Preparing For Vacations With Children

It is that time of year again. It’s time to begin to prepare and pack for our annual beach vacation. Every year we gather with Jason’s parents and siblings and their families for a vacation at North Myrtle Beach. A friend of the family graciously provides the house. And we provide all the people. And all the stuff. And more people. And more stuff. Did I mention the stuff?

Seriously, traveling with children takes some preparation. And having a good time on vacation doesn’t just happen. It requires thought and planning. So here a few of my tips for vacationing with kids.

tips for traveling with kids

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Plan. Plan. Plan

I have a list saved in my Google Docs for things we need to take to the beach. Some say I’m crazy. I say I’m prepared. Now, actually getting everything from my list to the suitcases is the real task. Speaking of suitcases…

Do NOT allow young children to pack their own suitcases with their own belongings. 

Trust me on this. If you break this cardinal rule, you may end up with 20 bags for 4 children. None of the bags will actually contain anything like underwear or clothing or a bathing suit. Instead you will have every stuffed animal from your home. Please make it easy and pack their bags. Use large suitcases, and pack multiple kids clothing in each.

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Take at least the basic pharmacy items- tylenol, advil, benydryl, first aid materials. 

We’ve had jellyfish stings, ear infections, severe asthma/allergy reactions, food poisoning all during some of our vacations. Nothing ruins a trip like having to stay on the phone all day trying to find out what to do for your asthmatic child when you didn’t bring an inhaler. ( I promise he had almost NEVER used the inhaler, so it’s not like I forgot the thing when he needed it all the time!)  Be prepared by having any prescription medicines and at least the basics of over the counter meds you may use. Yes, every town has a Walmart with a pharmacy, but you don’t want to have to find it in the middle of the night in a strange place, now do you?

Be aware of where all your pharmacy items are. This is the voice of experience- again. We keep multiple first aid kits like this one in our car also because it’s no fun to have to dig through all of the luggage to find that box of bandaids you know you packed.

Have at least a rough schedule of how you are going to use your time. 

Again, don’t laugh at me. I have a very flexible (ahem) plan of what we are going to do each day- including what we are going to spend money on and when we are going out to eat. If you don’t plan something, here is what your vacation looks like-

   9am- “Ah, so nice to sleep late. What are going to do today?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” ” I’m not sure.”
   10am – “Well, if we go out now, we might have to eat lunch out. Do we want to spend that money or pack a lunch? “I’m not sure what do you think?”
   11am- “It’s almost lunch time now. Why don’t we just eat lunch first?”
   12:30pm- “Wow! It’s hot outside! Let’s wait until it cools off a little bit.”
   1p- “Still hot. I think I’ll go lay down a little while.”
   4p- “So, what are we going to do for supper?” “I don’t know. Do you want to go out to eat?”
   5p- “Oh look what I found on t.v.”
   6p- “I’m hungry. I think I’ll make a sandwich.”
   7p- ” Oh dear. It’s raining. Let’s see if it lets up.”
   8p- “I think it’s too late to go out anywhere. We’ll think about it tomorrow.”

This kind of conversation makes me want to pull out all of my hair and beat my head against the wall. Yes, you can relax. Just plan it! (Okay maybe that sounds a little foolish.) I usually have a loose idea of what we’ll do each day

     Monday- Hang out on the ocean; rest; early supper; walk at Barefoot Landing
     Tuesday- Hang out on the ocean; rest; out to supper; get ice cream and walk on the beach
     Wednesday- Go to Ripley’s museum; pack a lunch to eat in the car coming home; rest; walk on the ocean in the evening.
     Thursday- Hang out at the ocean; rest; go to the mall; pack a supper; second round of ice cream and walking on the beach
     Friday- Hang out at the ocean; pack; head home.

See how easy that is. You’ve got a plan, but you have some flexibility. And, very important, you know when you are going to spend money. Which leads me to…

Have a budget. 

I am constantly amazed at how much money can be blown on vacation. We are blessed to stay in a house of a friend for our big summer beach trip. So we don’t pay for our lodging. But we buy food. And we use gas. And we go out to eat. And the kids see fliers and advertisements for all kinds of good things. They have no comprehension of what these things cost. “Hey, Mom, can we go to the cool upside down house?” “No, dear. That cool house is a museum that would force us to sell our firstborn child for admittance.” So, we plan ahead how many times we’ll eat out. And we pick one big thing to spend money on. We usually let the kids take some of their own money so that they can shop when we are walking around the outlet shops or downtown on the ocean front.

And my last tip for vacationing with your kids: Have fun! 

You’ll never forget the 50 times you played the alphabet game in one four hour drive. You’re making family memories as you frantically search the sides of the road for somewhere, anywhere that might have a bathroom. One day you’ll laugh about the fact that Daddy had to lift a child over a hole in the floor to get to said bathroom and then hold the child suspended in mid air while using the disgusting toilet. One day it will be funny. Just not yet.

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