But after number three came around, we realized that we loved travel too much just to wait until the kids got older!
That meant that I had to either get really smart about travel with kids or when we got home from vacation, I would NEED a vacation. Time to get really smart!
2 IMPORTANT THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN PLANNING A VACATION WITH KIDS
There are two important elements of a vacation with kids that can make or break the fun:
Good Transportation – Renting a car, minivan or SUV that easily fits your family makes a vacation run so much smoother. I recommend choosing a model similar to what you have at home so it is easy to negotiate car seats, luggage and snacks without playing packing tetris.
When the kids were smaller and all in car seats, we would rent a minivan and situate the kids in their regular seats. The familiarity helped ease being in a new environment.
Accommodations with a Kitchen – I would rather stay home than eat out in a restaurant with three kids three meals a day! I found this to be one of the most difficult situations – trying to get three young boys to behave at EVERY SINGLE MEAL. An easy (and cheaper) solution to dragging them out to eat was to find a hotel or rent a house/condo that had a kitchen with a table or area to eat.
We would eat most breakfast and dinners “in” and save our going out to eat for lunch. This is also a great solution for families with picky eaters. Stopping by the grocery store to pick up some favorite foods can also keep the entire family happier.
OUR FAVORITE PLACES TO VISIT WITH KIDS UNDER THE AGE OF 12
The Mountains – I found mountain vacations to be the absolute easiest with small kids – especially in the summer. There were endless things to do: trail walks, parks, pools, “mountain climbing”(walking up the mountain with the kids with no expectations of reaching the top...or even middle), resort games like soccer, horseshoes, giant Jenga, etc. and it was all available on our own schedule and pace.
One vacation in the Vail valley, we visited a different playground each morning, ate lunch out and went back to our condo for naps. In the afternoon/evening we would stay at the resort pool and lawn games interacting with other families/kids. On the last day of our visit we found out that the boy that my kids had played with all week actually lived 20 minutes from our house in Texas!
Renting an SUV worked great for us to have the space we needed for a family of 5 plus luggage along with the ability to handle mountain roads.
Print onto two pages (2-sided) and fold for travel fun:
- All About My Trip
- Dot Game
- Word Search
- License Plate Game
- Coloring Fun
- Favorite Memories
The Beach – We loved visiting the beach with the boys, but found that it was easier when they were smaller to have an extra set of hands. On some vacations, we enlisted the help of grandparents and on others, we “hired” a college student to join us for the trip. A 1-to-1 kid to adult ratio worked best for us when they were little and quick!
Our schedule was similar to the mountain routine. We would head to the beach in the morning and play in the ocean and sand until lunch. Eat out and then head back for naps. Afternoon/evening would be at the pool or resort kid space. Taking along life jackets or any favorite floaties can help make sure safety and fun are combined.
I loved renting a minivan for beach vacations. It was easy to load/unload at the beach even when the floats were fully inflated. This worked especially well on trips to Destin or Jupiter when we stayed a few miles from the beach.
The Amusement Park – If you are headed to Disney World, Universal Studios, Legoland or another amusement park, then learn from my mistakes! The natural tendency is to try and SEE ALL THE THINGS.
Don’t do it.
Prioritize what you and your kids really want to see and do those things in the morning. Take a break for naps and decompression in the afternoon and if there is energy to return to the park, do that in the late afternoon.
Our favorite trip to Legoland’s schedule was to spend the morning at the park until about 1:30 including eating lunch there. We would go back to our condo and take a break for an hour or so and then head to the pool at the resort which included some waterslides and a lazy river. We would spend the afternoon there and then eat back at the condo and explore the resort playgrounds in the evening.
Also, keep a consistent bedtime on MOST nights. I know there will be a night or two that you want to see fireworks or something special, but make that the exception to bedtime.
Overtired kids at an amusement park will make you swear off vacations forever…they get whiney, angry, and ungrateful!
So do I.
Figure out a good routine and then enjoy the time!
When choosing a rental car from Alamo for your amusement park vacation, realize that it might be your “home base” if you are not staying on the resort. Having space to store extra clothing, food, etc. in the parking lot can save you at trip back to your hotel/condo.
Traveling with kids can make amazing family memories! You don’t want to miss out on those because you are too busy sight-seeing. And I can say from experience that as the kids get older, the speed of your vacation can get back to normal. My youngest is now 12 and I am the one running to keep up!