If you’ve ever heard someone say, “I need a vacation from my vacation,” then you know they must have kids. Traveling
with kids can be brutal and traveling with toddlers hell. Between packing all the extra stuff kids come with to balancing nap times with all the fun activities you plan, it can be exhausting.
An alternative to the long vacation is the quick weekend road trip. And it may seem that planning for a two-day trip would be easier than an entire week. But let me tell you from experience that you can easily find yourself wanting to turn around and head for home before you’ve even reached your destination.
Here are five tips for surviving a weekend trip with toddlers (and have some fun while you’re at it!)
*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. What the hell does that mean? It means that if you click one of the product links below and purchase something, I am eligible for compensation. But fear not, I have personally used all of the products I recommend on my site. Carry on.
- Curb your expectations.
Remember you are traveling with tiny humans who get equally excited by the fish tank at Culver’s as they do the dolphin show at SeaWorld. There is zero chance you will disappoint them. So give yourself a break as you plan your getaway.
Any new place will be amazing to them. I asked my four-year-old what his favorite part of our last road trip was and he said the bumpy slide at a park we randomly stopped at. That made me feel super great about spending all that cash at the children’s museum. But you get the picture.
2. Look into renting a house instead of staying at a hotel.
Kids are creatures of habit. And if you want to make a trip away from home as smooth as possible then trying to bring those comforts of home with you can be key.
I try to book a home or condo through Airbnb when we travel with our kids. It allows us to get more rooms for a similar price and we get access to a kitchen and dining area which makes meal times a little easier. You can often find homes that are walking distance from the attractions you are going to which is an added bonus.
Plus, renting a house means we can have a separate room from our kids so we aren’t keeping them up late and we don’t have to go to bed at 7.
3. Make sure your distraction game is on point.
Being trapped in a car with young kids can be the hardest part of any road trip. To keep the misery at a minimum I suggest having lots of distractions ready to roll the second things start to get out of hand. For me, keeping peace in the car means all bets are off in terms of what goes down. Bribery? Check! Sugary snacks? Check! The promise of a new puppy if we can make it home in one piece? Ok, I draw the line there.
A distraction could be a toy, like this cute steering wheel from B. Toys at Target. My kids like to mimic me driving (and offer their unqualified input) so this toy is perfect for them. Or it could be a favorite snack or it could be a game. Maybe it’s a sing along with the whole fam to some Justin Timberlake. Or maybe it’s a round of I Spy. Or, if your kids are old enough, download a new game on their tablet. It will take them a while to figure it all out which will give you some much needed silence.
Do what you need to survive, just have a plan before you get in that vehicle.
4. Don’t over schedule your day.
It will be tempting to cram as much fun as possible in the short weekend away. You made the effort to travel this far so it makes sense to get the most bang for your buck. But you play a dangerous game when you try and stretch a kid’s day too much.
If your child is still napping, do your best to keep them on their schedule. You may think they are doing fine because they are still engaged and happy at the zoo you’ve been at for four hours. But the crash will happen. They will turn on a dime. And then you are left with a kid in hysterics that you are trying to get out to the car as fast as possible while leaving a trail of tears (and strangers’ glares) behind you.
Instead, have a drop dead time that you agree to leave and go back to your house or hotel and get some rest. You’ll be surprised at how tired you will be as well so it does everyone some good to get some rest. You’ll be refreshed for an evening outing and everyone will be thanking you for making the tough call.
5. Keep a change of clothes on you.
This may seem like a no-brainer but this is something that I often forget about until it’s too late. Although I pack the majority of my kid’s wardrobe for these quick trips I end up forgetting to take a spare outfit with me when we leave for the day.
The last thing you want is to start off your day with a kid spilling a glass of milk on their lap at breakfast with no spare pants in sight. Or their first stop at the children’s museum will of course be the water table where they promptly dump a bucket full of water on themselves. You have the rest of the day ahead of you and a soaked and miserable child.
When you pack for the trip set aside a spare outfit and place it in your purse/bag/diaper bag before you plan out the rest of the clothes you think your kids will need. I can almost guarantee you’ll need to tap in to your reserves!
And that’s it! Those are just a few tips to help you survive a road trip with your littles. And don’t be intimated. For all the things that will go wrong and all the tantrums your kids are sure to throw there will be 100 more moments of laughter and delight that you’ll enjoy on these trips. The tears will dry, but the memories will last.
But maybe schedule an extra day off when you get back so you can recover.