Spring break and summer are just around the corner and many families will be traveling. Being a military family we have done A LOT of traveling, mostly by car and plane. I feel like over the last ten years I have finally figured it out. Of course there is always the unplanned events like when my younger son came down with the stomach flu while on a long flight from Tokyo to Detroit. Nothing can really prepare you for something like that but I do have tips for helping ease the time you are traveling to that much needed vacation or visit with family.
1. LISTS! Before I travel I love to make lists of all the things we will need. There is a list of clothing for each of us and then there are the toiletries and food and so on. You may be chuckling at this but I have never forgotten anything! Before we pull out of the driveway I look over my lists and make sure everything is checked off. So, no more forgetting your child’s favorite toy they just can’t live without, write it on the list!
2. Portable DVD players are a must! If you have kids and are a parent who is not a fan of too much TV, let it go for the long drive to grandma’s house. You can buy them for a reasonable price and it will be the best money you spend on your upcoming vacation. We use our iPad to put movies on but same concept applies. I swear that it saved my sanity when I had to drive from New Orleans to Myrtle Beach alone with my two boys.
3. One diaper for every two hours of flight. I had traveled to and from Japan three times with kids in diapers and with the exception of my younger son getting sick, this works. Taking a baby on a 12 hour flight can seem really overwhelming when you aren’t sure how many diapers to bring. Make sure to count the layover, too and then throw in one two extras (just in case ). I then put more in our luggage so I wouldn’t have worry about buying more once we landed.
4. Bring lots and lots of food and drinks. I pack each kid their own lunch box with two sandwiches (Smuckers frozen pb&js are great) and at least four to five snacks, two juice boxes and a bottle of water. Having their own in the seat with them helps keep them from nagging that they are hungry and/or thirsty and they won’t fight over who got to have what because they will have the same thing. For our car trips I always have a cooler with lunch and more drinks. Stopping at a rest stop for lunch not only saves you money but kids get a chance to run around and stretch their legs. If you are flying check with the airline about bringing food for children. I have never had a problem but rules are always changing so better to call ahead and get the O.K.
5. Before you set out on the two day drive to Disney World make sure your car is in good condition. Check things like tire pressure, oil and belts. The last thing anyone wants to have happen is to be stranded on the side of the road with a broken down car. A simple tune up to check the basics can save you lots of time and money in the long run. When traveling from the warm to cold have your car ready to drive in the snow or at least convert quickly to the colder weather for example tire chains for snow or antifreeze for your windshield.
6. Travel with as little cash as possible. My husband and I are huge fans of using credit cards while traveling and leaving the check book and cash at home. Cash can’t be replaced if lost or stolen. The same goes for traveler checks. Better to plan ahead for the higher credit card bill then to be without money because your wallet was stolen or lost.
7. Before you buy your package for Disney or a cruise through the internet or travel agent go to ITT. Many companies offer military discounts but won’t advertise it. ITT can help you plan your entire vacation and you will only pay for the trip itself, where as if you go through a travel agent you will have to pay a fee for the service.
8. Short on money but still want a vacation? Go camping and rent all the gear you will need at the MWR Outdoor Recreation Office. They will have everything from tents to fishing poles to canoes and even some have teardrop campers for rent for a very low cost that is based on your pay grade.
9. If you think you might need it, bring it! You already know I have a list of the “must haves” but then there are the things I think, “well, we might need or want that.” I have come to learn that bringing those extra items pays off. This has been everything from sporting like gear when camping to extra food to extra sweatshirts in July to the two extra shirts when flying with an infant. This is your gut talking and it is almost always right! And when your husband says, “no, we won’t need that.” DEFINITELY BRING IT! Trust me, he’ll thank you in the end.
10. Be relaxed and have fun! Vacation and family visits aren’t meant to be stressful and unpleasant, that is everyday life. When you are standing in the airport and the kids are being restless and cranky, try and remember they are feeling just like you. If they start fighting over what movie to watch next, chances are it is time for a pitstop. Count to ten and let it go.
Above all else stay focused on the point of getting away from home. Our lives are so chaotic and stressful and time with family should be a time of relief and help with your busy two year old. Vacation should not be spent thinking of all the things that need to be done at work when you get back. It is a time to focus on the little things like watching your children experience the ocean for the first time or talking with your grandmother about life (they are always the wisest). It is my hope that these ten tips help you to achieve the most relaxing and stress free travel whether it is to spend much needed time with family or to the beaches of the Outerbanks of North Carolina. And when the inevitable stress does creep in there are cocktails for that, so have a glass of whatever is your choice and relax!