5 Tips for Traveling with Kids & Teens
Traveling with a gaggle of kids and teens can be exciting but only if you’re emotionally prepared and well equipped with a few tips and tricks. Together, my boyfriend and I have five kids ranging in ages from 9 to 17. We’re an active and adventurous brood. When we united tribes, we never planned to sit still, but we knew traveling would look different than ever before. Below are some suggestions to help you plan your vacay, especially if you have a group of children and adolescents in tow.
1). Create an agenda:Months before any big trip, we sit down and create a loose agenda. COVID taught us how important this step is in planning any vacation. During the pandemic, we had to reserve time slots and tickets; otherwise, we may miss out on integral attractions. For instance, when visiting Chattanooga, we waited too long to reserve an entry time to the Tennessee Aquarium, but luckily we got passes to Ruby Falls, Rock City and the Incline Railway. We also rode bikes around the city. We ultimately had plenty to do but still, we missed out on an activity because we didn’t plan far enough in advance. Similarly, we’re going on an RV road trip in late July to visit three different amusement parks. Had we not started planning early, we could have missed out on park tickets as well as campsites.
2). Plan out meals: This one is huge for us. Our kids eat a ton of food. Dining out for every meal would cost a small fortune so that’s not an option. Along with the big meals, we also need a plethora of snacks and drinks. Similar to the agenda, we plan out our meals ahead of time. We try and secure lodging with a kitchen so we can prepare our own meals. This has worked for almost every trip except when we went to New York City. We stayed in a hotel for that trip and budgeted in a large expense line for food. Even still, I packed individually wrapped goldfish, granola bars, Pop Tarts, nuts and other snacks in a suitcase so we wouldn’t have to spend money on nonsensical snack items. Other than that trip, we’ve been lucky to find an Airbnb, cabin, cottage or some other type of place with a kitchen.
3). Be aware of personal space: With five kids and two adults, space can get tight. For this age group, it’s important to ensure everyone has some space to decompress. To make this happen for us, we’ve rented larger vehicles and on multiple occasions, rented U-Haul trailers where we packed luggage and food. That way, the kids aren’t crammed in the car with suitcases and coolers stacked all around them. Additionally, when reserving lodging, we try to make sure everyone feels they have enough space. It’s easy for tension to rise when a bunch of people are on top of each other so even a little room for each individual goes a long way. Outdoor space plays a large part in this as well. For example, we’re all going to be pretty tight in the RV this summer but once we park at the campsite, we plan to set up an outdoor space so kids have the option to relax inside and out.
4). Give everyone a voice: It’s not easy to make five kids happy at the same time. Before traveling, we have a lot of conversations about the plan and which attractions are a must for the agenda. We adults make a few of the major decisions and then we open up options for the kids. One example was when we went to New York City. We adults considered going to the top of the Empire State Building but after talking to the kids, none of them wanted to do that. They preferred the One World Observatory instead. During the Disney Cruise, some of the kids wanted to watch multiple shows while others wanted to watch only one. We compromised in a way that made everyone happy. There are other examples from beach trips, Chattanooga and DC, but I think you get my point. The last thing we want is for our kids to feel like their voice wasn’t heard or that we were constantly on the go but didn’t do the one thing they were anticipating. Thus far things have worked out, but I fully believe that’s because we held a lot of group discussions and informed the kids of the agenda ahead of time so they could mentally prepare and get excited for the trip.
5). Be gentle with yourself: This one is a great rule for life, not simply when you’re planning a big family trip. Parents can be hard on themselves and when it comes to co-parenting two different sets of kids, things get even trickier. Patience, understanding, planning and communication are all extremely important in this type of situation. Even still, errors will be made and feelings may be hurt, so it’s important for parents to not let guilt sink in if they things don’t go exactly as planned. If there’s a snag, throw up your hands, smile at each other, and say, “Oh, well! We tried our best.” Instead of focusing on mistakes, focus on the good and all the memories being made.