Our kids passed the travel test with flying colors. Partly because Justin and I knew it would be a trip, not a vacation, and probably because they got a lecture about gratitude on the way out the door. Before you travel with your kids it’s always good to prepare, both mentally and physically (deep breathing, meditation….). Here’s what we did.
Have realistic expectations. Don’t expect to go to a million museums or walk a million miles. It simply will not happen. Before we left I thought I had a realistic list of things to do. We did less than half of them.
Don’t be in a hurry. One of the main purposes of family trips is to be together without a million distractions. The hours we spent staring at the sea lions and playing at the park were some of the highlights of the trip. Neither of which I would have scheduled. Well I might have written down the sea lions, but in my head it would have been a 15 minute sighting.
Let the kids have an opinion. Before we left I looked up some different things to do that I thought the kids would like. I showed them the different options (children’s museum, renting bikes, exploratorium, aquarium, animal sanctuary), everyone expressed an opinion, and then Justin and I made the final decisions. That’s how we ended up at the Mystery Spot (kid’s choice) and biking the bridge (everyone’s choice – except Josh he really wanted to go to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum). I think it helped everyone’s attitude and excitement level to have a say in what we did.
Bring lots of food. Kids like to eat. Constantly. When we travel we try and only eat out once a day. Having healthy snacks and meals in my bag helped when energy was lagging.
Don’t let them be brats. If someone started to whine. We pulled them aside and let them know it was unacceptable.
Plan some downtime. My youngest still naps. In the late afternoon we would try to be somewhere where he could konk out in the stroller. The older two got tired as well, so when everyone needed a break, we’d head back to the hotel and veg out for a little while. My kids are now addicted to Cutthroat Kitchen. Cheering on the different contestants was an unplanned and delightful bonding moment.
Know where the parks are. Parks are an essential part of traveling with kids. It breaks up the walking and is a great place to meet people or just people watch. And… there are usually a couple of playgrounds located near something the parents want to see.
Be excited and be fun. I get so excited to go new places I think it rubs off on my kids a little bit. Justin’s better at the being fun part. When the kids got tired of walking he taught them to skip and sing silly songs, or had them race.
Find free things to do. Most people travel on a budget. When you bring kids along suddenly you are looking at almost $100 to get into any given attraction. Every city and town have an events page listing farmer’s markets, fairs etc. Utilize it. There are always hikes, free museum days, and just exploring a new area on foot.
Traveling with your kids can be exhausting, but it can also be a time to make precious unexpected memories. Max, whom I thought would forget everything within a month, keeps asking when we can go back to San Francisco.