Are we there yet?
Summer’s almost here, so naturally your mind’s starting to stroll down Holiday Road. One week or two, camping or luxe, plane, train, or automobile… so many exciting decisions! Not so exciting to think about: travelling avec les bambinos. Hmmm. How much would it cost to bring a sitter?
Map it out (or you’ll only be smiling for the camera).
Some parents take their kids out of school for an entire year to make the world their classroom. Others have one bad experience and declare every future vacation child-free, dropping the kiddos off for a grandparent-staycation on the way to the airport. Chacun son goût, but if you’re looking for the middle ground, here’s how to find it.
First, you NEED to research. Gone are the days of a cross-Atlantic flight with a hazy itinerary and a fistful of Euros. On our last baby-moon, we were lucky enough to score an awesome cruise cabin when we booked six weeks “early”. Key word there: lucky. Our travel agent kindly informed us that most parents book up to A YEAR in advance. Um, a year? Not our style. But waiting too long can mean paying more or losing out altogether. If you know when and where you’re headed, book it. We like to VRBO – our family of five does not hotel well. One of our most awesome friends collects air miles the way we collect Lego, so she’s our go-to-trip-plannin-gal. If you’re interested in reading her fantastic adventures and tips, check out the Adventures of 2D’s.
So you don’t go crazy on day one, limit your luggage and plan en-route-entertainment with as much detail as you once planned your wedding. A night or two before (if you’re hyper-organized), lay out the stuff you’d like to bring, cut it in half, and fugged about toys, the baby bath, or that handy double stroller you just might need. Our kids bring one sleep-buddy and then play with whatever random stuff they discover en voyage. They’ve found dinky cars and watering cans, and have been known to build sandcastles out of coffee cups on more than one occasion.
If flying, remain seated when they call families with small children to pre-board; you’ll be stuck in that sardine can for the next hour or five, so letting the kids run around for an extra twenty minutes can be a gamechanger. Sure, we get dirty looks when we’re (always) the very last on the plane, but who cares? By the time the flight’s over they’ve forgotten our seeming-tardiness and can’t stop gushing about our “good” children. If you’re driving, schedule pit-stops and don’t worry about the weather. Kids LOVE making any kind of mess, so giving them permission to run around in the rain and then pulling out dry clothes when it’s time to get back in the car… SuperStar. Snacks are critical during the trip and so is giving those twiddling thumbs something to do. When our oldest was two we road-tripped across North America for six weeks. This was pre-iPad, people. We survived using markers, stickers, books, audiobooks, and food. It wasn’t hard, but it was more work. Now that we’re playing defense more than offense, we bring the iPad and iPhone for the boys, making our carry-on that much lighter. Never underestimate the power of a light carry-on and happy children!
In your prelim research, figure out some key things to do at your destination. We bought a three-day metro pass in Montreal and that was all it took. We got to see sights we never saw as students living there for FIVE years, they got the thrill of a lifetime. In most of our travels we’re too lazy to tourist if we’re sans kids. Guys, we’re not exaggerating: pre-babies we visited Paris and didn’t go inside one single museum! Lame, much? So it was a real eye-opener when trying to find something fun for them led us to a cabin in Banff, a Stanley Park tram, the Space Needle, Alcatraz, and Navy Pier. We even toured our hometown via Hippo Bus on a random September Saturday. Great memories for them; spectacular for us.
It’s your vacay too, so make sure you think about your own sanity. We recently discovered the fun of travelling with grandparents – can’t believe it took us so long! That extra pair of hands (or two) can really make the difference between a vacation and… another typical day in your life. Switch up the resto’s with your own food – better for your body, mood, and wallet – but enjoy dining out at least one meal a day; who wants to be stuck in a kitchenette for your entire VACATION? Try to stick to a general food/sleep schedule so no one’s overly cranky, but be flexible when you need to. Fireworks on the beach? Hells yeah! Just plan some downtime for the next day. And bring earplugs.
Travelling is fun for everyone. And a little extra work for some. With some thoughtful prep you can make it a lot easier and teach everyone a thing or two. There’s a reason the Griswolds kept going back for more, and it wasn’t Christie Brinkley.
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