Last Spring my parents generously offered to fly my entire family of two adults and three kids out to visit them in my hometown in Michigan. Wanting desperately to escape the Las Vegas summer heat, my husband and I decided that a six week stay would be perfect. We'd escape the brutal July temperatures and enjoy some fun and sun on the beach. Perfect bliss awaited us. Well, not quite. While I thought the plane rides would be the most problematic, it turns out that several other issues popped up that I hadn't really expected.
Here are some lessons I learned about traveling with kids this summer.
1. Keep the Trip Short: Six weeks is too long to be away from home. This is true for adults and kids. Not sleeping in your own bed for six weeks is brutal on the parents. While change is fun, the kids really had a hard time not being with their own stuff on their normal schedule for such a long time. They missed the cats, their toys, their friends and our car! I think our maximum stay anywhere is probably three weeks, but a few days is preferable.
2. Don't Forget the Lovies: Oh yes, we did! We left our 3 year old son's blanket lovies at home on his bed. He has TWO blankets and I should have packed one the night before we left just to be on the safe side. I did buy him a replacement and it took him five weeks to realize he didn't have his beloved blankets so we did OK, but we were lucky. Pack the lovies the night before and deal with the distress at home, not on the road!
3. Book Accommodations with A Kitchen: For this trip we stayed with my parents so we had a kitchen to do our own cooking, which was absolutely awesome. But this is one trick I use whenever we travel for more than a few nights. I always try to get a hotel room or a condo or something with a kitchen. One of my kids is a super picky eater and it's just easier to bring our own food even if it is peanut butter sandwiches. This also saves us a ton of money as we don't have to eat out as often.
4. Plan on Someone Getting Sick: In a recent study commissioned by Culturelle Probiotic, a leading national probiotic supplement brand, 47% of families on vacation will have a child get sick. We haven't taken the kids to a doctor for anything but well child check ups in over two years. So, of course, Ella contracted pink eye while we were away and on a Sunday no less. And… Ella was already in the hospital's system from the last time we'd traveled there! In the future, I will give my kids immune systems a boost by starting Culturelle Kids Probiotic before we leave. I always thought probiotics were just for tummy issues, but apparently the gastrointestinal tract is also important to the immune system. In addition to digesting food, the GI tract also helps prevent harmful substances from entering the body. In fact, approximately 70% of a child’s immune system resides in the digestive tract. I am definitely trying this the next time we travel so we don't end up visiting another out of town doctor.
5. Set Up Your Home for Return: We returned home to an empty fridge, a hamper full of laundry, and sheets that needed to be changed. Thankfully, the dishwasher was empty and ready for dishes! I wish I would have taken a few more steps when leaving to set us up for success when we returned. I should have done all the laundry and changed the sheets before we left. I also wish I'd done some grocery shopping before we left and froze a day's worth of meals. Milk and creamer, the two things we really needed, are freezable. I could have just pulled everything out of the freezer the night we returned and avoided eating out the entire next day.
Overall, our extended family vacation was a lot of fun and I'm glad we did it. Next time, though, we'll definitely be better prepared.
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