One of the things we love most is traveling! Some people say we are crazy to travel with four kids. Or any kids, for that matter. But, I think that making memories is important enough that we are willing to go for it! Some of the vacations our kids have done....a cruise to Mexico, Disneyland (5x), Las Vegas, Texas, Hawaii (2x), San Diego, Silverwood (5x), Montana, the Oregon Coast (4x) and then many, many road trips throughout Washington and Oregon. Whether traveling by boat, airplane or car, there are so many great ideas that I've used to help make things easier.
Let's start with packing. I get suitcases out about a week in advance. Planning ahead will make you less stressed!
1) When picking clothes, select outfits, rather than separate tops and bottoms. I do this on the floor of each bedroom first and then once I have enough stacks, I use half the suitcase for the clothes. Sometimes, I'll be okay with reusing a pair of shorts, so I'll stack two shirts on top of one pair of shorts. If you have access to laundry while on your trip, you may not even need outfits to match the number of days. For example, we were in Hawaii for 14 days and I only packed my boys about 9 days of clothes. We did laundry almost every day we were there. If you won't have access to laundry, pack at least 2-3 extra outfits. Kids are messy, dirty people! And throw a plastic garbage bag into your suitcase, so you can keep dirty clothes separate from clean ones.
2) My sister uses this tip, and someday I may try it...although it seems like a lot of work for 4 kids! She puts each outfit in a Ziploc bag in order to save space and stay organized. I don't think my boys' clothes would even fit in Ziplocs, but it would be good, especially for babies. Keeping all of the parts of the outfit together is definitely helpful.
3) Pack your child's toiletries separate from yours. I do a gallon Ziploc and put it on the counter to put together the morning we leave. Somehow, it seems that our flights are almost always at the crack of dawn! Toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, lotion, etc, it all goes in! I roll a towel around these incase something busts open in flight. Then, shoes, coats and any extras go in the side. Super easy!
4) The night before you leave, make sure everything is packed, lay the outfit and shoes on top of the suitcase. Wake your child up at the LAST minute. I'm serious. It's so much easier to get ready and packed without kids running around. You can do their hair later, but to not have them in the way is worth the last minute rush.
5) Pack a travel bag or carry on for each child. We do backpacks because they don't require hands. I don't know what your thoughts are on electronics, but for travel, they are my best friend. Each child has a kindle (make sure it's charged and the chargers are packed), coloring books with crayons, books, a small toy and a book or two to read. My boys have chapter books and I threw in hardback books for the girls. Finally, and most importantly, SNACKS. I do a gallon Ziploc in each child's carry-on that includes a granola bar, squeezy applesauce, trail-mix, a box of raisins, nutri-grain bar and bag of cereal. I know it sounds like a lot, but food seems to help in almost every situation--including a flight delay, an antsy toddler in a car ride, etc. If were are on a road trip, I make sure to stock the center console with DVD's, so the kids can watch movies while we drive. They do get tired of this, so we'll do a movie, then take an hour break and then go back to a new movie.
6) Once you're on the road, plane, whatever, get the kids settled. The first thing I do on the airplane is to make sure everyone is organized, has their immediate needs met, blankets tucked over laps, everyone has gone potty, backpacks tucked under seats, headphones out, etc. Then, it seems to be more relaxing as we take off. If we wait to organize until we are in the air, it's frustrating and there isn't a whole lot of space.
7) Allow them to stretch their legs. On a road trip, we don't go more than 2-3 hours without a stop. Anywhere we stop, we make the kids get out of the car. I remember driving to Montana with our boys (a 13 hour trip) and stopping at a random rest-stop on the side of the highway to play chase. Even 5 minutes of running around will be enough to get a little energy out. On an airplane, walking to the bathroom is pretty much the only option. Whatever they can do to get their little legs moving for a few minutes.
8) When arriving at your destination, get settled! We have a little routine going where my hubby will take the kids to play (or walk around the lobby, a park, or wherever) while I unpack. Putting clothes in dressers and hanging clothes will help you to stay organized on your entire trip. When we arrived in Maui, this included going to the grocery store and Costco, and really taking most of our first day to make sure we had everything we needed for a great trip. Having someone take the kids away will make this process much faster and less frustrating. Trust me!
9) Bring baby monitors! Nap time and bed time are when a parent has their real vacation. If you are stuck somewhere just so you can hear the baby, that's no fun! Some monitors will even work through hotel walls. When we were in Disneyland in September, we were able to go to a different room to hang out while the kids slept. In Hawaii, we could lay by the pool, or go to the other side of the house and still hear the baby if she woke up.
10) Enjoy the trip and keep expectations low! Traveling with kids is different from traveling with adults. They need naps, they need more frequent stops, but they sure make it fun! Don't attempt eating out for every meal. Breakfast is super easy to eat in a hotel room and lunch can be at a quick stop. I prefer not to do a lot of restaurant-ing because it means a lot of sitting and waiting for the kids. Theme parks are great because everything is quick and easy! If you can stay in a house, like we did in Maui, that makes meal time a breeze! Cook at home and you don't have to deal with that.
11) Before leaving, be as organized with your packing as you were on the way there. If you have laundry, wash it all, and fold, so you can come home and just put it away. If you don't, make sure all the dirties are in the plastic bag, so it can go straight to the wash at home. Oh, and bring a spot cleaner with you! You don't want nasty stains sitting for a week. The more organized you are, the quicker it will be to settle back into normalcy when you return.
12) When you arrive home, PUT IT ALL AWAY. I can't tell you what a difference this makes. I'm sure you'll be exhausted and tired, but the sooner you get the clothes put away and everything cleaned up, the better you will feel. Even if you don't get in until late at night, throw that first load in the laundry so you can switch it over in the morning. My goal is to get suitcases out of the house within 24 hours. Kids can help, too. I have them un-pack their carry-ons and put things away.
The bottom line...you can do it! Relax, have fun and enjoy creating memories with your kids. =) What other creative or awesome travel tips do you have?? I'd love to hear!
I'll leave you with pics from our 10th day in Maui. We spent another day on the beach and in the pool. Paradise, I tell ya!
The kids discovered a crab and it was the source of entertainment for a looooong time. I almost felt like I owed the crab money for babysitting. ;-)
Molly loved having her "Mimi" (my sister) around for 2 weeks. She's pretty much the master hair-doer and each day, styled Molly's hair in the cutest ways. They were twinsies with their matching curls.
The adults headed for an evening out, so we actually got dressed up a bit!
Dinner and drinks at Moose McGillicuddy's. Yum.