3 Tips for Less Stressful Travel with Little Kids

Our family has gone from a low maintenance two adult caravan to a five person traveling circus in the past five years.  Traveling to and staying with family is something we look forward to, but we know it’s not easy anymore.  Besides the minivan overflowing with kid gear, some of the additional luggage can include junk-food-filled-tired-whiny-off-their-schedule kids.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tips for making these trips a bit easier and more enjoyable for everyone…although, I must admit that I’ve got a ways to go to a fully peaceful vacation (I don’t know that is even a possibility??).

1 – Set Realistic Expectations 

When we used to travel to my parents’ house, I spent a lot of time worrying about if/how/when/where my first baby would sleep.  If he didn’t sleep well at night, I spent the whole next day trying to figure out how to get him back on a schedule.  I was more of a basket case than he ever was.

Now, three kids in…my expectations are much more realistic and helpful, I think. The #1 thing we do now is set low expectations.  We recognize upfront that none of us will get much sleep during travel.  Knowing and resigning ourselves to this reality makes the vacation time much less stressful.

The other thing I’ve discovered is that lack of sleep doesn’t kill anyone.  Kids (and parents) can handle a few days of a messed up schedule. And, grandparents and family members really do understand when someone is a bit crabbier than usual.  No big deal.

2 – Bring Healthy Foods That Your Kids Like…But Be Flexible

You know me.  I like to feed my kids well because I know that they behave better and feel better when they do.  So, I make a trip to the store before we travel for some of our favorite healthy snacks and other food options.  That way, my parents don’t have to worry too much about the kids’ food preferences, and I can feel good about what I’m feeding my kids most of the time.  In addition to healthy convenience foods or fresh produce from the store, I usually bring things like Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins and homemade popcorn from home for easy, healthy snacking on the road.

That being said, I also set low expectations for and try to be flexible about how my family will eat on the road.  I’m okay with the occasional fast food stop or unhealthy meals/snacks at grandma’s house.  I know it’s only for a short time, and it helps to know that they at least will have a few healthy things that I bring along.

3 – The State of Momma’s Heart is the State of the Holiday Travel

Ok, big confession here.  Travel has always brought out the worst in me, even before having kids.  I like control, efficiency, and promptness. And, I hate waiting on others.  God knew this about me, and so he gave me a husband who is opposite of me in this area.  My hubby is deliberate, thorough, patient, and more laid back.  He doesn’t mind taking his time packing or making an extra stop for something fun.  Honestly, it goes against my “let’s get going!” and “let’s get there as fast as we can!” mentality.  As you can imagine, these differences have caused more than one pre-vacation or in route argument.

Over the years, one of the things I’m learning is that I really need to pray before we even begin packing.  I have to ask God for patience and, as silly as it sounds, to help me love my husband and kids more than efficiency and control.  I’ve learned that the state of my heart really does dictate the state of our holiday travel.  A calm heart equals a calm vacation.

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