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I love to travel. When I was a freshman in college, I was still living at home with my parents and three younger siblings. It wasn’t a situation I loved, but it had it’s perks. Like a trip with my dad to Catalina Island during my Winter Break and TWO Spring Break trips (one with my dad up the coast of California during my college Spring Break and another family trip during my siblings school district wide Spring Break to Disneyland). Oh, yeah and not having to pay rent and utilities and stuff too. After we got married, Mr. Napping and I traveled when we had the chance. We took more than one spontaneous weekend trip to visit his sisters a few hours away. But then we had kids…… and traveling got so much harder! When Big J was about four months old, we went from southern Idaho to the middle of Arizona for Thanksgiving. The trip down, Mr. Napping drove ALL night and only about the last 30 minutes were full of “get-me-out-of-this-car-seat” hysterics. On our way back home, we split the trip into two days, stopping at a hotel overnight. By the time we hit Salt Lake City on the second day, we were all at our wit’s end… and still three hours from home. It was the longest three hours of my life to that point. It was also our first real dose of traveling with kids. It is definitely an art.
Even with the added stresses that bringing our kids along on trips can create, I’m not about to give up traveling. Luckily, I’ve discovered a few ways to make it more manageable. It takes more preparation and planning beforehand, but it makes the actual trip much more enjoyable and less stressful. Here are five tricks I’ve learned over the past five and a half years to make traveling with kids more enjoyable.
5 TIPS FOR STAYING FIT TO PLAY WHILE
TRAVELING WITH KIDS
1. Be prepared for your needs. In the chaos of packing the kids, don’t forget about yourself! You have everything you could possibly need for the kids, but you forgot that everyone’s favorite aunt is due to visit you while you’ll be on vacation! Don’t let pesky, old Flo ruin your trip! I have always had a troublesome period, with long and heavy flow times. I’ve been anemic, weak and always cold because of blood loss. (Here’s a little T.M.I. for you… I had less blood loss after childbirth than I’ve had during regular, monthly periods. YIKES, right?!) Because of this, I have tried a lot of feminine hygiene products. A LOT. After getting my period under control with my doctor I was able to choose feminine products because I liked them, not because of their capacity capabilities. I was introduced to a whole new side of feminine hygiene products – the comfort side.
Cue commercial: NEW! Playtex® Sport® now available in Pads, Liners and Combo Packs at Walmart! Now Sport Level Protection™ pads, liners and combo packs with Flexfit™ design to twist and turn with your body. Don’t let your period get in the way. PlayOn! In all seriousness though, the new Playtex® Sport® Combo Packs come with Tampons and either Pads or Liners, offering two kinds of Sport Level Protection™ to keep you comfortable and dry no matter what the activity. Whether you are chasing the kids at the beach or hiking that killer trail with a munchkin or two on your back, this little box has you covered. And, trust me, knowing you will have what you need when you need it is worth it’s weight in gold. There is nothing like worrying about if your girly products are going to hold up or missing out because you feel stuck on the sidelines while everyone else is running around on the beach.
And, if you do forget about Aunt Flo’s impending visit or she drops in unannounced (the nerve of some people…), never fear, you can get the versatile Playtex® Sport® Combo Packs at Wal-Mart, which can be found almost everywhere and where the everyday low prices won’t put a dent in your vacation budget. Find them in health and beauty, near the feminine hygiene products.
2. Make getting there part of the vacation. I’m still working on this one with Mr. Napping. It seems to be a common belief (especially among the men I know, is it a guy thing?) that a vacation consists of three separate parts: the getting there, the actual vacation, and the getting home. While some trips do have those three distinct parts, say a cruise for instance, not all vacations have to. Probably around five years ago, I very distinctly remember stopping at Cathedral Gorge State Park in southeastern Nevada on our way… somewhere. I can’t remember where we were coming from or where we were headed to, but I do remember stopping there and taking a little hike to some caves and doing some exploring.
