Living abroad, and being so close to amazing places (such as a 3-hr train ride to Paris) makes my travel itch go crazy! I would travel every week if I could…especially if I didn’t have to take my kids on every trip. Now, before you judge me for feeling that way, just know traveling with kids makes everything 20 times harder. There is no such thing as vacation when kids are with you; unless the resort has childcare. Though experiencing different places with my kids is amazing, it wears me out! When you travel with kids, it is basically just doing daily life, in a different city, but without all the comforts of home. The kids don’t think to themselves “Oh, we are out of town, let me get my life and not cause mommy and daddy any undue stress”. Nope! I swear, sometimes them suckers turn up the pressure on a trip. With my kids, naps are vital. A missed nap can throw off their entire day. That, alone, causes them to be out of their element and increases the chances for shenanigans. Not to mention, they are being dragged all over some unknown city, in and out of restaurants, trains, museums, sleeping in foreign beds, etc. Seriously, from the moment we step foot into a new city, the odds are against us. You name the inconvenience; I have probably dealt with it and then some. I won’t even go into the extra layer of challenges presented because of the language barriers! I will save that for another post.
So, I am sure you are wondering, how do we stay sane enough on these trips to keep doing it over and over?! Below I will share some of my tips that help us make it out alive each trip.
Try to schedule road trips around nap time. If the kids are sleeping there is no drama. Stop only when they are awake; right before a nap time and after they wake up.
Pay for accommodations that allow you and your kids to sleep in a separate space! When you have kids that are used to sleeping in their own space, do not switch that up. No more studio rooms! You don't sleep in the same room with your kids at home (well, maybe you do. Just skip this part lol), why would you dare do this to yourself on a trip! You need a break from them jokers! Mine once slept in the enclosed foyer of a one-bedroom apartment, haha!
Consider your kids in your itinerary. Do not dare pack your day full of art museums, city tours, wine tastings and not give your kids time to be kids. They can only be quiet and still for so long. Trust me when I say this is a sure way to sign up for shenanigans (ask me about Paris!). Look for a bakery or ice cream shop to give them a treat. Stop in a souvenir shop and let them pick out a toy. Look up the playgrounds in the area. Visit the science or hands-on museum, etc.
Pack blackout curtains and push pins. There is not much worse than trying to convince your kids it is bedtime when the sun is shining bright in their room. My kids’ room had a glass door one time. We hung the curtain over the door so they wouldn’t be distracted by us outside their room.
Pack your luggage half full of snacks! I call it the “Big-A bag of snacks” and I do not travel without this. Kids can’t really whine or cry when their mouth is full of yummy snacks haha! On trips, my kids typically get a snack before and after a snack. Yea, you read that right.
Get a travel potty for your toddler. With a travel potty you can pull over anywhere and let her use the restroom. This is also helpful to keep in your stroller carriage so you do not have to run around looking for a restroom in an emergency
Invest in roll-up space saver bags. Nobody wants to lug around a bag for each child. I pack for myself and two children in one standard sized luggage. The space saver bags work miracle! Many people recommend packing cubes. I say nix those and get space saver bags instead! There is a big difference.
Don’t forget your baby camera. If you use this at home, take it with you on a trip. This is just an extra comfort that is nice to have in an unfamiliar apartment or hotel room where your kids are not in the room with you. Remember that separate space I talked about in #2?
Always keep a couple of small trash bags in your diaper bag. You never know when you might need a place to put wet clothes or a nasty diaper.
Do not be too good for food delivery! Many cities have something like Uber eats or Deliveroo. If the kids are doing the most around dinner time, forgo the restaurant and just have dinner at your hotel! You can often still enjoy good local eats through most delivery services.
Start at home. If you are typically a home body with your kids and do not take them out much, because of their shenanigans, please do not attempt to take an 8-day road trip through 4 cities. It will be a mess! Start with taking them to lunch, or to the mall with you so they can get used to being out around crowds.
Keep discipline consistent. When your kids get out of line, you may feel helpless when not at home. Your sanity will thank you not just letting unacceptable behavior slide because you’re out of town. Timeout works just fine if your normal method might not be feasible. Just know Makenzie has stood in the corner in both France and Switzerland; outdoors both times.
Give up on being Super Parent! While on a trip, it is not the time to try and be the perfect mom or dad. Kids may eat things they do not normally eat. They may not get all the sleep they are used to. They may eat more junk. They may have more screen time than normal. The goal is to keep the kids as happy as possible, while they are out of their element. This is done by any means necessary.
Now let me throw in my disclaimer: You could do every one of these and your kids could still act a fool on every single trip. Just know you are not alone!