Tips for Surviving (and Enjoying) Family Vacations

Family vacations: sometimes the very thought brings chills to my bones. Over the years, I’ve had my share of family vacations. Since Jason and I married, we’ve gone to the beach every summer with his family. And the kids were slowly added as they came along. We’ve also traveled to the mountains. We’ve gone to Virginia several times. We’ve gone on various day trips. And we’ve also traveled to Disney.

I’ll admit that I’m not a big fan of traveling. Adding kids to the mix hasn’t made it better. But over the years I’ve learned a few tricks and tips to make things go more smoothly.

Traveling with kids
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Everything is better with food.

Pack plenty of it. Fill the car with healthy munchies- granola bars, fruit strips, crackers, nuts, pretzels.
Be sure to secure the food well. True story: On one trip to the beach, Kathryne was 2 and Charles was a baby. We still had a car, not a van yet. Both kids were stowed safely in their car seats. And a bag of munchies was positioned on the seat between them. Periodically we would hear the bag rustle but didn’t think much about it. When we were close to our destination, we were going to stop for lunch. We took the kids out and went in to eat. When we got our food, Kathryne was ridiculously thirsty and drank and drank. But, surprisingly, she wasn’t very hungry. Returning to the car, we checked the bag stowed between the kids. A whole bag of pretzels was almost gone. Apparently Kathryne had been helping herself. No wonder she was so thirsty!

Be prepared to stop and stop frequently.


No matter how hard we try, we can’t manage to have everyone use the bathroom at the same time. It’s gotten a little easier as they’ve gotten older. But we still can’t make it with less than several stops. We’re all happier if we can just accept the fact and move on.
We try to have some planned stops. There is a Visitor’s Center on the way to the beach that has become a regular stop. It offers “free popcorn and cokes” in the smallest little cups you’ve ever seen. But it’s fun for the kids and is clean. Sometimes I look ahead and pick stops that might be fun stops- little shops, once a small farm museum, a playground. It doesn’t guarantee you won’t have to stop at other times, but it does help.

Sometimes it’s good to travel at night.

If we can travel at a time when the kids are normally sleeping, we can occasionally get lucky and have them sleep all the way through it.
I say normally because there was one particular time when our plan failed miserably. We were headed home from the beach and decided to leave after supper. We had all four kids by then, but they were still pretty young, probably 2 to 8. We ate supper with Jason’s family and then we stopped at a clean rest area and had a “bedtime.” We washed off with baby wipes. We brushed teeth. We put on pjs. We had a bathroom trip. I even read a story. But the kids didn’t seem to get the message. Some of them got silly and giddy. Some cried and wailed. But nobody really slept. Until we were about 30 minutes from home. Then they were all asleep.

Working for little periodic rewards can help the kids pass the time.

My mother actually came up with this idea on a very long car trip we took when I was small. She bought a box full of small, dollar store type goodies. She had a timer set, and at the end of each block of time, if I had done well, I got one. I’ve tried variations of this on many trips, and it does help to break up the time.

Bring good listening material.

We’ve used a variety of Audio books and music CDs. Some of our favorites have been
If you have an Audible membership, you can easily get tons of audio books on your device. This post has lots more about audio books.
Traveling with kids

With some planning and patience, vacationing with the kids can actually be fun. One day you’ll laugh over that trip that should have taken five hours but took twelve because you stopped so many times. I promise. And I should know.

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