If vacations were all about the destination, they really would be the easiest way to relax and have fun. But most destinations come with a car ride, stint in the airport or travel of some exhausting sort.
Throw in a trip with a kiddo or three in tow, and it’s enough to make any parent wonder whose idea it was to leave home in the first place.
But there are ways to avoid the whiny, sticky, shrieky “Are we there YET!?” type trips, say travel experts. All you need is a little planning to keep you from a lifetime of “staycations.”
Pack it up. The best way to get a road trip started? By packing the car up the night before, says Jim Hanni, executive vice president for AAA Kansas. Though you can’t get it all put away the night before, do as much as you can so that in the morning it’s that much easier to get out of the driveway, he says.
Separate out the good stuff. When you are packing, it’s smart to pack separate bags for certain must-have items. Suggests Hanni:
• One bag for pool supplies, so that when you get to your hotel or beach destination, the little ones don’t have to wait to jump in the water.
• One bag for car essentials, including games, puzzles, snacks and a change of clothes for each child. Baby wipes are a good must-have as well, says Hanni, who points out that they can clean kids’ hands, faces and toys in a jiff.
Also, says Nicole Hockin, the author of the Travel Smart Blog, it’s a good idea to go a step further and have a separate bag of games and goodies for each child, so there’s no squabbles. She suggests backpacks as a kid-friendly option.
• Bring a variety of entertainment. Kids will want something to do, no matter what your mode of travel. Be prepared with a variety of fun things to do, from puzzles and maps, to car-sized board games and even DVD players. Hanni also recommends playing free games, like trying to get a license plate from all 50 states, or creating a scavenger hunt where kids keep their eyes peeled for a certain color of car or a type of sign.
• Work around nap time. Use your kids’ schedules to your advantage by planning your trip around nap time. Hanni says, that, if possible, it’s good to leave an hour or so before your kids’ normal nap time. That way, you’ll only have to entertain them for an hour or so before they fall asleep for part of your drive or flight, he says.
• Don’t fly by the seat of your pants. If flying, it’s important to know how air travel works with children, says Hockin. Baby formula, breast milk and juice are allowed through TSA security, but they will be screened, and it may hold you up in line. Many air travel providers will not charge you for bringing car seats and strollers on a flight. Also note that most children fly free under the age of 2, but you have to ask that they be included as a “babe in arms” when you purchase your tickets. You may have to present a copy of your child’s birth certificate to prove his or her age, Hockin says.
• Don’t forget the car seat. Plan on bringing a car seat for your child, says Hanni. While car seats are available for rent from rental car services, you won’t know the crash history of that seat, he cautions.