Traveling Together: Tips for Families and Friends with Kids

Scrabble tiles spell TOGETHER

Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of so many and the wonders of modern science, we are finally starting to emerge from the pandemic and I, for one, am ready to spend real together time with close friends and family.

However, there is a lot to think about logistically, socially, emotionally, financially, etc. as we come out of quarantine life.

Here are a few tips for friends or family staycationing or traveling together to ensure things go a little more smoothly: 

Before gathering:

Weigh the risks.

Remember, the pandemic isn’t over, especially if you have kids under 12. Click here for a helpful guide for families considering their travel options, and here is a graphic from the CDC about activities and their risk factors

Plan the logistics.

Include everyone who’s going in planning, even (or especially) your kids. Are we renting a cabin or is grandma hosting? Where are people going to sleep? What is there to do in this area for littles? Would we rather go to a baseball game or the aquarium? 

Meal plan.

Take into account picky eaters and food sensitivities. Put in a grocery order ASAP for the day you arrive and include lots of favorite snacks.

Discuss budget.

Will you be doing a lot of takeout? Attending attractions? How pricey is the place you’re staying? With the toll this year has taken, be aware of everyone’s financial comfort level and respect it.

Prep your kids (and the adults they will be around).

Acknowledge that it’s been a minute since we’ve interacted socially and it might be overwhelming. Here is a great article from the Child Mind Institute with tips on helping your kids navigate

Know your non-negotiables.

Maybe your kids absolutely have to keep their nap schedules or everyone will be suffering from the grumpy gremlin. Maybe you’re uncomfortable with anyone day-drinking around your kids because of past experiences. It may be a little awkward, but it’s important to voice your expectations upfront about what’s crucial for your family’s comfort and also to respect that other families may have some ground rules that you will need to work around.

When you’re together:

Divide and conquer necessary tasks.

Assign responsibility for cooking on a rotation. Also, make sure you designate a clean-up crew. Distribute the schedule beforehand or on the first day so people can plan accordingly. Set the general expectation that each person cleans up after themselves for simple things like putting dishes in the dishwasher or throwing their towels in the laundry. No one wants to be a maid on vacation. (Shoutout to my mother-in-law for this gem of a tip!)

photo of a list of rules to follow

Create a Command Center.

Have one area to gather communal sunscreen, first aid, snacks, clean towels, and a whiteboard or notepad with Today’s Plan (whose turn for cleanup and meals, any outings or activities, menu options) and leave a space to write supplies needed for whoever is making a run to the store.

Plan some surprises to keep the kids engaged.

You’ll want to find some activities out and about, but also throw in a few new-to-them books, board games, a few fresh toys, a simple scavenger hunt, a bucket of water balloons, etc. 

Prioritize sleep and downtime.

Of course, you want to plan activities and kids need some structure to keep them from climbing the walls, but make sure the kids and the adults have recharge time as well.

You don’t have to be together all the time.

It’s okay for just your immediate family to go on an outing to get a breather from all the extra togetherness. Also, try to take a night off and give your friends and family nights off by watching each other’s kids so parents can go on a date, or maybe the usual primary caregivers all get an afternoon away while the rest of the adults hold down the fort. It probably has been a long time since you’ve had the option, so take advantage of being around the people you trust! 

Photoshare!

Create a family hashtag or shared google photo album so that all the sweet moments captured are available to the whole crew. Get the kids involved by giving them a camera too!

Say yes more than no.

Since you’ve established your non-negotiables and budget, be flexible on everything else. Have realistic expectations. Yes, your kids will probably eat more sweets than usual, bedtimes may be messed up, an activity will be disappointing. Take a deep breath and keep a sense of humor, because you’re still making memories and getting precious together time with important people in your life even if it’s a little messy.

Your turn!
What does your family do to keep everyone happy when you’re all traveling together? Please share your favorite tips!

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Olivia grew up just outside of Cedar Rapids in Mount Vernon, IA. She moved to Pella, IA for undergrad and loved working in the library, so she continued her education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned her Masters of Library and Information Science. She originally intended to be a higher ed librarian, but an internship at a public library working with kids convinced her to change her plans. After 9 years working as a full time children’s librarian, Olivia is now embarking on an exciting new chapter as a full time mama.

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