Planning, Prep, and Packing: How to De-Stress Travel with Kids
The open road is calling, and you’ve got a wonderful family destination in mind for your vacation together. There’s only one challenge between here and there: the child or children riding in the backseat. If you love the idea of a family getaway but feel your shoulders tensing up thinking of the boredom, potty breaks, and potential sibling rivalry inside the car, you need a plan.
When heading out for a family trip, there’s a lot of temptation to pack as if you’re on the run: cramming all the clothes, accessories, and distractions that you can possibly fit in your suitcases. There’s a better way! With a few smart parental tricks, you can head off toddler meltdowns and tween crises at the pass, thanks to a little forethought and travel-focused planning.
Challenge Number One: Road Food
One of the first things to remember is that hours in a car together is not a good time to introduce new foods. Not only will you risk your child turning their nose up at the snacks, but those same snacks might – ahem – affect their digestion as well. Stick to their favorites, and opt for reusable ice packs over ice cubes if said favorite snacks require cold storage. Split up snack portions into small zip-top plastic bags, as this will encourage portion control for longer drives as well as easy cleanup. Keep a designated trash bag in easy reach to preserve your floor mats from crumbs and spills, as well as wet wipes for sticky hands. Finally, seal any potentially smelly garbage in the aforementioned zip-top bags before tossing it to keep your road trip vehicle smelling fresh.
Challenge Number Two: Clothing
No one knows your little one like you do, so pack with them in mind. If they tend to be tidy, you don’t need to pack their entire closet “just in case.” If they’re messy, it’s better to acknowledge it head-on and pack extra outfits to save your sanity. Do your future trip-taking self a huge favor and research laundry machine availability at your destination: many hotels offer convenient washers and dryers, so you can pack even less. Like road food, remember: travel isn’t a good time to introduce new clothing, if you can help it. In cold weather, new clothes may not be warm enough, and new clothes in warmer destinations may contribute to overheating and chafing.
Challenge Number Three: Boredom
It’s not officially a road trip until someone declares “they’re bored,” is it? Head off whining, fidgeting, and other unpleasantness at the proverbial pass by bringing along road-friendly games. Yes, that may mean breaking a family rule or two about “screentime,” but it’s better to give a little in order to stay focused on road safety. Be conscious of the potential for motion sickness, which may manifest as attitude or tantrums if a well-meaning parent suggests a break from the tablet or game system. Take frequent breaks at rest stops for bathroom visits and insist on leaving everything but themselves in the car: you don’t want to discover Mr. Stuffins has been forgotten on a vending machine 200 miles in your rearview mirror.
The individual that opined that the journey is more valuable than the destination may have been onto something, but they also likely never traveled with kids. Expect both physical and metaphorical bumps in the road along the way and you’ll be much closer to that particular concept of zen on the interstate. When both you and your little one(s) are fed, clean, and focused, you’ll find the trip becomes considerably more pleasant. Happy driving!
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