We travel to New Orleans once or twice a year to visit family which is frequently enough that we feel as though we have learned a thing or two in the road tripping with littles department. Packing up your life (between kid stuff, baby gear, and gifts – it can be a lot!) into a car can seem daunting with tiny humans in tow. But the more trips we take, the more grateful I am that we take road trips often enough and that our children are learning good travel habits. It makes our world not seem so small and that other trips besides visiting family can be possible even while living life with little kids. With the holidays among us I wanted to share my top five tried-and-true travel tips that make a world of difference when it comes to changing locales with littles!
1. Write it ALL down
About a week before we go anywhere I start thinking about our packing list. I begin with a general idea of how many days we will be gone and I research the weather for the coming week. Then I write a column for each family member and list every single item of clothing and accessory they might need while away. Starting this process early helps form a fully flushed out list a few days prior to packing. I also like to leave this list in a central location so that my husband can add to it too!
2. Gallon bags are your BEST FRIEND
I pack all of our kids’ clothes in Ziploc gallon bags and it makes sharing a suitcase easy, repacking easy, and honestly you can never have too many bags when traveling with kids! One of my all time favorite uses for the bag system is for special occasions where our girls would be wearing a specific outfit with accessories. I write on the bag everything they need to have on their bodies for that occasion. That way when there is an inevitable frenzy before said event it is easy for any and all family members to get kids dressed!
3. Clean your house BEFORE you go!
In a previous life, I would leave various things undone pre-trip because I was so consumed in the chaos of packing and getting out the door. Taking time the day before we leave town to clean main areas of the house makes coming home a relaxing experience instead of feeling overwhelmed with the amount of post-trip laundry I have to tackle as well as managing pre-trip messes.
4. Make a go-to list of fun
We frequent the New Orleans area and in recent years, Galveston. But this is something I would do for a new destination as well. While making our packing list I will also open a note on my phone and research a few family friendly activities that could happen on our trip. In my note I will write down the name of the place, website, operating hours, and prices. Just basic information that can be relayed in a pinch!
5. Technology boundaries and car entertainment
Let it be known: we let our kids watch movies on the iPad during car trips. This is the one time they get to use our iPad and we essentially use it like a portable dvd player. We download movies we’ve bought from Amazon Prime and then when we need it we have two sets of kid-safe headphones and a headphone splitter so they can share the screen.
That being said, we have some boundaries surrounding technology while in the car for an extended period of time. I’m sure my kids would love it if I let them binge 5 movies for the day but deep down I don’t think that’s what is best for them. The first leg of our trip we encourage our kids to read books or create something. Each of our girls have a backpack and before our trip I scour the target dollar aisle for some small, novel activities. This past trip they each had a new 24 pack of crayons, a small wintery coloring book, puffy stickers, and a Water Wow drawing pad. I also get clipboards for them to use and especially like the hollow kind that open up so they can store their supplies inside!
I hope these tips help you as you plan upcoming holiday travel. More than anything remember to give yourself some slack when it comes to conquering the holidays with small children. A little grace when dealing with holiday pressures is the best gift a mama can get for Christmas!