So you've survived the drive, flight, or train - or even all 3! - and finally arrived at your destination. Now what? After a few years of travel, we've picked up a few tips and tricks that make our vacation a little easier with kids in tow.
Buy Diapers There
Don't pack diapers because they take up a ton of luggage space. Of course, take enough for the journey there, plus a few more just in case. But once we are at our destination, we stop in a grocery store or drug store to pick up a pack. Many brands are international - I have found Huggies and Pampers in every country we've visited. Plus, this stop will give you an opportunity to restock all the snacks that were consumed en route!
Be Flexible and Patient
Kids are out of their routine and away from their familiar surroundings, so you'll need to be extra patient and flexible with them. A trip may just be the time to let the little things slide; let them sleep with you if they are unsure of their new bed, make sure you have extra snacks on hand in case they don't like anything at the restaurant, have some of their favorite video downloaded on a tablet or phone for offline viewing in case they need some quiet time. Try to be extra understanding of their unease with this new situation. They will likely take their cues from you - if you are relaxed and at ease, they will likely be relaxed at more accepting of disruptions too. In other words, don't sweat the small stuff.
Rent an AirBnB
Access to a kitchen means you can save a bit of money if you want by cooking yourself - maybe not dinner, but at least breakfast. The biggest reason we rent at least one AirBnB though is to have access to laundry. Kids are notoriously messy and being able to do a load or two of laundry cuts the amount of clothes we have to pack in half. Plus, most hosts will give you local tips for wherever you are staying - the places, restaurants, and things to see that aren't necessarily in the guidebooks or on pinterest.
Watch for Parks
Keep an eye out for parks to let your little ones burn off steam. Now that Evelyn is a full blown toddler, we try to find a park at some point during the day for her to play at - a big field she can run around in (and this is where an inflatable beach ball would come in handy!), or something with a play structure. Kids can only sit in a stroller, go on tours, and be well behaved for so long. Their little bodies need movement and exercise. Let them have it. They may even sleep better for it, helping them get over any potential jet lag a little faster.
Maintain Your Expectations
Kids crave and love boundaries and limits (although they may protest them in the moment). It's important that you maintain the same expectations of them while traveling that you do at home. Do you normally make sure they sit with you at a restaurant and be well mannered? Do you expect manners? Do you have limits for how much disruptive behavior is allowed/tolerated? Make sure you maintain the same set of expectations when traveling as you would on a trip out of your house. I believe that it makes kids feel more comfortable and secure when they know what their parents expect out of them.
Communicate Plans to Them
From the time our girls were infants, we always tried to give them a heads up of what to expect for the day: "We are going to go to this cafe for lunch. You can sit in the chair or the stroller. We are going to order lunch, eat lunch, and then go to the park afterwards," or, "Today we are going to visit the zoo. We are going to see lots of animals, do lots of walking, and have lunch there. Maybe they will have a playground you can play at, too." Even preverbal infants can understand what you're saying, if you say it to them clearly, slowly, and calmly. We always noticed a marked difference in behavior of both girls when we would forget to communicate with them our plans. They were more anxious, short-tempered, and tended to get upset way more easily than the times we did clearly communicate with them. I know it sounds crazy, and I'm not a child development expert by any means, but something this simple can't hurt to implement.