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How to travel with young kids (tips & lessons learned) – Hf #90

on August 24, 2017 by Jami Balmet 1 comment

This summer has been one of travel for our family of 7. We’ve gone on three long trips this summer with our five kids, four and under. It’s been mostly fun with a little crazy thrown in. 

Throughout our trips, we’ve received question after question about how we manage it, what it’s like traveling with young kids, and if in fact, we are crazy for attempting to do yes. Yes, I think we are a bit crazy but that comes with the territory of having two sets of twins, five kids under five, AND running a business together from home. 

Listen to the Podcast:

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While we certainly don’t have all the answers and we are still knew to this whole travel-with-little-kids-thing, there are a few things we picked up this summer in our travels. So today I wanted to share a few of those lessons and things we will do differently next time. 

Our first trip this summer was a spur of the moment (I’m talking 2 hours notice before we were packed and in the car) trip to LA for a conference for Jason and a trip to Legoland. This was our very first family road trip and with a 10+ hour drive each way and 8 days in a hotel, we learned a lot! 

Our second trip was with my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and their 10 month old. This was a 6 day road trip to Universal Studios, the San Diego Zoo, and the beach. 

And our final trip is one that we do every year: two weeks in a cabin by the lake. By far the most laid back of all our travels! 

Overall, we had no idea how our summer of traveling would go (only ONE of these trips was on the schedule at the beginning of June). We had some rough patches, but overall it was a great summer of making memories. So read on (or listen above) for some trips we picked up along the way. 

Are you curious about how we work from home and can leave on an 8 day trip with 2 hours notice? Come on over to our other blog, Our Work at Home Life, and discover how we make a full time income from home – all while raising our five young kiddos! 

Tips & Lessons Learned on Traveling with Young Kids

Adjust your expectations

We had to learn this the hard way. Traveling with young kids is nothing like years ago when Jason and I would travel by ourselves. We had to quickly remember that we are traveling with young kids and most of the time, we would be traveling at their own pace. 

This meant we had to be fine with the four year old, who was so distracted coloring in the back that he “forgot” he had to go potty BAD (so much so he started crying), needing to pull over right away…even though we had just gotten back on the road after an extended lunch stop. 

Or the accident in his car seat from one of the other four year olds less than two hours later. We had to take it all in stride, because that’s just life with five young kids. Overall, we just had to remember that life is just a little slower and a little more chaotic when traveling with young kids. 

Remember they are tired as well

This goes hand in hand for me with point #1. I needed to remember that all these little guys were just as tired (if not more) than myself and Jason and that we needed to give grace. 

This struct me hard one night. We had just left Legoland after an emotional hour (see point #4) and we decided to head out early and go to Denny’s for dinner. Jason and I were both drained and the kids were mostly good, but a little wild. They were a bit louder and more rambunctious than I would normally allow at Denny’s. 

I could feel my impatience grow, but then I remember that they were just as tired as I was and I needed to remember that! Little kids can get heavily affected by being out of their normal routine, in new places, etc. So I had to not care about what the people the table over were thinking…and just give my kids some grace! 

Give EVERYONE grace

Along with giving the little kids grace, I had to remember to give JASON more grace. It’s very very easy when you are all stuck in the car together for 10+ hours together, or all sharing 1 room, to let the little things get to you. Or just lash out when tired or weary. 

A good lesson for me was just to remember that everyone is tired and to give everyone a little dose of GRACE! I think this one went a long way in happy moods and joyful hearts…even when we were getting tired. 

Make sure little ones know the game plan

This is a lesson we learned at Legoland. We should have had a game plan for the kids in case anyone got lost. Listen to the episode above for the full story. But long story short, we lost Malachi in the park for about 25 minutes. Thankfully he ran into a Legoland worker right away and it just took a while to connect with us. 

The next day, the first thing we did when we went to the park was give everyone a thorough explanation of what they should do if they go get (i.e. go into one of the shops and talk to the person behind the counter). From then on, we would remind the boys each day we went somewhere new. 

In hindsight that seems like a no brainer, but we just didn’t think of that before. So learn from our scary 20 minutes and make sure your kids know a game plan before hand! 

Head to the dollar store for activities

Before we left on our second trip, I went to the dollar store and stocked up on fun things for the kids! I got a few different activity books, a couple of new books to read, and a few toys. One on 10+ hour drive (one way) I would slowly reveal one new activity every few hours. It worked really well! It cost me about $20 at the dollar store and we had hours of new things to do in the car. 

Don’t be afraid to stop at Del Taco and play for an hour (or two)

The lesson? Don’t be afraid to stop on your way and let everyone get some exercise. Normally when Jason and I take a trip, we try to make as little stops as possible. But with kids, we learned that even an hour delay at a play place, might just be well worth it! 

Load up on snacks! 

Rather than buy expensive food on the road and in the parks, I went to Costco and loaded up on all our favorite healthy, protein-loaded snacks and it was a life saver! We brought so much food with us and it saved so much money in the long run. We were able to bring food into all three parks we went to this summer: Legoland, Universal Studios, and the San Diego Zoo.

We hardly had to buy food for the kids on the road and we only bought one meal for them inside the park. This helped us save a ton of money. So plan ahead and bring snacks and lunches for the kiddos (or the whole family)! 

Get some kids CD’s to play in the back

When everyone started to get a little restless and Jason and I wanted to listen to something up front (or just talk), we would bust out our kids CD’s to play in the back. It was a fun distraction for them and something new to do. This distraction doesn’t often last long, but it’s helpful! 

Hint: Our favorite CD’s for kids

Search Pinterest for good ideas

I’m not even going to go into this one because there are a million ideas out there. If you have a little bit of time before your next trip, hop onto Pinterest and search for “road trip activity for kids” or something like that. There are so many fantastic busy bag ideas, snack ideas, and more! I didn’t have the bandwidth this summer to do any of those other than run to the dollar store 😉 But the little preparation I did, went a long way! 

We are still learning what it means to travel with little kids. So if you have any suggestions for us, please pass them along! Leave a comment! 

Get instant free access to my Finding Joy in Your Home video course.

  • Do you want to discover more joy, peace, & tranquility within your home?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed and like your house is out of control?
  • Join my free course and learn the essential habits for Christian homemakers
  1. This is great, Jami! You guys sure are adventurous! We’ve taken some trips with our littles, too. In fact we drove to Florida last December which included two days of driving…both ways. I had a car “schedule” so the kids felt like there was some control in their day and things to look forward to. It included looking at books, listening to kid songs, playing with little toys and lots of snacks. 🙂 Really, the main activity that kept all the kids pretty happy was the nursery rhyme kid songs. (Well and snacks…especially for the toddler!)

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