The holiday season has arrived, which means many families will soon be traveling. For some, travel brings new adventures and happy memories. For others, travel can mean headaches, meltdowns, and frustration.
Our two girls have always been happy travelers, even when we lived 15 hours away from their grandparents. Here are 13 of our favorite family travel tips that make the journey easier for parents and kids.
Family Travel Tips: Packing
- When our girls were babies and toddlers, I would often pack their clothes grouped together as “outfits” (including socks and accessories) and put each day’s outfit in a separate gallon size zipper bag. This made things simple for whichever parent or family member was getting the kids dressed in the morning. When we unpacked at home after the trip, we would simply store the empty bags in the suitcase until our next trip.
- Now that our girls are older, they are fully capable of choosing their outfits. We make it as easy as possible by bringing a variety of clothes that mix and match well. We also make sure to pack a variety of layers in case of rain or cold weather. Since we typically stay with relatives, we have access to a washing machine if something gets dirty.
- Talk with your spouse about trip activities before packing. We usually pack one extra-nice outfit “just in case.” Just like with the kids, we try to make sure that we can mix and match items throughout the trip, making packing a breeze.
- Write those “last-minute” items on an index card and leave it next to the suitcase to check off before leaving: medicines, chargers, camera & batteries, etc.
- Before leaving, make sure to tuck several empty grocery bags into a pocket of the suitcase. These are a great item to have on hand for car trash and dirty clothes!
Family Travel Tips: In the Car
- Let each child choose items for their “car bag.” Our girls love dry-erase activity books, stickers, crossword puzzles, and word searches. We typically leave library books at home so we don’t have to worry about items getting lost or damaged. If we need more reading material, we stop by a library sale, Little Free Library, or Half Price Books.
- Buy a dual-charging plug for the car. This way, two devices can stay charged as you drive!
- Put an audiobook or special playlist in the backseat for the kids to listen to. Remind them of the Walkman/Discman days of our youth…before screens in the car were a thing!
- If you have young kids, travel during their normal sleep time. When we lived in Texas, we would leave for a trip to the Missouri grandparents right after dinner. The girls would sleep most of the trip, which meant we could get there faster without stops. When arriving, grandparents and cousins would be waiting to play with the girls while my husband and I took a two-hour nap.
- Stop at a welcome center to get a state map. They typically have kid activity books as well. Try to find one fun or unique thing to do on the journey; our favorite so far is the 55-foot-tall Jolly Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, Minnesota. Making a new family memory doesn’t have to be long or out-of-the-way!
Family Travel Tips: When You Arrive
- Our girls always bring a lovey and a pillow from home. When we arrive at our destination, we unpack our suitcase (even if we are only staying one night), take a tour of our accommodations, and “settle in.”
- When we are home, our girls listen to the same instrumental CD every night as they are falling asleep. We also keep a copy of the CD in the car and on a playlist on the iPad for the hotel room or a relative’s house. The consistency helps them fall right to sleep!
- Bring along a special “family travel” journal. Take turns recording memories, drawing pictures, adding photographs, and writing down favorite restaurants and stops along the way. (You can also create a special hashtag for the trip, if that’s easier!)
Whenever we go on a family trip, we always call it an adventure. Our girls have learned to see the travel as part of the fun, and they are now excellent road-trippers!
Wherever you travel this holiday season, I hope these travel tips are helpful! Can you think of any I forgot to mention?
Melissa Droegemueller is a homeschooling mom to her two daughters and an early education advisor. She is passionate about learning through play, chasing adventures, and celebrating good books. Her online community, Rolling Prairie Readers, is a place where all moms are free to leave comparisons behind and embrace the parent they were meant to be.
Visit http://rollingprairiereaders.com/ to find out more!