Traveling with kids is one of our favorite things. Seeing things through the eyes of a child makes every trip more exciting for us. We have never taken a trip without our kids and always enjoy having them with us. It can be really rough, too. Advanced planning can make a world of difference in the success of your trip.
- Split it up
Before we leave for a long road trip, we always map out the trip and try to find something fun to visit on our route. We usually try to make it about halfway between our starting and stopping point. This break gives the kids a chance to stretch their legs and burn off some energy with the hopes that they will rest for the second half of the trip. On our recent trip to Panama City Beach, we stopped in Mobile to visit the USS Alabama. This was pay dirt for our homeschooling family as it was also a chance to learn! Lord knows we love a chance to sneak in learning.
Of course, a stop like this can add to your time on the road, but for us, we love to enjoy the journey and not just the destination. Sometimes we also do something before we begin our trip if we are leaving first thing in the morning. There is nothing less fun than putting kids in the car first thing in the morning. The Baton Rouge Zoo was the perfect way to start a long day of driving, and as an added bonus, the admission was free with our Dallas Zoo membership.
2. Plan Ahead
Which brings me to my next tip, always plan ahead. In researching Panama City Beach, I found several great activities for our family of six. These can often be costly, but with a little planning, you can save a few dollars. Many zoos are part of the AZA Reciprocal Admissions Program, giving you 50 – 100% off admission if you have a membership to an AZA zoo. Find the list here: https://www.aza.org/reciprocity
You can also find great deals on Groupon. I was able to score tickets at a considerable discount to Gulf World Aquarium through Groupon. Just be sure to read the fine print.
I was also able to get tickets to the Science and Discovery Center for our entire family of six for just $16. As an added bonus, I checked out their website beforehand and found out that they had a special animal encounter on a specific day. My kids learned about all kinds of animals and even got a chance to hold several. (Sneaky learning!)
We also discovered that the Greyhound racing season had just started and enjoyed a fun evening at the races.
3. Plan for the grumps
Traveling is ROUGH on kids. New places, new food, and a lot of togetherness combined with no sleep can equal melt down city. The sun comes up in Florida about an hour before it comes up at our house in Texas, this meant we had kids standing next to our beds, ready for the day at 6 am. To combat a nuclear meltdown, we always try to plan some down time into every day.
4. Go out to Lunch
In relation to the above, we almost never go out to dinner on vacation. We usually rent a condo or house and have a kitchen, so we eat dinners at home. If we want to try out local restaurants, we always go for lunch. This holds two benefits. The first being that the kids are not completely exhausted and behave reasonably well at lunch. The second being that most places have lunch specials and more expensive places have special lunch menus with much lower prices. This is a great way to save your sanity and your pocket book.
5. Car Snacks
My husband swears by this, so I am throwing it in for him. His fondest road trip memories are eating gas station junk food that they got to choose during potty breaks. We let our kids do this and they enjoyed it immensely. Our five year old had a hostess cupcake for the first time and his appreciation for it was worth it.
Have an idea where the local 24 hour urgent care or emergency room is… Trust me. Real life likes to remind you that kids get sick, even on vacation, and driving around an unknown city with a child vomiting into a trash bag repeatedly is actually not nearly as exciting as it sounds.
So, grab those kids and hit the road. With a little planning, it will be an amazing experience that you won’t regret!