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What It’s Really Like to Travel With Kids
Have you heard the phrase, “your life ends when you have kids”? Yeah, me too! It’s kind of true though. Life as you know it ends. But life is what you make it, right?! We’ve chosen to embrace the crazy and give the kids a life of adventure.
Traveling with kids doesn’t have to be intimidating, but it’s definitely not easy either. You’re at the mercy of tiny humans who are unpredictable and sometimes ruthless. They cannot control their feelings or emotions, no matter who’s watching. They can make traveling extremely stressful and undesirable. Have you ever been on an airplane with a screaming child? Now, imagine being the parent of that screaming child. It can be agonizing.
It doesn’t have to be that way! The good news is that children get easier to travel with the older they get. So hang tight, friends. But, you can still travel with your littles and learn to love it! There are 5 things you should do when traveling with kids that will make your experience so much better.
5 Things You Should Do When Traveling With Kids
1. Set Your Expectations Low
If you set your expectations low, you won’t be disappointed when things don’t go as planned. I promise, things will never go as you plan. That’s just the reality of traveling with kids. I’ve found that if I set my expectations extremely low, my trip is always better than I imagined.
Setting your expectations low will help your patience. And let’s be honest, you’ll need it when traveling with kids. I lose my patience really quickly when I expect my kids to behave and they don’t. When we travel, I expect my kids to act a fool. Then when they do, I don’t lose my patience because I anticipated it.
Setting your expectations low allows opportunity for praise. Kids thrive when they are praised and given positive reinforcement. When your expectations are low, your kids might surprise you. Chances are, they will probably do much better than you think. When they do, praise them!
2. Plan Rest Days
Everyone needs a rest day when traveling, especially kids. Young kids can’t express when they need rest, so it’s important to add rest days into your plans. When we are doing short trips, we plan for a slow morning or a restful evening to give everyone a chance to chill out. On our longer trips, we plan a whole day or two for rest days.
Rest days can look different, depending on the type of vacation. For us, they usually look like laying low at the house or resort we are staying at. Getting take-out or cooking, instead of a sit down restaurant. We typically brings games, coloring books, or movies to fill the time. Not only does it give us a chance to rest and relax, but it also gives us a chance to reconnect and check in with the kids.
Use rest days as a chance to check in with everyone. Ask what your kids are enjoying and not enjoying, what they are looking forward to, or something they saw that they would like to add to the agenda. It’s a chance for you to reevaluate your schedule and activities.
3. Let Them Set The Pace
Maybe you’re the type to pack your schedule or maybe you like to plan on the whim. However you choose to plan your trip, allow your kids to set the pace. Some kids can skip from one activity to the other with ease, others can’t. Listen to them and pay attention to their cues. Be willing to have a flexible schedule and do more or less, depending on what they are able to handle.
We like to do a good mix of both. One day we may have a really busy schedule and do a ton of activities. And the next day we may mosey around with no plan for the day and wing it. I’ve found that our kids do really well with this type of planning. They are willing to go, go, go all day if they know they can have a day to come back and check things out at a slower pace later.
4. Plan Activities Around Their Interests
Traveling with your kids is an experience for them as much as it is for you. It’s important that you think about their interests when planning your vacations. With multiple kids who have different interests, it’s not always a guarantee they will all agree on where to go. But, you can plan activities that are interesting each of your kids.
Our kids are still young enough that they don’t have an opinion about where we are going or what we are doing. But, they do have things that they are interested in. Madison loves shows and fancy things, while Maverick loves things that move and getting dirty. We typically plan our trips around a location or specific event/attraction that we are interested in. From there, we look at other attractions in the area that would be interesting for each of our kids.
As your kids get older, you could ask them about a destination or attraction they are interested in and plan your vacation that way.
5. Let Go & Have Fun!
Let go of the control and need for a perfect vacation and just HAVE FUN! Learn to laugh at yourself, because things will never go how you plan. Give yourself grace, forget about your detailed plans, and go with the flow. Visit every local attraction, take all the insta-worthy pictures, fit as much as you can into your vacation. Or don’t. Either way, the important thing is that you’re making memories and spending time with your kids.
More Advice for Traveling with Kids
Recently, my friend Sammy @bigheartstinyspaces hosted an IGTV chat with fellow adventurer Nichole @coleyraech about solo traveling with kids. Head over to Sammy’s instagram to watch/listen to their conversation.
Other Traveling Families
Our Travel Adventures
You can follow along on our travel adventures on Instagram and by checking out our TRAVEL tag on our blog. Currently, we are spending our summer in Pennsylvania and traveling all around Lancaster County and surrounding areas. Stay tuned for our Lancaster County Travel Guides. Subscribe to the blog to be notified when posts go live.
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