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Alexis (@alexismcmullin) is a happily married mother to Penny, who is a frequent star in Alexis' content, and her newborn August. Alexis grew up on both coasts (Boston and California) and has spent time in Utah and Chicago. She is constantly on the move, but her current principal residences include Hawaii and Chicago.
Traveling with kids: it’s a phrase that can bring excitement and terror into any parent's heart. There is so much potential and joy in bringing your kids to new places and seeing a sense of wonder in their eyes. There can also be a lot of uncertainty, since little kids are known for loving their routines and not exactly appreciating long roadtrips!
So how can you maximize the good and minimize the meltdowns or the “are we there yet?” questions on repeat. I’m not perfect by any means, but I have learned a few tricks along the way. Here are a few ideas of what has been successful for our family of four.
Prepare ahead: Wherever you go, make sure to have somewhat of a plan in place, especially compared to traveling with just adults. Kids need snacks, breaks, and backup plans. Try to plan and prepare as much as you can, but be ready to pivot if needed! It’s important to have those snacks and toys packed ahead of time, along with an extra change of clothes since diaper blowouts seem to come when they are least appreciated.
Remember your audience: Kids and adults don’t always like the same things. You shouldn’t plan everything around your kids, but it is important to keep everyone in mind as much as you can. If you’re in Paris, for example, you might want to visit The Louvre. Your toddler, on the other hand, is probably more likely to remember eating a popsicle in the park next to the Eiffel Tower. It’s important to sprinkle things in for everyone, while also remembering this will be a different trip than your honeymoon in a lot of ways–and that’s okay.
Accept that it may not be perfect: Just like anything in life with kids, there are going to be some twists and turns. That’s OK! It is often the little things that families enjoy the most. We met a dog at our Airbnb in Italy that my 3-year old daughter loved. She named him “Inka” (and no, I have no clue how she came up with that name haha). We did not go see the Colosseum. We still ate pizza and gelato and had a great time.
The plane is a free for all (embrace it): No matter how good your baby is, flights are tricky! Young kids are not designed to sit still for hours on end in a seat or sitting on their parent’s lap. Even if you’re normally limiting screen time or certain snacks, this might be the time to loosen those rules. Don’t be afraid to walk up and down the aisle and do whatever you need. And you know what? You’ll get there, and it won't be that bad. We once had a red-eye flight from Hawaii to Utah and my daughter did not sleep the entire time. It was rough–brutal even. But you know what? We got there and we slept really well when we got to my mom’s house!
The short answer is anywhere! The long answer is there are probably some places and circumstances that are better or worse, and it is all dependent on your family. For example, one of our two children is much more patient in the car than the other, so depending on age, there are different trips that might be perfectly good or perfectly bad. Children can be much more resilient than you think though–we’ve been impressed!
Age of children: Newborns sleep a lot, older children can entertain themselves for quite some time, and toddlers can have very little patience.
Temperament of children: Are they patient or not at all?
Temperament of parents: Are you patient or does the thought of traveling really far with kids make you nervous?
What your goals are: Do you want to just spend time together or do you want to visit somewhere new or foreign?
Picnic in the woods: Taking a day trip to explore the woods, go on a hike, climb a mountain, or throw rocks in a pond are all really exciting for kids and a ton of fun! Extra points for s’mores!
Local theme park: We visited a theme park in Utah called Lagoon. It was amazing and more fun than the kids could handle. Plus, it really wasn’t that far from us! Disneyland or Disney World are amazing too, but if your kids are young, they might not know the difference.
Go to the beach: Beach days are amazing for kids of any age. It’s hard to beat the beach and you don’t need to go to Hawaii or Thailand to have a blast. The California Coast, Florida, the Carolinas, or any other beach or lake near you are great options!
Really anywhere: When we’ve gone on trips, it seems like our kids’ favorite things have been to just explore wherever we’re staying. I feel like we could go to the most “boring” place in the world, and as long as we’re having fun together, they are happy!
Italy: Italy is an amazing place with friendly people, beautiful scenery, and the best food. It’s so fun for kids too. I’d recommend avoiding packed touristy areas or historical sights like Rome, and instead focus on the countryside or coast. Places like Umbria, Tuscany, or Puglia are great to visit with kids.
Caribbean: The beaches in the Caribbean are hard to beat! The water is warm, the sand is soft, and it’s fairly easy to get to from most places in the United States. I’m a big fan!
Switzerland: I’ve been here in the summer and winter and both are amazing! There are parks and playgrounds all around and lots of fun things for kids to do. In addition to the obvious things about Switzerland (like mountains and lakes), they’ll also love the little things like the cows!
I hope you have some amazing trips in your future, whether they are close or far from home!