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Traveling with kids is exhilarating, rewarding, and exhausting for parents. I treasure our travel experiences, but with packing, schedules, and an on-the-go style, our family vacations are not exactly relaxing. Over time, however, I've learned a few mom travel hacks to keep everything going smoothly.
Whether you are a luxury travel mom headed to a resort, a camping pro with a toddler in a hiking backpack, or a busy mom just trying to see far-off friends, take a look at these family travel tips to take away the stress and add to the fun of your vacations and trips with the kids.
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Make a Packing List
Start your trip off well by creating a packing list for everyone several days in advance. This prevents last-minute panic, rushed trips to the store, and essential items forgotten at home (hypothetically … not that this has ever happened in our family … heh). You can reuse your packing list at the end of your vacation to make sure you've returned everything to the suitcases. No more urgent calls to the hotel to see if anyone found your kiddo's treasured stuffed animal!
We keep packing lists from previous years on our family computer so we can pull up the lists from past vacations and make small adjustments as needed. We also include a "before the trip" to-do list to make sure we don't return home to dirty dishes or a stinky trash can.
Find Time Alone
My number one hack to stay energized during a vacation is to sneak small amounts of time to myself. If we're staying in a hotel, this might mean my husband takes the kids down to breakfast while I take my time getting ready. If we're visiting family, this might be taking a few minutes to read while the baby naps nearby (bonus: this does not have to be your baby. You can give a break to new parents and babysit during naptime while they go out -- it's a win for you both!). Even taking a quick, solitary walk to the store to restock on sunscreen or snacks can be 15-20 minutes of rejuvenating solitude.
If you are traveling alone with kids, this time may look a little different. Perhaps you can find an awesome playground that will keep your kids busy while you rest on a bench for a few minutes. Or you can always put on a movie in the hotel -- no judgment here!
Sleep When Your Kids Do
The kids are in bed and everything is quiet. Is it finally time to read a book, catch up on emails, or check Instagram? As much as I value my alone time on a trip, nighttime is not the best time to find it. I've finally learned that traveling with kids means reverting to that ancient rule of new parents everywhere -- sleep when your kids sleep. This applies whether they are 2 or 12.
Go to bed when your kids go to bed, and plan to get more sleep than you need. Ultimately, that extra sleep combines with middle-of-the-night wakings, early risers, noisy hotel guests, and malfunctioning thermostats to get you just the right amount of rest so you won't be exhausted the next day.
Traveling with kids is exhilarating, rewarding, and exhausting. Try these travel hacks to take away the stress and add to the fun of your family vacation.
Take Your Time -- Or Don't
My local moms group recently had a long Facebook discussion about whether road trips are better with a few quick stops or long lunches and detours. Ultimately, we found that different things work for different families. If the efficiency of drive-through meals and direct routes keeps you sane, then go for it, and enjoy getting to your destination quickly. If you (and your kids) function better with sit-down meals and stops to see roadside attractions, that's great too!
Pay attention to which traveling style results in happier family members and better vacations, then commit to it! Make a plan for when and where stops will happen, so everyone knows what to expect.
Know What You Need
Do you have one special want or need that just makes everything better? My husband has found that he sleeps better when he travels with his own pillow, so that gets precious space in his suitcase. Another friend takes a small bag of coffee beans and a portable grinder with her when she travels as a remedy for bad hotel coffee. As for me, I'm likely to pack way more pairs of shoes than I'll actually wear on a trip. I feel more prepared and ready for anything if I know I have the sandals/running shoes/heels that I might end up needing.
Go with What Works for Your Family
A great vacation is really about what works for your family and not anyone else's. Your vacation may look a little different than what's on social media, and that's okay! The key is to celebrate what makes your family special and enjoy time together, however that may look. With intentional planning and a few dashes of self-care, you can enjoy your vacation -- and your family -- even more.
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