Just before I was set to take my first vacation after my son was born, a caring friend shared with me a very important mothering lesson: traveling with kids is never a vacation – it is simply a trip. Her news was a tough pill to swallow.
When my hubby and I planned this getaway, we had visions of relaxing on the beach with a cute baby bum getting sandy next to us. This was not the wake up call we wanted. Eight years (and another kid) later, this is now wisdom I pass along to other mamas. I do this not to burst bubbles, but to help set realistic expectations. Armed with this new wisdom, it is easier to plan for a trip that will surely make memories. Over the years, I have developed my top three tips to make these trips easier.
- Set realistic expectations. You have already determined that this will be a trip, not a vacation. Depending on your children’s ages, think about sleeping arrangements that will be most amenable to the family when booking your room. In terms of itinerary, structure your days around how much stamina you typically have (and, of course, nap times). Make sure to build in plenty of down time (but not too much if you have a child that needs to be constantly entertained).
- Pack one of everything per person in your carry-on. Someone – if not multiple people in your entourage – will get spilled, peed, or puked on. Do yourself a favor and pack an extra outfit for everyone, including you. Also pack a set of pjs and toiletries (and diapers and wipes for 24 hours) just in case your flight gets delayed or your luggage gets lost.
- Pack more entertainment for the flight than you could ever possibly need. All bets are off when it comes to flying with kids. No amount of candy or device time is too much. This is all about survival, people. Load up on games and movies. Pack plenty of stickers and coloring books for when electronics are not allowed. Lollipops are great for takeoff and landing for sensitive ears.
Most importantly, go easy on yourself. Traveling can be extremely stressful, but don’t let that overshadow the whole reason you are taking this trip in the first place. Have fun, make memories, and hopefully, relax a bit. The key is to prepare on the front end so you can enjoy once the trip starts.
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