Summer vacation. We are in the thick of it and yet, as a family we are taking a year off from traveling because it is a baby year. We have learned along the way that it is easier to stay home and on a schedule. Meanwhile, the STL staycation scene is all the fun we need. We’ve been exploring parks and hitting up all the Vacation Bible Schools we dare to show up for.
One day recently, my phone rang. It was my sister who lives three states away. She had locked herself in her room – reverse time out as we like to call it, and she was about to lose her ever loving mind.”I have been trying to pack and clean up for our beach trip all morning and the children are going from room to room making messes. I just went into the hallway and they had emptied the linen closet and were laying on the shelves like triple bunk beds.”
I have been there. Getting a young family ready to go on a vacation is an incredible amount of work. I was trying to think of what I could say to encourage her to get back in the game and persevere and then it came to me. “I’m sending you a pizza. You just told me your entire linen closet is on the floor in your hallway. You do not need to go make a mess in the kitchen making lunch. Just take a break and let them watch movies the rest of the day.”
Just like you, she pulled it together. She went back downstairs, did all the things and they left the next morning for the beach. In honor of all of you moms making it happen for summer vacay – here are my favorite travel tips for traveling with a young family.
Pro Tips for Summer Travel:
* Pack kids separately. I love these duffel bags from Lillian Vernon kids. We bought one for each family member with our names on them. They are great for stacking in the back of a mini van because they smash down unlike hard suitcases.
* Pack in gallon size zipper bags. I pack each outfit for each child in a gallon size bag or a plastic grocery bag if the outfit is bigger. Add a bag for swimsuits, toiletries, jammies and a hoodie or raincoat and bam, done. On the trip, the kids grab a bag and get dressed. Dirty laundry goes back in the bag.
* White noise machine. Nothing can wreck sleep time like noisy neighbors in a hotel or unfamiliar noises. Pack a baby monitor too if you can.
* Rent a car. We save wear and tear on our minivan by renting a car for family road trips. Pro tip – rent a bigger car than you usually drive and enjoy the extra space!
* Lunch boxes. On our last trip I packed each child a lunch box with a water bottle just like I do for school and put it next to their seat. When they wanted a snack, it was self- serve and I wasn’t digging through a cooler every 15 minutes.
* Prize bags. Go to the dollar store and buy some fun items – put them in little lunch bags and pass them out every hour or so. They love it!
* Go Pods. I just discovered these with my newest baby on a weekend work trip. They pack like a camping chair and are great for keeping your child contained in a vacation spot that is not child proofed. You can take it down to the beach with the sun shade, by the pool to keep crawlers contained, or place a blanket under it and use it for a bed.
I remember my first trip with my first baby. I was in total shock over how much work it was to make that vacation happen for my family. Since then I have done a little exercise called “counting the cost.” Before we go on a trip, I think through the logistics and try to figure out how much work the trip is going to be for me. If it is a beach condo or mountain cabin, I’m going to do all the shopping, cooking, laundry, and protect the rental property from my children. If it is a YMCA camp or all inclusive cruise or resort I will have maid service, a dining hall and built-in activities. Knowing before I go enables me to be realistic about the work that will be involved so that I can enjoy the change of scenery and memory-making that is the stuff of family vacations. If it gets to be too much and I need someone to talk me down, I can just call my sister. After all, she owes me a pizza.