I have always loved traveling, so when my kids came along, that didn’t stop me. I just had to be a bit more prepared. Traveling with young children, especially if you’re a new parent, can seem daunting, but also can be rewarding to share travel and adventure with the munchkins. You don’t need to delay anymore. Our first big trip was to Puerto Vallarta when my first son was 18 months old.
Where to go?
Anywhere! You can stay local and explore your home state, you can travel across the country, take a cruise and fly to exotic destinations. If you are prepared you can go anywhere. We did!
We traveled up the California coast with a pop up camper, took longer trips to Arizona, Utah and New Mexico and then longer trips across the country to New York, Maine and back in an RV. We also took various trips to Hawaii and Mexico and as the boys got older we took trips to Spain, France, Copenhagen, UK, and Iceland.
Road Trip Essentials
Some of my best memories were traveling with my dad and sister in his van across from San Diego to New York and back.
You can travel in anything …a van, bus, car or RV
We have done it all. We had a pop up camper, a car and tent and later we invested in an RV. It depends on you. If you love it, chances are your kids will too. Tent camping allows you to be closer to nature, campers give you the ease and comfort of sleeping in a bed. I love it all. My boys loved the RV the best, because they could get out of the elements when they wanted too. I loved the RV because everything had its place and we could pick up and go at any time without too much prep.
Make a go-bag
Wherever you go make a go-bag! Those essentials depend on your kids’ ages and where your trip takes you. Are you potty training? Maybe your go-bag is a mini diaper bag with a spare diaper, wipes, hand sanitizer, and various related accessories, and a change of big-boy/girl underwear and clean pants. In other words, everything you need to get out of the car and get everyone cleaned up in a hurry. You don’t want to be digging around the trunk looking for this and that when there’s a puddle in the parking lot.
If your kids are older, maybe your go-bag looks more like an entertainment kit with spare chargers for electronics, a book, or their favorite travel-sized games to easily transition from car to hotel. Someone is always hungry! Pack some snacks.
Pack everyone’s favorite snacks
My boys were always hungry, so I never liked to be out and about without food. I am a health nerd, so I would try to fit that in. I love nuts, dried fruit, meat sticks, popcorn, and seaweed snacks. I also love to bake, so I would make muffins or banana bread sometimes too. Fun food is important too, so I would include some sweet treats and crunchy snacks as well. Make it tasty and fun!
Remember that your nutrition is important too. Parenting on the best of days is hard enough. Parenting when you’re hangry is even tougher, so be sure to throw in some easy, healthy snacks for yourself.
How do you travel with little kids who are still taking a bottle? In a sentence, have your bottles prepared and in the diaper bag. That’s something else you probably won’t regret.
Grab a blanket
You never know when the plane or car is going to get too hot or too cold. The people sitting up front always think the A/C is too high, and the backseat never gets enough air. You probably know the struggle from even short trips around town. A snuggly travel blanket is great for individualized climate control, but it makes for an excellent pillow, so their head isn’t knocking against the window during car naps.
Prepare for kids to get bored
I bring lots of games, books and toys. Sometimes the radio can be fun, but also unpredictable, especially if your road trip takes you to some remote areas, and kids hate commercials, so it’s a good idea to bring a device to download shows, music, movies and books in advance.
Most cars are enabled with Bluetooth technology and you haven’t already done so, connect your phone to the car to have on-demand music/entertainment for your kids. Make sure everyone has headphones or earbuds in case they want to listen on their own devices.
Kids get bored very easily, so a phone or tablet to be able to flip on their favorite song or show or whatever music they love can make a long car or plane trip fly by and help a sad or bored kid find their happy place.
You might be taking a vacation with your family to disconnect from technology and reconnect with each other. If that’s you, these tips might not be a good fit. But if you’re OK with everyone still having a bit of screen time, these tips can help.
Take Your Time. Relax. And Be Positive.
Traveling with kids, as it is with life in general, is sometimes more about the journey than the destination. Take your time. If your kids get unruly while you’re driving, simply pull off at an exit or rest area and let them burn off some energy. If they see something that interests them, bend the itinerary and let them explore this new discovery.
Lastly, try to relax and stay positive. Getting frustrated and having a negative attitude will only make things worse for everyone. You want your children to love to travel as much as you do, and staying positive is the best way to do that.
Should you bring your pet?
We loved bringing our pup, Teddy on road trips. If you don’t have a tent or camper, there are a lot of hotels that take pets now. Pack your pups favorits bed, food, treats meds and toys. We also brought a small collapsible crate in case we had to leave him behind in the hotel or camper. Make sure their environment is temperature controlled too! Oh and be prepared to stop for lots of walks too.
Try not to be too rigid with your itinerary
I remember a time we were exploring Iceland and my oldest son kept asking us to pull over so he could climb a hill. So we finally pulled over. He and his dad climbed the hill and they discovered a huge cinder cone from an old volcano at the top! Me and my youngest hung back to explore the lower areas and we found hundreds of blueberries growing all along on the hillside. That is one of my most favorite memories.
Whatever you decide to go, if you enjoy it, good chance your little ones will too!
As our boys got older we had them join in on the planning process. They helped us in finding interesting and unique destinations to visit. They also helped with navigating, booking hotels and various tours and activities. Now, at 19 and 21 years old, they have the travel bug and are avid travelers themselves. They are confident in exploring new destinations and finding their way around.