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Tales of a Traveling Mom: 5 Lessons I Learned About Traveling with Kids

I used to LOVE to travel. Trains, planes, automobiles, all of them. (Although I get car sick if I try to read in the car, so that is definitely my least favorite mode of traveling long distances.) I’ve always been able to sleep while traveling, and I love to experience new places and adventures.

Then came the children. [Dun dun dun…]

And all of the sudden traveling became 10x more complicated. Not only is there like 52x more stuff to pack, children + long car rides = misery all around.

So when I started to anticipate a summer full of traveling, I often found anxiety arising. My husband and I are on staff with the Christian ministry, Athletes in Action, [which is a ministry of Cru/Campus Crusade for Christ,] and every other summer all the staff from around the country gather in Colorado for a week-long conference. Last time we traveled west, we only had 1 child, and he was 6 months, so we flew. Flying with a baby can definitely be unpredictable, but lucky for us, Knox made it easy peasy.

But this time we had a 2.5-year-old and a 6-month-old, what felt like all of their belongings and lots and lots of anxiety-induced DREAD. However, now that we’re on the other side of a month of traveling, I’ve learned a thing or two and thought I’d share them with you! Here are 5 things I learned as a traveling mom:

1.Enlist the help of other mom friends. I write often about our need for help, community and a mom-tribe, and this is definitely one of those times. It always helps to learn from those who have been there and done that, and I was so thankful when my friend and co-Dayton Mom Blogger, Casey Purnhagen sent along a bunch of her personally tested and approved travel tips!

2. Let go of your preconceived notions of the “proper” amount of screen time. My 2.5-year-old, Knox, literally watched The Magic School Bus THE ENTIRE DRIVE to Colorado. And you know what, it worked for us.

[2b. if you’re a mom who really doesn’t want your child to watch TV the whole drive or your child is not one to enjoy simply watching TV the whole way, make some “busy bags.” (One of the tips from fellow DMBer Casey!) I did this, and Knox played with them a little bit but was more interested in just watching TV. Some busy bag ideas are magnets on a cookie sheet, beads and shoelaces for older kids, crayons and paper or color wonder markers. I’m sure you could find loads of other ideas on Pinterest too!

3. Chick-Fil-A and hotels with pools for the win! Making intentional stops for food, such as Chick-Fil-A with their play area, (and fabulous food and service) or finding local parks you can eat picnic-style are game changers. They let your kids get some of their energy out before hopping back in the car. And if you have to stay in a hotel, and it’s in your price range, definitely look for one with a pool! Again it’ll give your kids an opportunity to get some energy out, and most kids just LOVE swimming! Just make sure you pack their swimsuits!

4. Accept that it’s probably going to take longer than you anticipate. There are always unexpected things that arise with kids, and it’s better to expect those and be pleasantly surprised if they don’t happen than expect to make your trip in the fastest possible time and be annoyed and upset with your kids for causing delays. They are kids after all, and road trips can be rough on them.

5. Drive through the night if possible (if you think your kids will do well sleeping in their carseats all night long). Our first trip of the summer was to Colorado, so obviously, this wasn’t realistic, as the drive took multiple days. (We survived by implementing the tips above.) But when we took our second trip of the summer to Philadelphia, the drive time was significantly shorter. So we decided to test our luck and see how our kids would fare driving through the night. In order to arrive around breakfast time, we planned on leaving around 10pm. So we put our kids to sleep in their beds, got everything packed, and when it was time to pull out of the driveway, we woke our kids up and quickly transferred them to their carseats. Since they had both been asleep already, they fell right back to sleep and both slept through the night! It was glorious. (Of course OUR sleep was a little different, but in the long run, it was totally worth it.)

On our way back, we left a little earlier and our older son hadn’t gone to bed yet, so it was a little harder to get him to fall asleep in the car. Therefore, if we ever drive through the night again, we will definitely have both kids sleeping in their beds first and transfer them to their car seat.

These tips definitely worked for my family, although I know not every family and not all kids are the same. If you have any tried and true tips for traveling with kids, I’d love to hear them!

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