Vacation Fun: 5 Tips for Traveling with Little Kids

As I write this, we’re heading home from an 8-night trip full of vacation fun. A vacation we thought about canceling. Not just because of covid-19 restrictions but also because of an 8 hour+ drive each way with 2 toddlers. We wondered if they would travel well or sleep OK in an unfamiliar place. But, ultimately we’re really glad we made the decision to take this trip and embrace the fun to be had on our first family vacation.

Our vacation centered around a trip to the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter.

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Although our kids are only 2 and 4 years old and a lot of what the museums had was more than they could take in, we wanted to expose them to these places that get into the science and history of our core beliefs. And, we also had fun at a pumpkin patch, aquarium and zoo.

And, the playset in the backyard at our Airbnb didn’t hurt either!

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I wanted to share 5 things I learned and why I suggest saying yes to vacation fun, even with the littles.

1. It’s worth choosing a place with your kids in mind

When I started looking at lodging choices, there were plenty of options. My husband and I (pre-kids) would have probably chosen a place in the city closer to our planned activities. However, this time we decided the best option would be a place for the kids to play. So, as I started scouting out options, I kept that in mind. Ultimately, we chose a house on Airbnb with 4 bedrooms and a playset in the backyard. They had toys and craft activities available too. There was a little drive to get to our daily activities but it was worth it.

This made a huge difference. As much as we might have enjoyed a trendy city loft in our pre-kid days, this house was the perfect choice for our family. It allowed vacation fun for us and the kids.

2. Don’t overpack

Another amenity I looked for when deciding on a place to stay was that I wanted it to have a washer and dryer. This enabled us to pack light and it was no biggie to throw a few loads of clothes in the washer while we were there.

As far as entertainment, to keep from needing to pack a lot of car activities,  we downloaded some shows onto our kids’ tablets for the drive. That was a huge help! I understand that not everyone is OK with tablet time so if that’s not your thing, just be sure to pack things your kids will enjoy in the car. And, if you do decide you’re OK with tablet time, be intentional. No kid needs to be on their tablet for 8 hours straight. Set limits and try to vary the car activities.

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3. Take your time

If you’re setting out on a long road trip with little kids, don’t make getting to your destination as fast as possible your goal. Instead, take your time. After looking at different options, we decided to leave early morning (@ 5am). It worked great because the kids went back to sleep for a while and when they woke up we were ready to stop for breakfast. We knocked out about 3 hours of the trip while they slept. And, for the rest of the trip, we took breaks when we needed to.

At one point, we stopped at a toy store and let them both pick a small item which made the trip more fun for them. Again, the point is if you take your time you’ll likely enjoy the trip a lot more. Strive to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. This applies to many things in life!

4. Be chill

Along the same line as taking your time to get to your destination, it helps to have a relaxed approach to the vacation time overall. We decided before we left that we were not going to worry about trying to stick to our normal schedule. If the kids fell asleep in the car for a nap when we were out having vacation fun, that was fine. But, we weren’t going to worry about building naps into our day.

Along the same lines, we knew they might not sleep as well in an unfamiliar place. We decided instead of worrying about this we would just take shifts if needed. As it turned out, they mostly slept great and it wasn’t even an issue.

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5. Don’t over plan

This might be the biggest tip of all. It’s tempting when you’re going on a vacation to try to do ALL. THE. THINGS. If you have little kids, resist this urge. This is what our vacation schedule looked like and it worked out great!

  • Friday- Travel Day
  • Saturday- No plans. We ended up visiting a pumpkin patch and going out for pizza.
  • Sunday- Aquarium– We spent a couple of hours at the aquarium, walked around the city, grabbed lunch, and went back to the house to relax.
  • Tuesday- Unplanned Day. It was a rainy day and we ended up taking the kids to a really cool indoor train museum with a play area. They absolutely loved it! We thought it was pretty cool too!
  • Wednesday- Zoo
  • Saturday- Have breakfast, finished packing, and headed home.

We also took our time on our way home stopping for stretches and two food stops.

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our first family vacation. Although it was far from jam-packed, we had plenty of vacation fun. Having a relaxed attitude helped so much in allowing us to enjoy our time.

Bonus Tip: Ask your Airbnb host (or hotel concierge, etc. ) what some good options are for kid-friendly activities, dining, etc. That is how we found out about a couple of activities including the train museum and the ice cream shop which were big hits. I had not come across those places on my own so I’m so glad I asked.

Even though our vacation just ended, I’m already thinking about the fun we had and the memories we made. We know our kids won’t be little for long and I’m glad we took the time to be a little adventurous and plan a full week vacation. Now, my wheels are already turning for what we can get into next year 🙂

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