We’re doing a fair bit of travel these days, and I’ve got four important tips for making any trip easier, whether it’s a day trip into the city or a ten-day family excursion to a different country.
Charge your devices in advance!
When we left for our big trans-Atlantic, moving-to-England flight, we somehow managed to get to the airport with all 6 of us needing to charge a device. Matt and I had our iPhones, and all four kids have an iPod Touch. And all six of us were low on batteries and had a 2-hour wait in the airport before we could get on the plane. We basically took turns standing at the charging station at Dulles Airport and rotating which device was charging. Bad planning.
With that annoying experience seared in my mind, I make sure to collect all the kids’ iPods the night before we’re going anywhere and charge them all. Then I hand them out when we actually need them — and not a moment sooner, otherwise at least two kids will have killed the batteries already.
Cook (and maybe freeze) a meal before you go away that you can easily heat and eat when you return
My family is very food-centric. When we get hungry, we get cranky (or hangry, if you prefer). All six of us. And a house full of six hangry people is a recipe for disaster. The worst is when you get home from a trip, have piles of luggage full of dirty laundry, are exhausted from traveling, and have nothing to eat. I’ve learned that it is in all of our best interests to have something waiting to be eaten when we arrive home — either a meal I’ve cooked and stuck in the fridge or freezer that will defrost and be ready in 30 mins or so, or something that’s quick-cooking on standby in the pantry. Easy meals consisting mostly of comfort food are the best choices.
Need ideas for meals you can make in advance, freeze, and cook in less than a half hour? Baked ziti. Enchiladas. Meatballs and sauce. The world’s most delicious Chili.
And ideas for meals you can have in the pantry and cook in 20 minutes or less? Pasta and sauce. Grilled cheese and tomato soup. Bacon and eggs.
Wear Layers, even when it’s warm out
With four kids, I can almost rely on the fact that when we’re traveling someone will be uncomfortable — too hot or too cold — at some stage of the trip. I now make sure my kids wear layers, no matter where we’re going or what we’re doing, so that I can head off meltdowns induced by incorrect temperatures.
Even when the kids say they’re warm, I make them bring a light sweater or a long-sleeve shirt. When it’s freezing, I make them wear a short-sleeve something UNDER their warmer layers. When they complain, I tell them to shut up. (Not really, but in kinder terms, it’s basically my response.) The temperature can fluctuate so much from the car to an airport or train station to wherever we’re actually going as our final destination. Layers are the key to not listening to a crying child who is too hot/too cold.
Take a photo of where you parked your car and text it to your Husband/Wife (you think you’ll remember, but you won’t)
We took the kids to Disney World a few years ago, flying out of Reagan National Airport in D.C. in January. We parked the car in long-term parking at the airport. When we arrived back in D.C., exhausted after 6 days in Disney World and freezing as we stared at the snow and remembered the 75-degree weather we’d just left behind, Matt took the parking lot shuttle to get the car while I waited in the airport with four exhausted and insane children and all our luggage.
A half hour later, Matt was still not back. The kids were a hot mess of complaining, hyper, exhaustion, I was short-tempered and annoyed, and Matt was wandering around the enormous parking lot full of snow-covered cars hitting the panic button on the key fob in the hopes that the alarm would go off so he could find our vehicle. It was not awesome.
Now we take a picture of the parking lot sign indicating where we parked the car and we make sure we each have the photo on our phone. Live and learn.
What tips do you have for making travel with or without children go a little more smoothly?
Also, here’s how we made it through the airport with four kids and twenty-three bags when we moved to England!