I’m no stranger to traveling with little ones.
In fact, in the 15 years since becoming a mom, I’ve traveled many times with my kids alone. As in without my husband. Across the country. Yeah, I know. I’m crazy.
The line of work my husband is in takes him all over the place, which also means we’ve had to travel to move many, many times. So many, I’ve lost count.
Plus, practically every year around this time, my family and I prepare to travel long distances to spend time with our extended families during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.
Like I said, I’m no stranger to traveling with kids.
In today’s post, I’d like to share with you my best tips for traveling with your kids. Whether that’s during the holidays, for a move, or just a family vacation, my hope is that these tips will help you have a more enjoyable experience. While I can’t promise your traveling will be stress-free, I do feel like these tips will help you feel like you’ll actually want to travel again.
So if you’ve got an upcoming trip planned, continue reading for my best tips on traveling with your kids.
1) Tips for traveling by vehicle
In the weeks leading up to traveling, which we usually do via vehicle, I make sure that I’m up-to-date with any vehicle maintenance. If I’ll likely need an oil change mid-route, I’ll go ahead and get one before the trip so that I don’t need to get one while on vacation.
How does this affect your kids? Pretty sure they would rather be at the beach and not in a mechanic’s waiting room.
Along the same lines, I don’t want to run into any issues with my tires while traveling. Hence, I always make sure to inspect and see if it looks like I might need new ones, or perhaps a rotation.
While I can’t predict the future, making sure my tires are in good shape will reduce the chance of being stuck on the side of the interstate with a flat tire and four screaming kids who need to use the potty.
2) Tips for restroom, gas and food stops
Speaking of potties, my best advice here is to stick to rest areas or travel centers (think Love’s, Buc-ees, Busy Bee’s). These will have the cleanest bathrooms. I don’t know about you, but to me, there is nothing more stressful than when one of my kids needs to use the restroom and the only one nearby is at a poorly lit gas station next to a casino. (Not based on true events, but not entirely out of the realm of possibilities.)
For this reason, the rule for my family is that when we stop, everyone uses the bathroom. Even if the last stop was only an hour ago. There have been way too many times when my kids have expressed how they absolutely don’t need to go only to suddenly need to go 15 minutes later.
Also, we try and combine gas, food, and bathroom breaks at one stop. Doesn’t necessarily need to be at the same building, but as long as it’s the same exit, it’s way easier than hopping on and off the interstate at different spots.
3) Traveling essentials to consider
Since I know that there are so many things to pack when it comes to traveling, I thought it might help you if I created a list of some essentials my family likes to have in the car while traveling:
- hand sanitizer
- hand wipes
- napkins or paper towels
- phone/device chargers
- snacks and water (sugar drinks = more frequent rest stops)
- cooler for refrigerated snacks
- sunflower seeds (technically a snack, but one that also serves as entertainment)
- GPS app (we like using Waze)
- kids activities (reading/drawing/coloring books, tablets, games, toys)
- plastic bags (I always keep one or two in the car at all times just in case)
- DVDs (when we had a portable DVD player)
- CDs (before I had Apple Music)
- pen and notebook (for when I get big ideas)
We always keep the snacks together in one or two tote bags, like the reusable ones for grocery shopping. These fit more items and don’t risk ripping like plastic bags do.
4) Tips for packing your bags
My best tip for packing is to think about when and where you’ll be when you need the item.
For example, if my family needs to stop at a hotel halfway through my travels, I’ll make sure to pack what I call a “hotel bag.” In this bag, I’ll ask every member of my family to give me one set of pjs and one outfit. The idea here is to carry as few bags into the hotel as possible.
Much like a designated “hotel bag,” compartmentalizing bags based on purpose is actually a great way to stay organized while traveling. For instance, my family has one bag dedicated to all toiletries. Not only is it more convenient for like items to be together in one place, but it also creates a limit for how much can go on the trip. If it doesn’t fit, it stays.
When it comes to packing kids’ clothes, I cannot encourage you enough to involve your kids in the packing process as young as possible. Even if that just means they bring to you the items that need to go into the bag and then you do the actual folding and packing part. This will save time, teach them the process of packing, and, since they picked out their clothes, avoid potential clothing tantrums.
Sometimes, it’s helpful to think about the order in which I’ll wear my clothes and pack accordingly. Meaning, if it’s an outfit I’ll wear on the last day of the trip, that should go in the bottom of the suitcase. It’s also helpful to pack outfits together rather than just putting all the shirts in one spot and the pants in another.
As far as how much to pack, here’s my rule: count how many days you’ll be gone and only bring enough outfits for that many days (plus a spare set for kids who might have accidents). If we are going to be gone longer than 7 days, we make plans to wash laundry during our trip.
I hope you found these tips helpful as you prepare for your upcoming traveling adventures with your kids. But this post barely scratches the surface. While writing, it got really, really long, so I decided to slit it into two posts rather than shorten it. I’m sure you’ll get as much out of the next one as you did this one.
Keep an eye out for the second part soon, “MORE Best Tips for (Almost) Stress-free Traveling with Kids.” Be sure you’re subscribed to my email list to be notified when that post is published.