Traveling with children can be overwhelming to think about, but it can also be absolutely delightful! Traveling transforms a family – the kids may fight until we leave and start bickering again as soon as we pull into the drive, but there is nothing like an adventure! And the more we travel, the more they love to do it.
My first suggestion-
Just Do It! Don’t wait until they get older and things get easier – things don’t always get easier as kids grow. It just gets different! Older children eat more, take up more room, have more opinions, and have more luggage.
If you have little ones, don’t hesitate.
After the first few trips, you will feel like a pro.
Set your general budget. Are you going big or small? Just getting there can be costly, then add on your food and accommodations. That doesn’t take into consideration the actual costs while at a destination. If you fly you may have to book a car as well. If you drive you eat up time and money on the road as well so it isn’t always significantly cheaper. If you are driving, make the travel days part of the vacation too, not just a means to the destination. But remember – staying home isn’t free – you still have normal expenses when you are at home.
Set your time constraints. How long can you be away? Can you extend the trip a few days and build in a remote work day? If you have fewer days, maybe you fly instead of driving but find a way to avoid renting a car. Many cities are very pedestrian friendly or have easy options for city transit. We recently traveled to Denver for soccer and while the family was on the pitch, I hopped a non-stop bus line to Boulder alone to visit a college research buddy. The bus system was awesome!
Find the location. We have found trips that allow us loads of outdoor time are required. My kids can only handle so much “old stuff”. They need a hike or two or some beach time, they need to exercise and play. They will be impressed with a museum or a castle, but notice I used the singular there. Kids want to have fun. I have a tendency to try to jam the itinerary too full. Use a loose itinerary and remember things like seeing a local park and playground may be just as much fun as seeing a Picasso.
Give them a packing list, then let them do it. Of course, you have to double-check this. You will have 100 different things to do as you prepare for the trip, but letting them pick their own clothes and shoes can take the load off your shoulders. Let them take care of the things they are able to take care of. With easy rolling bags or scooter bags (see here), the kids can carry much of the load. Our kids each have one rolling bag, one backpack, and one water bottle for which they are responsible whenever we travel. And we almost never check bags when we fly.
Pack some surprises. All trips end up with downtime. We have a special little bag that has fun little toys, activities, games, and crafts just for traveling. It is great for car rides or downtime anywhere. Just pull something out of the bag and let them play. Things like Jax, Uno, Rubix Cube, and Pic-up-sticks can be fun for all ages.
For more excellent Road Trip specific advice check out this post from a few years back. The kids look so different now, but I still stand by the post! Also, subscribe to the podcast and get our episode in May 2023 that includes a few more great tips. Bon Voyage and safe travels!