First, a couple overarching pieces of advice to make it easy on yourself.
1. Make your kids help out.
2. Plan things that are fun for you AND for your kids. I would avoid the things that are fun for the kids but painful for you. It will only make you grumpy and on edge and that’s not fun for anyone.
3. Make it an adventure, talk it up to your little ones beforehand and remind them to be good travel companions before you embark on any part of the journey.
The last trip we took was to Costa Rica and we really hyped up the idea of “backpacking” through Costa Rica. Months beforehand we talked about how they were going to fit everything they needed for a 10-day trip in a backpack that they would carry. For Christmas before the trip we got them backpacking backpacks. We even got them their own Lonely Planet guide. (Side note: Lonely Planet is the only guidebook I’ll buy). When we packed for the trip, I got them involved. I told them the number of outfits they were allowed to bring along with underwear, socks, shoes/flip-flops & bathing suits. (If you want a good 10-day packing guide check mine out below). They were so into the idea of carrying their backpacks they carried them around the house the day before once we got them packed.
The big girls even carried their own snacks & a pack of cards to entertain themselves on the plane.
I packed a carry-on for myself as did my husband Mike. We still had to pack one more bag since we have a two-year old too & carry a ton of diapers BUT we didn’t have to carry anything for the “Big” Girls who are six and eight. That made a huge difference.
We also have some travel-worthy car seats for all our kids. For the older girls we purchased foldable boosters, and for our little one we just brought the Diono that folds up.
Also, I’m not big on iPads but they are totally worth-it on an airplane. We purchased some kid-sized headphones & a cord-splitter so they could watch movies on the plane. We even downloaded movies beforehand on Netflix so we didn’t have to spend extra money on the in-board WIFI OR worry about it not working.
The other thing I like to do when traveling with kids is rent a place with a kitchen. Even if it’s a mini-kitchen. Just a fridge makes a huge difference. Going out to eat with kids can be trying at times (as you probably know if you’ve been a parent for more than a month), and so it’s nice to give yourself a break from it. We try to do at least one meal a day at “home” while traveling if not more.
Just remember, your kids will follow your lead so if you are stressed out about traveling with them, they will be too. Also, the less you carry, the easier it is to keep your eyes on your kids and not on your bags. So, I suggest packing light!
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