Tackling Vacation with Kids: packing, car rides, and much more

Recently, almost my whole side of the family took a big summer vacation trip to Universal Studios in Orlando for the week. It was such a fun trip and the kids did amazing with it, but one thing I think parenting continually does for me is to remind me that I have to let go of expectations and go with the flow sometimes. Kids’ moods are unpredictable, weather is unpredictable, there’s just a ton of variables when going on vacation, especially to a place like a theme park, that can affect your experience. One thing I’ve found, though, is despite needing to go with the flow, being unprepared is also not an option with kids either. So I want to offer some tips to all you mommas out there on how I pack and prepare for trips with my kiddos to try and make our vacation go as smoothly as it can (within my realm of control, that is.)

1) Organization is your best friend. When it comes to packing for trips, I try and make our packing process as organized as I possibly can. I think of what each day will look like in terms of plans and pack my children outfits and extra items for the day in a large ziplock bag marked with what day it’s for.

Extras for us include underwear, socks, shoes, hats. Anything the outfit would need to be complete. When getting ready in the morning before heading out for the day, the last thing I want to be doing is rummaging around in a huge suitcase, attempting to find every piece of an outfit my child needs. This also allows me to very easily get my husband involved in the getting ready process in the morning, because all I have to tell him is to go find the “Monday bag” or “Thursday bag” and he can help to get the kids ready with no issues. When laying all the outfits out, I also figure out which bows Sadie will need with each outfit, but those get packed separately.

*Moms of girls* I suggest getting yourself a pencil box (they can be found at most stores, this one came from Walmart) and storing the bows for the trip in there. They won’t get squished this way and you can keep them altogether.

2) Comfort items keep them calm! My kids love to cuddle with a blanket and stuffy at night and in the car on a long road trip. I don’t like to take every single stuffy we own and I also don’t think it’s practical to take a huge blanket, so I have a few ways to make this tip work for you. If your child is attached to one stuffed animal in particular, obviously that’s the one you should bring. My kids, however, change their favorite from week to week, so the day before our trip, I ask them to go in their rooms and choose one stuffy that they want to bring with us. That way they get some say in what they bring and it gives them a job while I get the packing done. We also have these amazing blankets from Shop Highway 3 that are super lightweight, unbelievably soft, and are perfect for road trips and cuddling up in a hotel bed. They come with us everywhere we go.

3) Speaking of getting the kids involved, I ask both kids to also take a bag and go through the playroom, choosing a few toys that they would like to have in the car and while we are at the hotel or vacation home or wherever. Again, this gives them a job while I’m trying to get other things accomplished, and they love being “in charge” of their own things.

4) Pack smarter, not more. I have a confession to make: I am a classic overpacker by nature. I tend to want to pack any and everything and end up not using 50 percent of what I packed because we didn’t need it. In terms of luggage and clothing, the labeled bags help tremendously. But when it comes to snacks for the kids, here’s my tip on not bringing your entire pantry. These snack boxes are actually bead organizers that I got from the craft section at Walmart. Karsen’s I got a while back, but Sadie’s I got just recently. It was about an 8 dollar purchase, and to me, totally worth it. I take a bunch of different snacks that I know my kiddos love and put a handful in each compartment. Some are more healthy options like fruit and cheese, others are “treats” like marshmallows or M&Ms. When they start asking for a snack, I’m able to pull out just one thing and they have tons of options all at once. My kiddos are grazers also, so this works perfectly for them. I don’t suggest this if you have kids that might throw the snack box or dump it out. But if you think your kiddos would do well with it, give this a try. Mine love them!

I also bring the kids water bottles and the little single serve pouches of drink mix. This way, we can fill their water bottles up almost anywhere, and if they want juice, we can easily add the drink mix to their bottle. This saves on having to bring bottles of juice with us. This was a great item to take in the theme parks as well, as almost any restaurant we stopped at was happy to fill up their water bottles with ice and water for free!

5) Remember that this is vacation and have some fun! Their clothes might get messy, they may eat not as healthy as what you’re used to, they may choose to do rides or attractions that you would not have picked, but guess what?? They are having FUN momma! If you let loose, they can too! Don’t get stuck in every little detail to the point of driving yourself crazy. Show your kids that it’s ok to kick back and relax and just have a little fun! When they look back on vacation, you want them to remember you with a smile on your face, now don’t you?

I hope these tips and tricks are helpful for some of you! Let us know if there are other things that you all do as a family to make your vacations a little easier. We’d love to get your feedback!

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