Be the change you wish to see in the world...

- Gandhi

Monday, July 29, 2013

6 Ideas You Must Try If Traveling With Kids

I have been traveling with my kiddos since my first child was six months old (my oldest is now 9, my second is 7 and my baby is 4).  We have travelled at least twice a year since I became a mom.  My husband and I love to travel and believed the best way to foster that love in our children was to indoctrinate them early!  We also passionately told ourselves we would continue our lives as we had before our kids came along: they would adapt to our lifestyle, not the other way around (...yeah, that kind of worked!).  With these attitudes and my type A personality, it is no surprise to me that all of three of my children are fantastic travelers.  Truly, it is a pleasure traveling with them.  I am proud of their ability to entertain themselves on planes, adapt to different time zones, and settle into a hotel room as their "new home" for a few days or weeks.

Still, I cannot give these great kiddos all of the credit...I must give myself a little pat on the back for the strategies and routines I have in place that definitely contribute to the travel bliss we experience.  Here are some ideas that have worked for our family, that I hope will contribute to the same bliss among your families.

1. Write a pack list: I have channeled the SVP in my past life to create a packing "spreadsheet" of sorts that categorizes and itemizes the things I need to pack - from the number of underwear for each of my children to my magazines.  I have sections for clothing (segmented by person), carry-on items, sundries, and entertainment.  It is a comprehensive list that I have adapted for different trips and saved on my computer to update and re-use again and again.  When I go to pack, I simply print it out and go down the checklist.  Packing has never been easier!

2. Create activity carry-on bags: I love these bags.  I take pure joy in planning the treats, activities and toys I will fill in these personalized bags for each of my munchkins.  There are three keys to success with these bags:

  • Use a personalized or easily distinguishable bag for each child.  You don't want bags getting mixed up or things getting tossed (or misplaced) in someone else's bag (recipe for sibling fighting).  I use personalized Land's End bags that were gifted to my kids.  They are sturdy, stylish and functional.

  • Customize the bags for each child.  I fill these bags with activities and games that are specific to each child's interest.  Klutz, the $1 section at Target, and The Dollar Store are great places to shop for goodies.  Madlibs, Bendaroos or Wikki Stix, and Play-doh always make the bag.  I also include a few treats that my kids don't normally get to eat (a bag of M&M's, fruit leathers, or gummy treats) as a nice surprise and a good way to pass a grumpy stage during a flight (or car ride).

  • Surprise them.  The kids eagerly anticipate what they will get inside of each of these bags, but do not get to peek until they are on the plane, in the car, or train.  It keeps their enthusiasm high and also guarantees that no one will be bored with any of the contents.

3) Make a snack carry-on: I find everyone is happier with food (including me!).  I pack a cooler bag full of treats and favorite food items for the plane, car, or train ride.  I am more relaxed knowing that I have something nutritious and guaranteed to please at the ready whenever one of my little ones says, "I'm hungry."  

4. Throw a collapsible laundry hamper into your suitcase: I found these great storage containers from The Container Store that I use as travel laundry hampers.  They double as hamper and basket when I am lucky enough to have easy access to a washer and dryer where we are staying.  These storage containers are sanity saviors with all of the dirty clothes that can get thrown around a hotel room or timeshare.  I have one for the kids and one for me and my hubby.  It keeps things clean and organized.  I just love these containers!

5. Stock an activity and snack duffle bag: I am pretty efficient when it comes to packing (if I do say so, myself!).  I pack the kids in one suitcase and me and my husband in another.  Aside from those two suitcases, I have found that it is best to pack two additional duffle bags - one for snacks and one for games and activities.  With three small children, my husband and I choose to stay at timeshares or condos (versus a hotel room).  A kitchen is critical with small children if we don't want to spend a small fortune on meals at a hotel for breakfast and lunch.  Also, it helps with the early risers kids can be and the habitual "I am hungry" call that never seems to wane.  In order to be efficient and economical, I fill a duffle bag with favorite snacks and healthy items that are regulars in our household so that I can stock the pantry at our vacation spot as soon as we get there.  It saves time and money.

I also pack an additional bag full of board games, cards, books, DVDs, water toys, etc. that will keep us all entertained during our trip.  It keeps all of these items organized in one place.

6. Pack a collapsible tote bag: I purchased a few of these bags from Thirty-One.  I LOVE them.  Once I get to our vacation spot, I fill it with water toys and other items for sitting poolside.  Then, I tote it out every day, never having to think twice where the kids left this or that.  So great!

These are some of my organizational tools for success.  Please share if you have something that works great for your family.  I hope you are getting in some good travel this summer.