Sure, it put us getting to our destination later than we would’ve gotten there had we not stopped. But we would’ve missed out on that fun and the memory it created. Not to mention, Big J went right to sleep after we got back in the car and slept a good portion of the way to the hotel we stopped at that night. It was worth the stop. Take the time to plan some stops at places you actually want to see, because rest stops are all pretty much the same and you can only stop at McDonald’s so many times. Make your stops fun and meaningful. Getting to your destination will be more fun, less stressful and your vacation starts the moment you leave your house, rather than when you get to “the vacation” portion of your trip. And there will be less fighting because everyone will get a little break from sitting right next to each other every so often.
3. Be spontaneous. Wait, didn’t I just say make plans?! What’s the deal, right? Well, truth be told, you should do both. Check out what there is to do before you leave and decide on a few things you would like to see or do. But, you might get to your destination and realize that you didn’t know about the amazing restaurant with a live seal acrobatics show or that the museum you thought you’d love is actually much less hands-on than you thought. Who wants to spend the day telling the kids to “be quiet” and to “stop touching that!” It’s okay to scrap your plans and make new ones. Stop at that ice cream shop across from your hotel. Check out the little dive on the pier. Take that hike to that waterfall.
Even better, talk to the locals once you get there. My husband doesn’t have a shy bone in his body and talks to everyone. EVERYONE. I, on the other hand, hate asking store employees for help. However, we have (okay, he has) gotten some great suggestions from local residents on the best places in town, whether it’s a restaurant, little-known attraction or even the best beach spots.
4. Listen to the kids! If there are things on your list that you absolutely must do while you’re on vacation, do those first. Then, if three days in, the kids (or husband) need a down day to just relax, you can do that without feeling like you’re missing out on something you really wanted to see or do. Let the kids pick an activity or two, even if it’s taking a (nap on the) train or just playing at the park they saw yesterday.
Don’t feel like your entire trip needs to be planned out. Vacations should be relaxing and a time to recharge. If you start to feel like you need a vacation from your vacation, slow down! I know what it’s like to want to get all these things in before you have to leave again, but you’ll be so much happier and have more fun if you’re not dragging along tired and whiny kids. And they’ll make the kind of memories you really want them to have.
5. Don’t mess with your routine too much. Yes, you want to have adventures, explore, see and do all kinds of things in your new and temporary surroundings. But, there are some things you just shouldn’t mess with. For us, a big part of this is food. My husband and boys have really fast metabolisms (the little punks) and they eat all. The. Time. Did you read about the fight Mr Napping and I had in the mall when his hungry monster came out to play that I wrote about earlier this week? Everyone is much happier when they are not hungry. Big J, Baby N and I all get grouchy when we’re tired, so allowing for adequate sleep helps us stay happy. We have learned to take snacks on all-day outings and to get to bed at a decent time the night before a day where naps might not happen. Skipping naps or even haphazard naps for a day or maybe two is fine; but, after that, my kids need a little bit more of their routine. Just do the best you can and realize when you’ve been beaten. Take a break and come back later.
I like to be in control. Over the past few years though, I have learned that you can’t control everything, especially on vacation. Life is rough if you spend all your time trying to make sure everything is perfect. Plans fall through, kids have bad days, and things some time don’t turn out like you hoped they would. Having kids has made me relax and learn to enjoy the moments I am living in now, because it won’t be long until they are gone forever. Our family vacations are numbered and, unfortunately, the count on that is always going down. I don’t want to miss my kids growing up or lose out on an adventure because everything isn’t perfect. Whether it’s that time of the month, the kids are tired and hungry or we’ve been in the car for WAAAAAAY too long, I try to remember that these times are fleeting and to make the most of them while they are here! So, road trip and vacation season, bring it on. I’m ready for you. And I can’t wait!
Do you have any tips for staying ready for play while traveling with kids?