Traveling with Kids? Don’t Forget The Four P’s
A quick guide to traveling with kids of different ages. Get ready to channel your inner scout and ‘be prepared’.
Traveling with Kids
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Sightseeing in a new place, near or far, is a great way to build memories and a far better investment instead of yet more toys. As long as you have the four Ps in order, you can pull off an epic adventure: planning, packing, pacing, and playing.
Planning for your trip with the kids
This can’t be stressed enough! Planning is what makes a good trip possible! It’s not about having a minute by minute schedule, but you need to have a strategy to deal with any ‘emergencies’. Of course, when I say ‘emergencies’, I’m referring to a lost lovey or a fit of ‘hangry’, rather than a real honest to goodness emergency. So with that in mind and like the Scouts say, ‘be prepared’.
Tip number 1
Have a plan B for everything. What if the weather isn’t cooperating for that outdoor tour of an ancient Aztec village? Or what if someone in your flock comes down with a case of the sniffles, leaving everyone stranded? Have a plan B.
Tip number 2
Be realistic. A five year old is not going to happily tour around the Smithsonian for six hours. If it’s your biggest dream to enjoy every minute of Hogwarts at Orlando with your older kids, you might want to plan for Grandma to stay with the baby at the hotel pool. Missing nap time for a sorting hat ceremony, or the other way around, is going to leave everyone unhappy.
Randa’s Must Have: If you don’t have the luxury of a built-in babysitter, make sure you have a stroller. The littles can easily have their nap on the go and save their tired little feet.
You can get a little more buy-in from the older kids if you involve them in the planning of the sightseeing trips and include something that they’re interested in too, even if it makes you want to fall asleep standing up! Half the fun is exploring the internet for options and they’ll be more likely to cooperate with going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, if you give in to Hershey’s Chocolate World in Times Square. Good luck!
TBK’s Pro Tip: If you’re road tripping it, I recommend this snack and play travel tray. I bought one a few years ago and I love it!
Packing for your adventure
Depending on your mode of transportation, you need certain things at all times when sightseeing with kids: snacks, snacks, and did I mention snacks? It can get pricey, to say nothing of unhealthy, to be buying treats en route, so plan for wholesome nibbles that will keep them fueled.
If you have to travel some way to your destination, your next important item is distractions: dollar store toys or other trinkets, handed out over the course of the trip, make all the difference. And this might be a good time to relax the rules about tech and let little Susie watch Tangled for the four hundredth time! Water and juice boxes complete the package and you’re ready to go.
Our travel must-haves:
- Granola bars
For smaller kids, a change of clothes and enough diapers to keep them moving are a good idea, as are a baby carrier and/or umbrella stroller. You’d be surprised where kids can nap when they want to!
TBK’s Pro Tip: I highly recommend bringing a wet bag (here are some). Things happen on trips: spilled drinks, or the little one couldn’t hold it that long. What I’m saying is, accidents happen! A wet bag is a great place to contain soiled clothes without stinking up a backpack.
Pacing your trip
Pulling into a national memorial for a tour and hike, an hour before dinner? Bad idea. The ideal situation is to try and time your visits to sites and locations when the kids are relatively well rested and in a good mood. Yes, I know: when would that be, exactly? But seriously, forcing a tired, cranky kid to look like they’re enjoying their travels isn’t going to end well for anyone.
Also, pace yourself. Trying to fit everything into three days, like Clark W. Griswold, is harrowing on the adults, never mind the littles! This goes back to planning: make sure you space out your sightseeing with some downtime, relaxation by the hotel pool or whatever works to get everyone to chill a little.
Playing during your trip
There is value in playing, particularly for kids. And surprisingly, they learn more than if they are simply taken from site to site, museum to museum. Look at your destination and see if there are museums for kids, or aquariums and zoos. Any place that will let them run around safely, while still taking in a little culture and learning, and where you’re not perpetually telling them ‘don’t touch that!’ You’ll find yourself more relaxed too!
If you have access to a pool or playground at the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with incentivizing the rest of the sites being whine-free by offering up some extra play time at the end of the day.
In the end, if you are calm and enjoying yourself, the kids will too. Be prepared to roll with the punches: if a certain site isn’t working out because everyone is tired and hungry, it’s time to cut your losses and go play in a park for a while. You want to build memories that last a lifetime, good ones!