We love to travel as a family-specifically we love road trips! We homeschool, which gives us the flexibility to make last minute road trips when we feel the need to spread our wings. Bonus-the crowds are smaller! At this stage we also have some younger children, so traveling can be a bit tricky. There is always a point in every road trip where I promise myself we won’t go anywhere until everyone is out of diapers, but usually that thought is fleeting.
We’ve done several long road trips, and a few years ago we took several 20 hour trips to New Mexico with my family to visit my brother, but we much prefer destinations that are within a one day drive. You can get pretty far in 8-9 hours.
I’d say the number one tip for making trips successful is a flexible schedule and attitude. You really never know what the days are going to bring and getting stressed out about a delay or change in plans just isn’t worth it. After a few stressful days (and less than pleasant arguments with my husband), I’ve found a bit of a sweet spot for our family. I have a generally loose schedule for each day, but depending on weather and kids attitudes, I always leave room for change. So I’ll have one or two activities tentatively scheduled and we can adjust based on the day. This can get a little tricky when you have to plan ahead or buy tickets for an event. When I’m planning for those types of activities I only plan one a day. So if we end up staying at the hotel most of the day and just make it to the one thing we’ve already paid for, its still a win.
I’ve had to really adjust my thinking about what we need to visit during every trip. Its super tempting to want to DO ALL THE THINGS!! But if you are rushing from one activity to the next your vacation is not relaxing or enjoyable for anyone, and you miss out on spontaneous fun. With little children traveling is stressful enough, an over-packed to-do list does not help.
We only stay at hotels with free breakfasts and swimming pools. I’ve come to realize this is a huge factor for us in a successful vacation. Trying to feed everyone breakfast in the hotel room, or in the car, or even hitting up McdDonalds can be hard with younger children. Why start your day that way?? When breakfast is provided, you already have a plan every day and typically there’s a wide variety, beverages and often even some hot options like eggs and waffles. Bonus- if you can get everyone to fill up at breakfast, you don’t have to stress about stopping for lunch right away. Likewise, in the evenings its nice to be able to come back to the hotel and swim before bed. We’ve gotten into a routine of one parent staying with the baby that needs to go to bed and the other taking the kids that can stay up a bit later to the pool for an hour. Getting back into the room and into pajamas is always a test in patience but I like to bring a sound machine and make sure to lay out my expectations clearly a few times before we get back to the room.
Traveling with younger children is more difficult than with kids that can use the bathroom and don’t need naps, but you can still take plenty of adventures. While I know my younger children won’t remember some of these trips, its fun to see their expressions and delight at exploring a new place. And the memories are for everyone.