Let’s be honest: It’s not a vacation. You’re just parenting in a different location!
It’s very unlikely you’ll get sleep-ins and fine dining, but you know what? Memories will be made. My number one piece of advice is mindset and expectation, and a reminder to do things outside your comfort zone like traveling with your kids. That's how we grow as individuals and parents. I can speak from it first-hand.
If it were up to me, 5 years after becoming a mom, I would likely have not gone anywhere with my kids. BUT, my husband is a super adventurous, get out of your comfort zone, kind of guy, so that’s not what happened.
My one best tip for traveling with kids is to be prepared!
Be prepared to feel stressed.
Be prepared to pack your entire house up.
Be prepared to lose sleep
Be prepared to enjoy yourself and laugh with your family.
Things to purchase to help make traveling with kids a little easier
I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty details of packing the nail clippers and diaper cream, but I will give a shout out to my favorite big ticket items to make sleep easier when traveling with toddlers and babies.
The Slumber Pod. The Slumber Pod is an excellent product for families who travel frequently, and/or have siblings sharing a room with a baby/young child. We have a Slumber Pod discount code to share with you! Use code TWEETDREAMZZ$20 at checkout! If you have a trip coming up in a few months, order it now. Stock isn't always reliable because it's super popular! If you have twins, you'll need to place two ordrers to utilize the Slumber Pod discount code for each.
Utlize babyquip.com if it is available in your area. Baby Quip is a life saver. They have people located all over who stock and store everyday baby/kid items. We’ve always rented pack n plays from baby quip in addition to strollers, beach items and even a table & chair set that worked perfectly for our Airbnb. The consultant works with you to setup and take down the items you’ve rented and most time the product is there and waiting for you when you arrive.
Portable blackout curtains. The best I have found so far are the Sleepout Blackout Curtains. We just recently used them on a trip to Florida and they worked like a charm and were easy to install and take down. We have a Sleepout coupon code to share that will give you 10% off your order! Use code tweetdreamzz at checkout!
Road trip with kids
Stop frequently! I suggest adding on at least 2 total hours into your trip for stops. Young children become very restless in the car and often cry, and everyone is miserable. Be very hesitant to let your child hold a tablet for extended periods as it could cause car sickness. Instead install a table holder like this one.
I don’t recommend to “drive straight through”. Instead add an additional 1-2 days to your trip to stop and stay overnight to sleep/rest. I don’t think it’s worth it, especially with young kids, to skip an entire night’s sleep for everyone. Dozing in the car for you isn’t restful and can likely start your vacation off on the wrong foot. Pack a bag for each child to keep inside the cabin of the vehicle with change of clothes and comfort items.
Road trip naps with a baby
If your child is a baby and naps several times per day, I recommend to let them get their first nap of the day done in the crib and then leave immediately once the baby is up and fed. A tired baby may cry a bunch in the car before ever finally falling asleep, so you may as well get one good nap in that day.
Sometimes parents may try and line up the road trip during baby’s nap time. There are pros and cons to this strategy. If you know your baby will doze off fast and sleep well, okay sure, go for it! But many times, our baby’s will fight sleep in the car and then once asleep out of exhaustion will only nap for less than 1 hour (oof!).
Tips for airplane trip with kids
Babies: comfort item from home, change of clothes (for all of you), plenty of diapers, formula and don’t forget your breast pump. I have a horror story about the first time I flew to Florida with my twins. Baby wear if you can and get up and move around the plane every so often as to keep baby from getting restless. Families with at least one child are qualified for family boarding. Every airline is different, but on Southwest Airlines, that means all families can board after the A group boards. You’ll notice a line start to form once the pre-board passengers have boarded. Be sure to gate check your stroller, etc with the customer service desk and then hand it off to the employee before you step on the plane. Ages 18 months to 2 years can be the toughest age to fly with in my opinion. I recommend using their car seat on the plane so they can physically be strapped in. I realize it’s very difficult to lug it through the terminal, but the rewards will pay off when you have a child that age.
How to get good sleep with your kids on vacation
Recreate your environment from home as best as you can.
Black out the windows.
I recommend this investment (use code tweetdreamzz at checkout) for travel or stop in the dollar store and buy black trashbags + painters tape. If you are in a hotel, bring some chip clips to fasten the curtains closed.
Use a sound machine (this one takes batteries)
Incorporate their bedtime routine
Bring a comfort item or crib sheet that smells like home.
How to manage time zone change when traveling with kids
Rule of thumb- If you are experiencing time zone shifts fewer than 3 hours, adopt the destination time zone on day 1. Wake your kids up close to the same clocked time as possible in addition to following the clock for bedtime. It may just take 1 day or so to settle given how much activity your family is likely doing. Travel wears us out!
For international travel with kids or bigger time differences like 4+ hours. Consult your pediatrician for possible short term melatonin supplementation for your older kids to help adapt to the new time zone. Younger babes, you’ll just have to ride it out and get on the new time zone ASAP. You may find that naps will be erratic at first, but should settle when night time is in line with the new time zone. Blacking out windows, using a sound maching and following their bedtime routine will be your go-to three things to remember.
Lindsay Loring is the author of this article. She is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and mom to twin girls. She lives in the metro St. Louis area with her family. Find out more here on how work one on one with Lindsay!