Many families take to the roads throughout the year to see new parts of the world and have fun. It sounds wonderful to get away with our kiddos for a change of scenery and pace of life, but when the time comes and reality hits, many times the stress far outweighs the fun. So how can we have fun when staying home is so much easier? Here's what we have learned over the years about how to have fun on a road trip:
Change your perspective: This isn’t a vacation
Long gone are the days of lounging by the pool reading a book, or sleeping in the mornings. Vacations imply relaxation, but taking a trip with kids can be far from that! Now time is spent in the pool watching kids do tricks, shuttling kids back and forth to the bathroom, or dealing with an over tired toddler melt down. So, reframing our mindset as parents of what to expect can help lead to more fun. Expect to have fun and make the best of your time away, but also expect it to still feel like work, perhaps even more work than at home because of the whole new environment!
Split up the team at times
In some situations, it's easier to make everyone happier when one of the parents takes a set of kids while the other parent stays with the younger ones. For instance, my husband may take the older kids to the pool while I stay in the room with the toddler and baby so they can rest. Or, for one winter vacation I was pregnant and couldn't go snow tubing so I got to have some one-on-one time with the toddler while Daddy and the big kids enjoyed the mountain. You don't have to do everything together all the time; it's okay to split up when needed to make it easier or accommodate different ages.
This doesn't necessarily only mean electronics, but I'm certainly not against bringing some form of it when downtime is needed. However, we do set boundaries so that's not all the kids want to do. We are a big board game family, so my husband brings a few from his collection that our kids love playing. Board games are a great way to encourage conversations and entertainment while in your hotel room. A few of my kids' favorite card games are the classic UNO, Rhino Hero, and Sushi Go. All are small and easy to pack, but lots of fun! I also bring along coloring supplies, workbooks, books to read, and a few small toys for the baby or toddler.
Book hotels or condos with a kitchen
Seriously, I think dining out with young kids is one of the most torturous parts of being a parent, whether you are at home or on a trip. Having most of your meals in your hotel not only saves you money but also your sanity. We often will cook our own meals or keep quick things like bagels or sandwiches on hand. However, when we don't want to cook, we'll have meals delivered or do take-out if it means we can avoid confining our five children to chairs and being patient while they wait. We won't avoid restaurants forever, but right now with a toddler it is an easy compromise to be less stressed.
Bring another adult
It's rare for us these days to take a trip without another Grandparent in tow. Not only do the kids love the extra bonding time with them, but it gives us parents an another pair of arms and eyes while we are out vising places — like Disney World, or the beach. It also gives my husband and I the opportunity to relax for at least a few hours while we go on a date, and the other adult can go off by themselves, too, if they wanted some refreshing quiet. You could bring another family member, a close friend, whoever would be a good fit to tag along and doesn't mind being helpful.
Don't take a trip — just kidding. Sometimes.
I mean, really, sometimes it is just easier to stay close to home and find fun things to do as a family around you. This year we've chosen to do this since we have had a ton of unexpected expenses come up and are still adjusting to life with five little ones. Instead, we'll be enjoying a lake nearby and pretending it's the beach (it's actually easier than the beach, since it's small and there is no current to sweep kids away!) or be at our neighborhood pool often. And playing boardgames at home, of course.