June has been incredibly hectic for our family (and here I was hoping for a relaxed, laid-back summer). But with kids, it’s often easy for simple things like taking all three kids to the pool by myself to become overwhelming and make me feel I need a glass of wine and ear plugs.
But there are amazing moments to cherish as well. Watching my kids discover the world around them in the summertime means more than any logistics. Pointing out the many colors of flowers, splashing in waves, searching for lightning bugs, selecting fresh produce, and watering plants at dusk are some of the ways I’ve seen the earth alive in my children this season.
We’re heading out of town again in July, and I’m looking back over our travels in June to see what worked and what didn’t in how I prepped physically and mentally for travel with kids. Here are some rules I’m claiming for our family:
- View each trip with children as just that - a trip. The word vacation is reserved for solo travel or travel alone with my hubby. Viewing our travels as a trip helps me keep my expectations in perspective. I will still have to get up at 6 a.m. I will probably not be able to nap on a raft in the pool.
- Try to keep my diet intact as much as possible. I’m avoiding dairy, soy, and eggs right now, and I’m trying to get rid of the last 10 lbs. of baby weight. The last thing I want is to undo all of the work I’ve done to keep allergens away from the baby and pounds from my hips. If I have the mindset of keeping my diet as much as possible, I won’t go overboard when a few extra sweets or delicious meals present themselves (as they inevitably will).
- Just enjoy the time away. Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate and even if children meltdown, just enjoy it. These moments are what make nostalgia.
- Pack as light as possible with small children. This seems impossible, but there are some easy ways to lighten the load:
- Take about 5 kids’ books for bedtime reading.
- Take 1 floating device per child.
- Have 1 easy-to-pack bag/basket/box for toys and let the children pick them out with guidance. Whatever fits, goes. Whatever doesn’t, stays home. End of story.
- With a baby, choose the most versatile and compact seat/play gym for the trip.
- If you have access to a washer/dryer and are going out of town for a week, use it. Pack for 1/2 of your time there and do a load of laundry mid-stay. It really doesn’t take that long.
- Bedding - this can be tricky, but we found using a bedrail (easy to pack on the bottom of the van) on a twin-sized bed worked for our toddler, even though he still uses a crib at home. If you don’t have a big car, look into a portable kid’s cot or inflatable travel bed. They collapse smaller than a pack-n-play.
- Have a few rainy day activities up your sleeve. Coloring, play-doh, bubbles, etc. Keep them hidden until they’re necessary. If it never rains, use them to distract the kids while you’re packing up to head home.
- Take a booster seat for convenient eating. We forgot ours and had to purchase another because the chairs and table were really high at the beach house.
- Even if the week is busy with extended family, take at least 30 minutes alone or 30 minutes with your spouse. Ask: What am I enjoying? What could I/we do to make this trip better? How can I/we enjoy time and build relationships? While at the beach Tyler and Itook a walk, discussed the week, and took a few moments for ourselves (Tyler took pictures and videos, and I explored the dunes and looked at shells).
- Less is better. When we packed in June, our minivan was full, almost overflowing. And everything I brought seemed important while I was packing. But we didn’t use it all. Just because we have the space in the minivan, doesn’t mean we need to fill it. If possible, pare down to the basic essentials. Isn’t the point of going away from home to experience a new place? You can’t do that with your whole house packed in the car.
I’m hopeful these tips will allow us to focus our time on the place we’re exploring and the friends and family we’re loving. And I’m hoping they will reduce stress along the way