back from visiting my brother and sister-in-law in South Carolina. That's 13 hours of driving. The trip usually ends up being closer to 16 hours once everything is said and done. 

Our kids are actually decent travelers. I'm not giving them enough credit. They generally do great in the car. Sometimes, though, I have to help them along with a bag of tricks. 

So here are my tried-and-true, we're-all-stuck-in-the-car-and-trying-not-to-go-crazy, tips for a decently stress-free car ride.

Let's break these down a little more:

1. Have Reasonable Expectations - My OB was talking to me once at an appointment about getting ready to take her then-2 year old on a car trip. She knew I traveled in the car a lot with my kids and asked what I did to make it bearable. Honestly, sometimes it isn't bearable and that's okay. You're the adult. Suck it up, buttercup. Your kid is going to cry in the car because that's what kids do sometimes. It's just like at home, except in the car, you can't get away from it. But if you have those expectations going into the trip, it really isn't as bad as it seems. This, coming from an INTJ who absolutely loathes constant, repetitive, loud noises. You will survive. Because you're the adult and you have to.

2. Plan on Stopping - Okay, so I got the bad news out of the way first. Your child will cry at some point on your car trip. This second tip could be bad news or good news, depending on your personality. You will need to stop on your car trip. You will need to stop for either yourself because you'll have to pee, or your potty-trained child who has to pee, or your baby who has screamed themselves silly for the last hour. I hate stopping. I view it as an interruption to my goal (getting to wherever I'm going in one piece.) Some of you might like stopping and are relieved that I included this here. You need to plan for stops. I like to try to time my stops around meals. For instance, we try to leave for Kansas City really early in the morning when we go. We try to leave around 5 or 6 and then drive 2 or 3 hours and stop for breakfast. Then, we get back in the car and try to drive until lunch. We'll stop for lunch around 11 or 12, depending on how long we stopped for breakfast. I try to make stops as planned as possible. Sometimes, though you can't plan for them and that's okay. Things happen, which leads me to my next point.

3. Limit Water in the Car - So when we are at home, my kids drink several cups of water all day long. When we are in the car, I keep their cups and they get drinks as needed. I do not let them hold onto their cups because they tend to mindlessly drink in the car when they have their cups, which leads to lots more stopping. I do not tell them that they cannot have a drink. I simply keep their cup with me while we're driving so that they aren't just sipping on their cup just for something to do because they're bored. 

4. Pack a Lunch - The kids do get their cups when we stop. They know that's their chance to drink all the water they want. :) We also pack a lunch for them in their lunch boxes so that we can get while we keep on driving after a bathroom break around lunch time. I pack simple things that won't go bad in the car - peanut butter sandwiches, carrot sticks, apples, clementines, veggie chips, crackers. Those sorts of things - easy and no refrigeration required. Packing their lunch saves us some money, keeps us from having to get fast food a lot, and allows us to keep driving.

5. Ration Out Toys - This is a trick I came up with when Maggie was around 2 years old. I packed approximately 1 million books for her and she would look at them for exactly 3 seconds and say "done" and want a new book. Obviously I'd go through the books in about 2 hours this way, which was a problem because we had 6 more hours on the road. I eventually got smart and set a timer. I gave her one book and told her that when the timer went off, she could have a new book. We already used a timer around our home for different things and so she was used to hearing the timer and what it meant. I would always set the book timer for a reasonable amount of time. I didn't expect her to keep a board book for 10 minutes. That, for her, was unreasonable. Maybe it isn't for your child, though. That's the great thing about being a parent - you know what works for your kiddos. 

6. Let Big Kids Pack Their Own Toys - Having older kids has been the highlight of my life. I started letting my kids pack their own small backpack full of toys around the time my oldest was 4 and my middle was 2. I helped the 2-year-old and padded some of his selections (like the first time he did this, he only packed one car and then Batman slippers, soooo....) But my 4-year-old did this herself. She selected each item and she was told she was only allowed to bring what fit in her backpack. She was resourceful and had a Mary Poppins backpack. Whatever works. My kids also know that anything that they don't pack that they end up wanting is on them. This has revolutionized our situation of them throwing fits because I didn't pack their __________. Now, it's on them. And it's nice. 

7. Bring Snacks - Okay, so we're not big snackers here. My kids get maybe one snack after their nap/rest time. But I make sure I bring all.the.snacks. It's an event built into our trip - we have snack time because it breaks up the time in the car and can help snap a kid out of a funk. Do yourself a favor and bring the snacks.

8. Utilize Essential Oils - Okay, you know I'm oily, so I've gotta include this one. Oils work so incredibly well that I never leave home without them. Ever. I use Lavender and Orange in a roller bottle and apply it topically to the back of their necks, behind their ears, or on the wrists. This blend helps calm them down and banishes any bad mood attitude with it. I also use Stress Away - it's a blend of a lot of yummy goodness. Ya gotta getcha some if you don't already have some. Here's where you can get them. You can learn more about oils in the "Oils" tab at the top of my blog. 

9. Play Music That Everyone Enjoys - I don't listen to "kid music" in the car. I just refuse. I cannot. My kids listen to whatever I'm listening to and they like it. We listen to the Gettys, Rend Collective, I Am They, Heath McNease, Queen, and whatever assortment of music my husband has on his IPhone. Our kids listen to our music all the time, so it's not a departure for them to do it on a road trip. I think exposing kids to high quality music is important anyway - sometimes the kid music just stinks. Playing music that we all enjoy helps keep us all relaxed and it's another nice way to break up the trip. We usually start our day off with some music in the car. Once we listen all the way through a playlist, we usually bust out the toys then. Our kids really like to listen to music in the car and this is a good way to break up the car ride a little bit more. 

10. Sometimes, It's Going to Suck. Embrace It and Laugh - This goes back a little bit to my first point. There will be a point that you look at one another and think "why did we do this to ourselves?" It is normal to feel that way. Laugh about it and be thankful that you've chosen a partner that you can live these memories and crazy adventures with. Our kids needs to see us having a good time, especially with our spouses. It doesn't have to be perfect. You'll probably yell at someone at some point. Apologize and move on. You've got bigger fish to fry, like why in the world they won't go to sleep once you get to the hotel. 😬😂

What are some of your favorite, tried-and-true tips for traveling with kids?

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