We lived 1500 miles from family until we had our fourth child. We decided we needed to be closer to my family because we needed the support. Traveling back and forth from Florida to Nebraska for birthdays and holidays with 4 kids was hard, but we learned to execute with precision with experience. There are some things I learned by doing and getting it wrong and trying the next time again.
These are 5 of the best tips I received and that we practice, anytime we are traveling with kids.
Book a Hotel that Provides Breakfast
We always book a hotel that provides breakfast. Many of the Hilton and Marriott hotels have a hot breakfast every morning, and the best part, sometimes it’s free! This makes it super easy for a parent to grab breakfast and bring it back to the kids’ room. I used to believe that I would save money by booking a cheaper room and buying breakfast at a restaurant. That is great for self-sufficient adults, but with kids, it can become hectic.
Don’t over-extend yourselves. Especially if the kids are really little and still nap, only plan for an activity that lasts a few hours in the morning or afternoon. I have been guilty of trying to do everything—and with kids, they get tired, they cry, they need a nap, and it ends up being more stressful in the long run. It is unreasonable to think that kids will behave all day because you are on vacation.
About 10-14 days before we leave anywhere, I pull out the suitcases. As I do laundry over those next couple of weeks, I set aside the clothes that we will take. Kids are unpredictable, so I usually overpack their clothes just if I don’t have time to do laundry or don’t feel like doing laundry on the trip. This has been so helpful because it eliminates running around at the last minute, trying to find specific outfits for the kids.
Make a List
I am kind of a nerd, so whenever I have something big on my calendar or anything that is complex and has many moving parts, I make a list. A list can be in many forms, and it can be as detailed or as general as you like. You may be okay with adding “kids’ snacks” to the list. Or, if you’re like me, I specify on my list what bag I need to put the snack in, so the snacks aren’t accidentally checked in at the ticket counter, or when we get on the plane, the kids’ snacks are placed inconveniently in the overhead bin. A list can also ensure that tasks are done in a certain order. For example, I need to get my son’s hair cut three days before departure, and the yard needs to be done two days before departure, and the car needs to be cleaned the day before, making a list leads to increased productivity.
Double Strollers can be helpful when traveling with kids. We have twins, so a double stroller is a necessity. Even if you don’t have twins, but you have small kids who can fit in a stroller, a double stroller can be useful. At one point, when all the kids were under five years old, we had two double strollers! We were a spectacle anywhere we went. The double strollers can be hard to maneuver, especially when dealing with rental cars or rideshares because they are so big. But if you have the extra space, the double stroller really gave us peace of mind because we could strap the kids in, and the only time we had to pull them out was to go through airport security. Also, we could use the bottom of the double stroller for storage.