Tips and Tricks for Travel with Kids!
We've been travelers all my life. My parents used to trek us kids from Michigan to Virginia a few times a year so I'm no stranger to being on the road. As an adult I've made that exact trip more than once. Jeremy's basic training graduation trip was a doozy though, Michigan to Missouri, across to Virginia and back up to Michigan! It reminded me that I am human and that traveling alone with three kids, three years old and younger is just... never a good idea. All of that travel has given me some serious experience in packing, pit stops and corralling the mini humans.
I've compiled a short list of tips and tricks that have helped me stay sane during our trips with our littles. Every one of these tips has saved me time and effort throughout the years, especially when I'm traveling alone!
Tip #1: Pack your kids clothes in a set of plastic drawers.
I started doing this because I didn't actually have enough suit cases when the kids were little and it's benefits were amazing. No matter our destination I always had a dresser for the kids. Not every venue has a dresser available and packing/unpacking with a zillion kids on the run is no fun anyway! This set up was easy to put together straight from the laundry room, it's almost too easy to move it from the trunk to the place you're staying and keeps everything in one neat, organized space.
Tip #2: Pack a toddler potty AND set it up properly!
I can not stress the importance of a toddler potty enough. Pack it. You think you won't need it, it's only a three hour drive... I'm here to tell you, you're wrong. Lower your expectations and pack the dang toddler potty. We have a whole set up for the potty that makes it a little less gross to tote around. I put a roll of toilet paper, pack of wipes, sanitizer, handful of grocery bags and roll of paper towel in a box to keep near the potty. Every time someone needs to go we set up a bag with a paper towel in the bottom. Once the business has been attended to, clean up consists of tying up the bag and tossing it, sanitizing the potty and everyone's hands and getting back on the road. This set up has saved my sanity in so many ways. We don't have to tote kids into and out of rest areas full of people and the mess isn't out of this world no matter how bad the business is!
Tip #3: Use Dollar Tree organizers for on the road meals.
This tip came in handy when my kids were too little to navigate the Happy Meal boxes on their own, but we do still use it now on especially long trips. The how-to portion of this tip is pretty self-explanatory, but the reasons why are pretty cool. I found that this hack cut down on the excess trash floating through the van and didn't take quite as much coordination on the part of the kids. It allows the kids to hold with one hand and eat with the other as opposed to trying to balance a box on their lap while they open everything up themselves. We cut down on spills by a lot with this hack! I can't take credit for it's origin, I saw this scrolling through Pinterest prior to our longest trip a few years back!
Tip #4: Plan as much extra time as possible.
The less of a time crunch you have, the better. I know this is harder to do than it is to say, but it will save your sanity in such a big way. We frequently travel from our home in Kentucky to my parents house in Michigan and we've learned that our seven hour trip will likely take us ten or more. We stop every two hours without fail, every single person gets out of their seats at every stop to stretch, potty and run off some energy. Pre-COVID we intentionally planned stops around playgrounds and parks or restaurants with play areas. I remember on my longest leg by myself, from Missouri to Virginia, we made a game of finding the next Chick-Fil-A because I knew they'd have a play place.
Tip #5: If you're packing snacks, pack them well!
We usually don't take a trip if we can't afford eating out a bit. I personally despise packing food to eat on the road because it's a hassle. Once I discovered this hack that all changed! PB&J packed in a bread bag!! You know they fit because the bread came in that same bag, just make the sandwiches ahead of time and stuff them back in. I know at least a few people cringed because the jelly soaks into the bread, but I use peanut butter on both sides to avoid the nasty bread issue. It also helps that peanut butter and jelly is a family favorite. This same hack can be applied to a variety of snacks. Putting individual baggies of crackers, cookies, pretzels back into the original box keeps them organized.
So, that's the list of hacks I use when on the road with my little crazies. This post is especially fresh because we just went on a trip this past weekend. Traveling was not nearly as difficult as it should have been because we used most of these hacks! I DIDN'T use my favorite hack, using the drawer set for a dresser, and half way through the weekend realized I was mistaken!