Traveling with children can be a challenge for even the most seasoned traveler. We love to take road trips, but this has not come without bumps, bruises, and road blocks along the way. Six years ago, my husband and I decided to move our little family from the Memphis, Tennessee, area down to the Lafayette, Louisiana (Acadiana) area. This, inherently, meant we would be taking lots of road trips. Because I was raised in a big city and we now live in a very small town outside of Lafayette, Louisiana, I knew I would need to get out and about a lot; and we have. I have learned a lot along the way. The most valuable piece of information I have learned is to be patient and enjoy the moment. After all, what is the point of making memories with your children if you're too stressed out the entire trip to enjoy them?
Here are the top 5 things I have learned along the way that I think every parent needs to know before embarking on a great adventure with their children:
1. Pack light but not too light ~ Everyone needs an outfit for each day you're gone, up to 4 outfits for each person. No matter how long we are going to be away from home, I never pack more than 4 outfits and 2 extra pairs of shoes for each traveler. No matter if you're staying at a family member's home or at a hotel; there will be a laundry facility nearby, use it.
2. Give each child their own bags ~ This has helped TREMENDOUSLY throughout the years. When taking a road trip, I pack a clothing bag and snack bag for each child. As your children get older you will know when it is time for them to be responsible for their own things. My children are 15, 9, and 7, so this works out great for us! The main train of thought here is that it teaches individual responsibility as well as taking a load off of Dad and Mom. Also, it keeps our youngest from jumbling up everyone else's clothes while searching for a tiny pair of panties that have fallen to the bottom of the huge family suitcase. Our children are each to grab their own bags when exiting the vehicle at our destination and they are each responsible for gathering their own things when we leave. This is a huge help when we're getting ready to leave!
3. Pack kids' activities in their bag ~ Each child's backpack has several activities to keep them busy along the road. They all have their iPad, 3ds, or Kindle with them and along with that we pack a coloring book and crayons for each child. Even my 15 year old loves coloring while we're on the road. We also play fun games to see how many states we can find represented on license plates along the way and counting down the miles to our destination. There are so many ways to keep them busy and that is truly one of the keys to keeping your sanity on a road trip :D
4. Pack healthy snacks ~ It is so easy to stop at fast food restaurants during a road trip, especially when there are multiple children involved. Stopping for fast food along the way isn't all bad, but you don't want to make every meal and snack a sodium and sugar packed event. We try very hard to limit our restaurant eating to 1 meal a day. We're able to do this by packing things such as raisins, apple slices, bananas, nuts, pretzels, and sandwiches. There are times when we must eat out more than once a day and for these days, I make sure there is at least 1 serving of fruit or veggies and 1 bottle of water between each meal.
5. Stop often ~ We set an alarm to stop every hour and a half along the way. Sometimes it goes over a little bit if there's not a friendly place to stop. One reason we chose an hour and a half is because sitting in one position for longer than 2 hours is not only difficult for children, but it is also not good for your leg health. Planning ahead for frequent stops also takes the frustration out of hearing "MOOOOOMMMMM! I need to pee!". You're already prepared and have a plan. We love rest areas. Years ago, rest areas were not nearly as safe and friendly as they are now. Not only are most rest areas very clean and safe, but many have free coffee and paved trails to stretch your legs. Get out, walk around, and enjoy the scenery along the way!