As my good friend says, when travelling with kids “it’s not a vacation, it’s an adventure.” That advice has carried me through a variety of holidays with my littles.
When travelling with kids, you have to take everything with you. And you have different sizes of clothes and diapers for each kid. And you pack every imaginable snack and toy that will keep the crib midgets occupied during a drive or flight or any period of waiting. This involves a lot of packing and a master list so as not to forget anything. (When I don’t do the list, I forget a ton of stuff at home).
Next, you have to maneuver your day around a nap schedule. A feat in itself is if you can hit the sweet spot of driving away from your house right at the start of nap time. If that doesn’t work, my husband and I know that we can get 2-3 hours out of both kids before they need to stop for a break. Then we just keep on keepin’ on. We know we’ll get there eventually.
Upon arrival at the intended destination there are two major stages: getting the kids out of the car/somewhat settled and unpacking all of the stuff. At least, unpacking enough of the sleeping equipment in order to put the kids to bed. Then there is the elusive vacation sleep. When in a new environment, Bubba wakes up multiple times per night and Connor finds his way into my bed. Vacation sleep is never a restful sleep for us.
And I plan to take my kids camping this year! Tent camping no less, which means no proper beds or Netflix or toys all around. This means a lot of extra preparation for meals, sleeping arrangements, activities, not to mention teaching my older kid to tell us well in advance if he has to use the potty since it may be far away. We’ll have to educate the kids about the camp fire and possibly get through a night of bad weather. It seems like SO MUCH EXTRA WORK.
But – I know it will all be worth it. I know that it will also be a hassle. Some folks might not think it is worth the trouble, especially since the kids are so little that they won’t remember the experience anyway. However, I would argue that these experiences can start at the earliest age. You need to get your kids used to trying new things. So far most of my time raising kids has been trial and error. For example, after some terrible car rides to and from my in-law’s in Saskatchewan, my husband and I opt to travel after bed time. We arrive at 3 a.m. but the kids sleep the entire trip.
The years when the kids are young are formative for learning how to behave in a variety of situations. My littles can sit in a restaurant and wait for their food as a result of our efforts to eat dinner as a family, teach them table manners, and expose them to eating in public. On the flip side, no one wants to dine with a screaming kid next to them so I know when to pack up and leave. The same goes for the grocery store. Cart full of groceries and the kid that won’t stop crying because he wants a toy? No way. He gets one warning then we leave. No fuss or scolding on my part; I simply just take him out of the situation where he is worked up. The pool, hiking, snowboarding, boating, play-dates etc. I am prepared to bail if I have to because, honestly, if the kids aren’t having an okay time then no one is.
It will apply to camping as well. We will camp close to home the first few times, so that I can pack up and leave if everyone is having a terrible time. It certainly isn’t desirable or always feasible but it lessens the pressure on my husband and I if we know that we can cut our losses whenever we need to and try again another time. And that’s the trick: we keep trying. I’m not advocating for quitting; simply, knowing your limits and the limits of your kids. And new adventures expand those limits.
Long car rides and packing for trips and sleeping in strange places and playing outside in unknown lands are all the stuff memories are made of. So bring on the extra work of travelling with toddlers. The good and bad and funny memories are the ones my husband and I will talk about for years afterward. And bonus if the kids have fun too.