We've made several overnight and week-long trips lately, and we are all ready to be home for awhile. Here are a few mistakes I made, and a couple things I actually had right, in case you find yourself paddling frantically in the same boat:
1. Don't make your schedule so packed that you can't afford delays. Bringing little kids along anywhere will slow you down. I used to fight this, and I was always late, and grumpy. Lesson learned: Better to cushion your time and arrive early than to be flustered and stressed about being late.
2. Do keep toys, treats and activities to entertain the kiddos in a few key places. Try to keep a book or toy in the car, plus something in your purse, diaper bag, etc., so you're extra prepared. The key is to always have one more distraction than you actually need. I somehow wound up sitting alone with my one year old on a three hour flight recently. In desperation, I pulled out my cell phone. Of course, she immediately turned it on, and I just knew we were all going to crash and burn. I turned it off, and proceeded to eat it. Lol, thankfully we're still alive, but I learned from my mistake!
3. Do pack way more diapers than you'll think you'll ever need. Last time we went to Chicago, we wound up stranded overnight at the airport with a canceled flight. I was so glad I had packed a ton of diapers! A stash of tylenol, diaper rash cream, etc., will come in handy too.
4. Do let your older kiddos help you pack their things. And let them pick a toy or special outfit to show off on vacation. This helps them get excited for vacation, and about going to a new place. Always supervise though- Linsey had 6 pair of pj's and no underwear packed last year, but I managed to catch that one!
5. Do plan for some physical activity in the midst of travelling, even if it's just pulling over and letting everyone run around for a minute. This makes a difference for babies too. They'll be tired in the car, but haven't burned enough energy to go to sleep. It's worth the five or ten minute stop to have peace in the car!!
6. Do bring a few familiar items from home. This is so important, even for babies. Kids thrive on routine and familiarity. The toy that hangs from the car seat for babies, a sleeping bag or pillow from home, a few toys - these help kids feel secure and not so "out of their element." And if your kids sleep with a fan, soft music, or white noise, bringing a portable version is so worth the effort.
7. Don't expect them to act on vacation the way they normally do at home. My kids aren't perfect, but they know how to sit still, and they usually obey. Last night, however, after a very long, hot car trip to visit some friends, none of them wanted to do either of those things. Sitting together in a (quiet) church service because they were terrified of the nursery, I heard whines of, "I need mascara!" and "I'm thiiirrrsty, mama!" And Nattie, my screamer, performed right along with her sisters. So we quickly excused ourselves and found an empty storage room - with an organ I didn't know worked! Frustrating? Sure, but in a new place with strange people after a long day, my girls just needed patience and love from their mama. I'm saving the lecture for tomorrow :)
8. Do "bend the rules" a little while you're on vacation. Isn't that what vacation's for? If your kiddos are giggling with their cousins when they should be asleep, or if they want a special treat, ask yourself, "Is letting them have/do this really going to matter a year from now?" If not, go ahead! I guarantee, they will remember in a year what a cool mom they have.
9. Don't jump right back into your busy life, take a day to recover. You all need time to put things away, settle down, and just relax. Whenever possible, give yourself a day before you are needed back at work or before you resume your normal hectic schedule. Your family will thank you for it!