Traveling with two (or more) kids is challenging in and of itself. Which means traveling with two (or more) kids as a single parent can feel overwhelming and maybe slightly daunting enough to make you reconsider traveling at all!
This post is brought to you by my toddler (who had a nightmare and woke our household up) and my Insta-friend Denise, who posted this while I was scrolling through the internets:
Long before marrying a man with two kids and having my beautiful oops princess (bringing my kiddo total to 4 and travel total to 7), I was a single mom jetting around twice a month for work. After serious consideration, I decided to homeschool and take CJ with me instead of leaving my handsome little guy behind for a couple of weeks at a time.
While it didn’t alleviate all of my mom-guilt (it’s hard to balance life sometimes!), it did give me the pleasure of having a little travel buddy. A small human whom I loved dearly but couldn’t plan for himself or carry a lot of stuff. He couldn’t even handle his own baggage.
It wasn’t long before I decided I couldn’t handle all the travel stress and needed to figure out a better way. A better way to pack. A better way to get through airport security. A better way to juggle all that stuff we took and brought back with us.
Here’s what I came up with:
- Color Code Everything
This saves some serious time, effort, and frustration. Assign each kiddo a color, get the essentials in that color, and then tape or affix stickers to color code off-color items. Then you simply print and laminate a Master Packing Checklist to check items off to know what each child has or needs before and after the trip. This will make it so much easier to know what broken/torn thing needs to be replaced for the next adventure.
Remember, as tired as you may be when you get back, you are your child’s hero. There’s only a small window of opportunity to recover that forgotten DVD player, phone, or cuddle buddy. Even though I was lucky to have an amazing relationship with our frequent stay hotel, they would have probably discarded or given away CJ’s stuff if I hadn’t called to ask for them in time. Besides not knowing if I really meant to leave those items behind, they also don’t have the budget to simply mail or FedEx something to every customer, every time.
- Plan Your Wardrobe
If you know you have to go through security, dress and pack accordingly. I opted for no socks and slip on or Velcro shoes for both of us. If your feet get cold, you can always stuff a pair of socks in your carry-on.
Eliminate baggy, floofy and poofy! Flat front pants are great for eliminating suspicious bulges but elastic waists are better. This means leggings, jeggings, sweatpants or easy-on slacks. A comfortable t-shirt and a zippered hoodie add comfort and help keep you looking somewhat put together. They also make for a small load of clothes when it comes time to wash. Something really important when you are doing laundry on the go.
Learning how to pack like the you are in the Navy can seriously save space and reduce the time it takes to pick out an outfit every day.
- Carry-ons or Carry-withs
These should be car/plane activity kits like backpacks, plastic toolboxes, activity kits, or buckets. Plan on one carry-on/carry-with per person (two for the parent) with small, lightweight travel pillows and blankies for each so they can settle in and get comfy. Stuffed animals if applicable. You know what each of your children is interested in and what you need to have handy in order to navigate properly.
When traveling alone with my kids, I have to cram 3 carry-ons worth of items into 1 bag: my personal stuff, gadgets, and emergency stuff. Gadgets are distributed when in flight or just before driving off and repacked before landing or before getting out of your vehicle. Meanwhile, things like emergency diapers, pull ups, spare clothing, medicine, wipes, and a small first aid kit are easily accessible and provide a small but powerful measure of security.
- Rest and Recharge
Plan rest stops for potty breaks and stretching legs. When you fly, this may be a few minutes after the seatbelt light goes off, a few minutes before it comes back on, and every 30 minutes to an hour during the flight.
If you are driving, you can use apps like iExit or even Google Maps to pre-plan timely pit stops. Bladders don’t have an infinite capacity and even if you are traveling with your own potty in an RV, you most likely will be pulling over to help your littles get the job done.
- Get The Kids Involved
In general, I like to plan at least one special activity for each kiddo. A stop at a science museum for one, farm tour for another, etc. When they start to grumble and groan about one particular choice, a quick reminder that they know they will get a chance to do something they like too usually snaps everyone back into a perkier mood. Sometimes they even start to * gasp * enjoy something because they are now keeping their minds open and actively seeking little things they can appreciate.
Trip journals (written or drawn) go a long way toward helping kids connect with their experiences. You can give them all disposable cameras if they are old enough or simply have them use some of the items in their activity kits/backpacks [their carry-ons/carry-withs]. We3Travel has a really nice, free journal printable and links to some great posts about traveling with kids.
- Identify Yourselves
Make it easy to access things like tickets and ID’s by investing in a hanging ID carrier for each person in your travel party. I’ve been printing homeschool ID cards like these for my kids for years but you can print travel ID’s for your children with their picture, your contact info, and destination information. (You might also consider getting an official government I.D. card from your state of residence.)
Granted, younger children may need help hanging on to their tickets but the older ones may enjoy the feeling of independence that comes with being a little more self-sufficient.
- Just Breathe
Even after all of this careful planning, things can and will go awry. Enjoy it. Laugh at it. Cry with it if you need to but always, always, always remember who you are modeling for and why you are on the trip to begin with.
Monkey see, monkey do. How do your kids see you handling adversity and what was the point of all this anyway? Most likely, it is to bond with your babies, make some memories, and to give them a different experience. Focus on that no matter what happens.
Let’s Keep The Conversation Going!
Do you have any favorite camping tips and hacks? Don’t be shy! Share them in the comments below.
Don’t forget to check back regularly for more tips and tricks on how to create the life of your dreams before, during, and after the awakening!