What to know when vacationing with kids

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We live in the city and we are a six hour drive away from my parents. Our
daughter, June, doesn’t have as much opportunity to enjoy the outdoors as
kids in the country do and she thinks that her grandparents are just about
the coolest thing since chocolate. So, our road trip to Grandma and
Grandpa’s house in the summer is the high point of the year.

We make this trip a top priority for several reasons. Making time for June
to have a relationship with her grandparents is so important. Childhood
goes by fast. Those relationships are precious and we only get so much time
for them. Even if we had no relatives to visit, though, setting aside time
for a vacation creates space to have a unique experience together. I
particularly like being able to remove the family from our daily habits
while still having many options besides being a tourist. If we didn’t have
Grandma and Grandpa’s house to visit, a cabin or housekeeping
cottage would be my next choice. For us, it’s the home away from home
that really makes for a warm and flexible environment.

After doing this trip many times now, I’d like to share some things that
I’ve learned about vacationing with kids.

Start packing early because packing well takes time.

The first issue is space. Make sure that you consider the size of your
trunk. While you can fit a few things into the passenger area it can get
unpleasant if you bring too much. Remember that you are likely to be coming
back with more than you brought along. The first few times we vacationed
with June we packed up the backseat. June had everything within reach
unpacked by the time we got there! Also, it can feel cramped and warm if
the car is over packed.

The second thing is that kids don’t like to do without. Make sure that you
have appropriate clothing for every kind of weather. For us, in Nova
Scotia, that means everything from bathing suits, to rain gear, to a fall
jacket. Consider bringing along any toys that your kid will really miss. Check
out our packing list for ideas.

The part that needs the most planning is the drive.

Try to travel at the best time for your child. If you are using busy books,
for instance, it will need to be daytime. For us, it’s best if June sleeps
for part of the drive. We leave late in the day so that most of the trip is
after her bedtime. We bring her blanket and teddy bear. When bedtime comes
she’s excited to snuggle her favourite things and she knows that when she
wakes up we will be at Grandma and  Grandpa’s house.


Our first stop this year was at Tim Horton’s one of our favourite
places to hang out. On road trips, Juniper knows that we always get
Timbits, even if it is almost bedtime.

Consider all the little towns along the way before you leave and think
about where you might stop for a bathroom and a snack. Get in a flexible
frame of mind and don’t sweat the stops. With a little kid it’s
unpredictable! This year we only stopped once on the way, but on the return
trip we stopped four times and added two hours to our travel time. That’s
just the way it is.


Chasing seagulls and picking flowers while waiting for our ice
cream at the Bayside. It’s been around since before I was born. We can’t
miss our annual stop.

Just being on vacation is fun.

Don’t push the envelop when it comes to age appropriate activities. Booking up all the time and planning on seeing all the best tourist attractions isn’t going to be fun when traveling with little kids. They get tired. June really values her alone time. It’s important to leave lots of wiggle room in your schedule and to plan open ended, hands on or physical activities.

We like taking June to the beach. There is so much for a kid to do
there. We run from the waves, collect shells and seaglass. This year June
learned how to skip stones.

Let your kids guide your choices and explore with them. Just being on
vacation in a fun place, together, with plenty of time can be nice. Take
time to do spontaneous things and to really look at the things you find.
You’ll have the best time if you view your vacation through your child’s
eyes. Relax and have fun!

Oh, and did I mention that we can’t make a ton of noise in our apartment?
We can make noise at Grandma’s house though! Check out the makeshift drum
set that Grandpa set up in the shed.

Guest post written by Kerry.

Kerry is a stay-at-home mom of one from Nova Scotia, Canada. She writes
about living with trust and gratitude at FishbowlFortune.com, her Christian
homeschooling lifestyle blog. As part of our #nothingisordina series, she
wrote about vacationing with her five year old. You can follow her on:




The objective of the #nothingisordina series is to encourage parents to
break free from their routines and be more creative with their kids. Our
focus for this month is to write about motivation and inspiration to help
parents find new ways of spending time with their kids.

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Nara is a mom to one and soon to two, an improving baker, a wife, a soccer player and a fun traveler. She loves the mom/work lifestyle, with a jam-packed schedule that always involves playing with her daughter and chatting with other moms. Nara considers her writing style, a casual form of speech of stories and experiences that move forward naturally.

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2 Responses

  1. Traveling with kids is so different than traveling without. We’ve found we need to add 15 minutes to each travel hour for bathroom breaks and running around. I let my 6 year old pack my backpack with toys and books each trip. I also make sure her Kindle is fully charged and ready to go for the drive.
    We’ve gone mainly to kid-friendly beaches. Our only real problem was when we tried to take her to Biltmore House to see the Christmas decorations. She was way too young and kept wanting to duck under the ropes to touch things. We gave up and left for the garden and estate farm, even though we’d paid a premium for the house tickets. Making sure your activities are kid-friendly is so important.

    • NaraP says:

      So true. It’s a totally different game when it comes with traveling with kids. Good call on the kid-friendly activities. I never even thought of that.

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