Our family travel has picked up now that summer is here. We made two separate trips to Chicago in May alone: once for our niece’s First Holy Communion and once for Anna’s cousins’ graduations.
Gearing up for travel with kids is never easy. During my single days, I could pack for a week-long trip in 30 minutes. Now, it takes Anna and I hours over the course of a few days to pack for a weekend trip.
Since our days of traveling with kids began over 4 years ago when Jude was born, I have learned the triple threat of traveling with kids – planning, packing, and patience.
Plan the work; work the plan.
All of our road trips are planned ahead of time these days, and we ask ourselves the following questions before committing to a trip:
- How many hours will we be in the car?
- Will we have to bring food for meals?
- Where will the kids sleep?
- How long will we be gone? (Any trip longer than two-nights away from home is usually a no-go.)
We probably over pack in most situations. However, you can never pack too many wipes; I would rather pack too many than have none at all. Wipes tend to disappear when Jude digs through the bag to look for something, or Anna or I need them to clean-up a mess and forget to put them back.
While most families we know travel with some sort of DVD entertainment system, we don’t. Maybe we are gluttons for punishment, but we try to minimize the kids’ screen time as much as possible. I am leaning toward purchasing a device for long road trips, but my wife is vehemently opposed, so stay tuned. We do have Curious George books on CD, and Jude loves them. Anna and I love hearing him laughing and giggling in the back seat while listening to George’s adventures.
Packing for the trip
Here are a few items that always come with us on road trips:
- Curious George on CD
- Pad of paper and pencils for Jude
- Audiobooks for the adults
- Water bottles for the kids
- Our family calendar and to-do list for the next few weeks so that we can plan ahead
Once the bags are packed, it is like playing Tetris. We pack our suitcase, the kids’ suitcase, the Pack-n-Play or the baby swing, the stroller, and gifts, if necessary. Not only is the back of the vehicle full, but we usually have items like our small cooler and diaper bag on the floor of the back seat, under our kids’ feet.
Patience, Patience, and more Patience
Two weeks ago, we were packed and ready to go to Chicago. We just needed to make a quick stop at our neighbor’s to pick up a swimsuit that Anna bought for Adelaide. After picking up the suit, we had to run by home again for a bathroom stop. It was a slow start to the trip.
Fast forward 30 minutes, Adelaide had not stopped crying since we left the house, and Jude had to use the bathroom. I pulled off the interstate, Anna helped Adelaide, and I tried to convince Jude to pee in the bushes. He didn’t go for it. So, everyone got back in the car.
An hour later, Adelaide was still crying intermittently, and everyone was tense. I tried all my tricks that usually calm her down: singing to her, cracking the windows in the car, and giving her a snack. We even connected Anna’s phone to the car and played a sound machine app, but nothing worked. Adelaide just hates being in her carseat, and I can’t blame her. She’s confined, can’t see much, and it’s warm.
Thankfully, on our way home from Chicago, the kids slept most of the trip because they were exhausted from a busy weekend. Anna and I had time to talk about the weekend’s events as well as the week ahead.
I have become a more patient man since having a family, especially when it comes to road trips. I can and do plan, but I can honestly say that I’ve learned to be more flexible.
What are your traveling tips and tricks? I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences in the comments below.