08 July 2009

Fun trip with kids? It IS possible...

We have two young children, 4 (going on 20), and 18 months (going on 20). Taking trips with them is almost never relaxing, and only fun in spots. However, this last trip we took, I think we played everything right, and the entire five-day trip was a blast! Here's what we did, and if anyone else has some great tips for traveling with kids, feel free to leave it in your comment!

First, book a good hotel. Not a Motel 6 or Super 8. Bite the bullet and pay for a good hotel. I'm talking, the kind with a free hot breakfast, free wifi, and a courteous staff. Why? Sure, you think, we're only sleeping there, why spend more than $50 a night? Well, if you have young kids, you're not just sleeping there. You're trapped in the hotel room every night after they go to sleep. So splurge a little, get a room with really comfy beds, a hotel that spends money on insulation between rooms and a heat lamp in the bathroom. And having a fridge and microwave in the room is a godsend! Don't stay with relatives if that will stress you out. Anyway, the hotel is a must.

Next, and I know everyone says this, but have a truly relaxed schedule. Don't plan out a detailed itinerary, scheduling every minute, because kids' naptimes and mealtimes will just throw a wrench in and stress you out. Instead, say you're going to the zoo on X day, and plan all day for it, that way you're not rushing to get to something else. Plan a waterpark day for Y day. And don't have a set day for visiting with friends and relatives. Instead, do a short little visit each day. That way, you don't spend all day in a non-child-proof home with curious kids and nothing for them to do but get into stuff. Small visits, that's the ticket.

Third, food. For young kids, hit a grocery store as soon as you arrive, get some juice boxes, small bags of chips, and something like Uncrustables. Keep them in the fridge in your good hotel room. Perfect for snacks, on-the-go meals, or to keep them busy.

Last, either rent a car, or borrow a dedicated car from a relative, one just for your use while you're there. Having your own wheels means you can go get food when you guys need it, you can leave an activity when your kids are melting down, you can go do something your kids want even if no one else wants to.

Here's some other points to consider, the good and the ugly:

  • $500 for all three tickets was great; 6am flight out, and 9pm flight home, were not.
  • We had our own hotel room, so our kids weren't disturbed when sleeping, and we were able to keep to our own schedule. Awesome.
  • We hung around a relative's house most of Friday (arrived at 8, check-in wasn't until 3), kids bored and curious. Not fun.
  • Hotel had an indoor pool, awesome.
  • Saturday, after a free hot breakfast, we sort of tooled around, visited a sick relative, and generally tried to keep the kids busy.
  • Sunday, we planned all day for the zoo, and left when our kids were done. That was great.
  • Park birthday party on Monday was awesome, plenty of room for kids to run and get dirty and be kids, with minimal interference from us. Gave us time to visit with friends instead of being overbearing parents. Then played in the park's water park until closing, which was awesome.
  • Tuesday, after checking out, went to a petting zoo with tons of baby animals, which the kids really loved.
  • Tuesday night, 8PM flight (bad idea) turned into a 9PM takeoff, which had us landing at 11 and actually driving away from the airport by midnight. Bad, just bad. Got home around 3AM. So yeah, hubby and I didn't go to work today...
So, there's my thoughts. Your turn!


Mama Badger said...

Those are great tips. I would add a few others:

1) Don't let someone else book your room. We had a relative book us a room as part of a block, without asking the hotel the details. Turns out our room was overlooking the pool, which didn't close until 10 and was filled with noisy kids!

2) Check the web for free local attractions, like parks. Most of the time, relatives will be happy to visit and have a picnic at the park at the same time. This way the kids aren't stuck in a strangers house trying to behave.

3) Test drive your kids attention span on a similar local attraction. Don't plan 5 hours at a "vacation" zoo if your kid gets antsy after 2 hours at your local zoo.

4) Try to plan an "out" if you're traveling or staying with others. When PB and I go to our family re-union, we always plan one solo activity so that we can get away alone if the family gets to be too much.

Those have made trips easier for us.

JediMom said...

Oh I am so glad I found this blog. I was several months behind on the momformation so I just read that you had left last week.
I agree with the good hotel. Especially one with a mini-kitchen. I love those ones. We try to always find a room with a stove in it. It's worth the money and time saved trying to find a resturant for kids in the evening.
We also like the suite type rooms. With a seperate room for us, and they are not much more than a non-suite room.

Maggie May said...

Great tips!

Emily said...

Also, and some may call me crazy, but when you get to the hotel, unpack. That's right, hang your clothes in the closet, use the drawers for kids' clothes, put shoes in the closet. Empty the suitcases. This prevents the chaos that comes from digging through suitcases; prevents the mess of having things strewn everywhere; prevents the stress of "living out of a suitcase"; and also makes repacking much quicker and stress-free. Throw all the dirty clothes (as they're worn) into the empty suitcases, and get clean and wrinkle-free clothes out of the drawers and closets.

Teresa said...

Emily, I have to say I totally agree with everything you've said especially the part about splurging on a really good hotel and the part about unpacking. I do that exact same thing.