Not only did I travel with kids, but I traveled with kids on my own. No husband to help entertain them or keep them safe. It was all up to me. Looking back, it was empowering, though, to travel that far with the kids all by myself. And I created so many wonderful memories with them that I’ll treasure in my heart forever. So, it was all worth it.
Don’t Forget to Plan Your Restaurants
I won’t go into much detail about the car ride. You can see my blog on Road Tripping Successfully for more details on that. Being prepared helped my boys know they would be safe. So, traveling with snacks and drinks easily accessible to them helped. Planning how we’d eat our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners helped. The first night I arrived in Charleston, we tried to find a seafood place to eat and everything was booked. We drove around for an hour looking for a place to eat. I tried using Yelp for the first time, but nothing was open. It really irritated the boys. We ended up eating at a local bar and the food wasn’t great. So, planning ahead the next three nights was a better idea. I learned how to use Yelp a little better. I called days in advance for reservations. I asked the locals. And I found the grocery store so I could stock breakfast and lunch food at our vacation rental.
Screen time is a debated issue among parents in the US these days. It’s something we all struggle with because our kids could literally be on the screen all day. But when it comes to car rides, I don’t have many rules. We load up their iPads with movies and TV shows from Netflix. We download games they can use. This keeps them pretty occupied. However, I did also download a couple audiobooks from audible. We also played an alphabet game in the car. (You have to find an object or words that starts with every letter in the alphabet outside the car and in order.) Breaking up the trip is also helpful so the kids don’t have too many long days in the car. We also picked up an object like a rock or stick in every state we crossed, which was fun for the kids. You also might want to check your local library. If you call a week in advance, my library will put together a fun activity bag for the kids to use in the car. I put together my own with coloring books and markers, paper airplane making kits, and sketchbooks.
Pick a Comfortable Vacation Rental
Finding the right vacation rental is important. I usually try www.vrbo.com or www.airbnb.com first. We picked one that could sleep three, but one person had to be on the uncomfortable futon. I’d try to find something where everyone sleeps in a bed. If you’re headed south, make sure it has air conditioning. Find something with a bathtub if you have younger kids. Make sure there is a TV with cable so the kids can be occupied while you take a shower. Mine needed to have a kitchenette so that I could fix breakfast and lunch at the rental. It was also nice to pop popcorn for movies at night. Find a way to rent movies…the owners of mine had a DVR I could borrow for the evenings. And consider the location. You don’t want to be spending too much time in the car driving places, so centrally located is nice too. Furthermore, on the way down and back we stayed in a hotel. I picked one that I thought would be nice…but it ended up being a bit sketchy. I would spend a little more on hotels next time for safety reasons. Maybe research the location a little better as well.
Planning activities while we were in Charleston is fun, but will be more fun if you keep some things in mind regarding the kids. They don’t like to walk for hours on end or stand in the sun or do structured activities all day. So, I planned one thing to do each day that took about 3 hours. We visited a plantation one day, had a carriage ride downtown the next day, and took a boat to Fort Sumter the third day. It was just enough fun for them to tolerate. I’ve vacationed in the mountains before as well. If you go hiking, bring one of those giant lollypops for the kids to suck on when the hike. Trust me, there will be few complaints! After each activity we’d head to the vacation rental for a little downtime in the air conditioning, and fuel up with a nice lunch. Then we’d spend some unstructured time at the beach, allowing the kids to do whatever they wanted for a few hours too. We took lots of breaks for lemonade, ice cream, or just sitting on a bench with some waters. That helped the kids tolerate the activities as well.
With a little planning, your kids will enjoy the vacation as much as you will. You’ll actually enjoy it more because there will be less complaining! I wanted to have fun in Charleston, but I also wanted it to be something my boys would remember all their lives too. So, I needed to constantly keep them in mind throughout the trip. This vacation ended up being the highlight of my summer. And I’m hoping to go back in a year or two!