I originally published this post in 2011, but the information is still relevant for families traveling with small children. Our family has not had a travelling vacation since my son was three, four years ago. So, when we found out I was going to the Savvy Blogging Summit in Colorado Springs, we decided to take a family vacation. Unlike our previous vacations when we traveled with one child, we were now travelling with three children, two of who are still in diapers and under age three. We used these six tips for travelling with small children to make our road trip smoother.
The trip was not totally smooth, and we certainly had our moments of suffering from lack of planning, but overall we had an enjoyable family vacation and I learned quite a bit at the Savvy Blogging Summit.
If you are planning to travel with small children, here are some tips that might help make your vacation smoother and save you money:
If you are going to be gone for a week or more, try only packing four outfits per child. Many hotels offer laundry services. We only brought four outfits for each child, and it saved on the bulk of extra luggage. Before the trip I bought a few travel size packages of Tide to bring with us (because buying detergent at the hotel is expensive). I used half of the Tide travel size pack for each load of laundry. Plus, it is nice to return home with most of the laundry done instead of facing a week’s worth of dirty laundry.
Pack an outfit for each child in a Ziplock baggie. Then when you get to the hotel instead of bringing in several suitcases, you just bring in the Ziplock bag. (I got this tip from Money Saving Mom.)
When travelling with small children, don’t expect to go as quickly as you normally would, and expect the unexpected.
Keep kids entertained with music, books on tape, and television. We don’t have a T.V. in our mini-van, and I don’t really want the kids watching T.V., but on a 1000+ mile trip, we did use it for about four hours there and back to keep the kids entertained when they were absolutely fed up with travelling. With our son, who is 7, we also challenged him to find as many different license plates as he could. He really got into this game, and it kept him entertained for several hours.
Pack food for the road and stop at parks. We packed food for picnics and tried to stop at rest areas with playgrounds or went through a town to find a park the kids could play in. They released some steam and were much more likely to willingly get back in the car. After travelling several hours, the last thing they wanted to do was sit in a restaurant, so this worked perfectly.
Do your activity for the day in the morning. When we were in Colorado we planned all of our outings for the morning. The kids were refreshed and energized, the temperatures were still cool, and we avoided the busy time at local attractions. Later in the day the kids were tired and whiny. That was a good time to cool off in the hotel pool.
Stay near the attractions you plan to visit. Once we settled in a hotel, we didn’t want to move to another one that was closer to the site we wanted to see. That was a mistake. The attraction we wanted to see was 1.25 hours away. We got caught in construction and missed getting on the scenic train at the scheduled time and could not ride it. Plus, the kids were tired from the ride there and back. In hindsight, we should have moved to a hotel near the train so we simply had to wake up and go to the train station.
Travelling did present its challenges, but using these six tips for travelling with small children helped. We enjoyed our time together, and it was nice to finally have a family vacation.