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10 tips for surviving summer travel with kids

Tiffany Smith
June 26, 2018

Any mom will tell you that you can't go into a road trip on impulse. You have to have a plan. Survival is the operative word, as even the best moms can get derailed on a vacation. Blogger Stacey Conner has four kids under six, has driven from the East Coast to Arizona and back with them, and lived to tell the tale — even without a travel nanny!

If you're thinking about attempting a cross-country road trip or a long flight with your little ones, check out Conner's 10 tips and get ready to enjoy the ride. 

1. Always know where the good coffee is

You never know when you are going to need a $5.00 coffee drink to keep from calling the vacation off. And never put down your $5.00 coffee drink to help/herd/deal with your children. It could spill and then you'll have to call the vacation off.

2. Pack light

I know you're laughing, but I mean it. I take four kids under six to Mexico in one suitcase and we DO NOT take more than one carry-on on the plane. Carrying all that junk with you is useless. You know what keeps my kids happy on a four-hour plane ride? Me. The more engaged I am with them, the happier they are. So, I woman up. I don't bring anything for myself to read; I don't expect any time to myself while we are traveling. Matt and I operate so much better when we aren't stressed about getting sixteen bags and four kids on a plane.

3. Keep it simple in the car

A good friend gave me this tip: if you take a lot of long car trips, have a big tub of books that the kids never see except in the car. This kept my kids busy for hours on our drive to Arizona.

4. Keep snacks on hand

As many as you can, as often as they ask.

5. No juice

My God, the peeing.

6. Always carry plastic bags

Lots of them. Because you never know when an entire outfit will be covered in puke or poop and trust me, you're going to want to tie that up and throw it away.

7. Keep expectations low

Hotels in transit are hell. Just accept this now. We spend three nights on the road on the Arizona drive and we've been trapped in Denver twice on the way to Mexico. Low expectations are the way to go. If you get four hours of sleep in a hotel room with four over-tired, excited children, consider it a gift.

8. Divide and conquer, then run them ragged

We insist on two hotel rooms if we're delayed. Matt and I split them up: divide and conquer. Don't worry about a pool if you're delayed -- you'll hate dealing with the soggy clothes. My tactic is to keep them out late. When we have to spend the night in a hotel on the road, we let them jump on the beds and watch TV until 7:00 p.m. and then take them out to dinner. Yes, they are hellishly cranky, but at least they sleep when we get home. And there's really no under-valuing the joy of playing with your smart phone while crouched in the bathroom because all the lights are off in your hotel room.

9. Think big for accommodations

For your destination hotel, rent a house or a condo. I recommend www.vrbo.com. Seriously. You want a kitchen, space and room for time-outs. We find that it's cheaper with a family because you save so much on eating out.

10. Breathe

September isn't far away. And never let your kids drink un-chlorinated Mexican pool water the day before you fly back to the USA. That's not pretty.

Stacey Conner's life with four kids under six is messy, but never boring. She writes about life with a toddler herd, adoption, trans-racial parenting and other issues, big and small. You can also find her on Facebook.

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