If you followed me for even one moment on Instagram, you’ve heard me say this phrase every day on vacation:
TRAVELING WITH KIDS IS NO JOKE.
I like to consider my husband and I pretty go-with-the-flow people. We’re flexible, enjoy new places, handle change well, and really love spending quality time together.
Now, add two children under three and a 13-hour travel day, and you’ve got yourself a WHOLE different cocktail.
Last week, our family of four flew from Virginia to California for a family wedding. We survived six separate airplane rides, a three-hour time difference, and were left with one massive sleep debt. (We’re still recovering on that end.)
If exploring means you’ll go as far as the backyard, I know these resources can help. But if you’re looking to pack up and fly or drive across our nation or world, I hope you’ll trust me enough to use these four tips as your guide:
1. Talk to Your Kids
Children thrive on consistency and routine. These two go right out the window the moment you board a plane or take a long road trip. Because your child depends so much on the routine of your normal day, it’s important to talk with your child about what to expect on travel days.
Depending on the age of your child, take time to talk with them about your upcoming trip. My oldest daughter is 2.5 years. Toddlers really can’t handle prep too far in advance, so I began talking about riding airplanes a few days before our trip. Every time we were in a new airport city, we talked with her about what was happening:
“We’re about to get off of this airplane, walk into this airport, and then use the potty. After we go potty we’ll get some lunch while we wait for the next airplane.”
2. Make It Easy
I love living in 2017. Two weeks before our trip, I began to stress about sleeping arrangements. A friend was loaning us a Pack ‘n Play for the baby, but my daughter is still sleeping in a crib. There was no way she was going to sleep on a blow-up mattress or sofa. I value our sleep way too much to risk the chaos!
Lo and behold, I found a baby furniture rental company in the city where we were staying. I was able to rent a crib for the week for $70 (plus delivery fee). We also ended up renting two car seats that were delivered to the airport when we landed. It was a little more expensive to rent the car seats than if we had flown with our own, but I’m all about paying a little more for way less work.
3. Be Your Own Parent
This is the tough one, but it’s so necessary. If you’re traveling where there’s going to be lots of family, don’t let their advice rule your family’s ways. Make it clear to your children that Mom and Dad are still in charge even if you’re away from home.
Consistency is key here, so even though your child is testing the limits and pushing all sorts of buttons (literally, in my case), it’s vital that you stay the course with your chosen discipline and communication methods. Be polite but firm to those who are the first to give you their own “parenting advice” for your tribe.
4. Keep Their Bedtime
Y’all knew I was going to cover this. When you’re on vacation and traveling, you’re inevitably going to have a later bedtime every now and then. Great! Have fun! But don’t do it every night. Believe it or not, your kid wants to sleep. (Let’s talk if you’re not sure about that!) When it’s going to be a later bedtime, prep your child:
“Hey, tonight we’re going to be flexible. Normally we go to bed at 7 pm, but tonight we’re going to do something different.”
Let them ask questions, and by all means, stick to your child’s bedtime routine. No matter where you are or who they’re with, all your child needs is that cue of bedtime. Sure, it might take a bit longer to settle down or they might wake up much earlier than normal.
As soon as you get back home, jump right back into the consistent time for bed and morning expectations. Above all (no matter the age), talk to your child about what’s happening. And let them sleep!