Vacationing With Kids: 5 Real Tricks From a Mom Who Should Know Better

How to survive your next "vacation" with the family

5 min read

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I was ready for a vacation this summer… like a few vacations.

I was so ready, that I actually asked for the time off work and scheduled those family vacations.

My husband and I finally made good on the Vegas trip we agreed to for my son’s 10th birthday the year before when the pandemic again took a turn for the worst and we had to postpone.

We even took the trip to Hawaii from our home in California, yet another vacation salvaged after we had to postpone during the summer of 2020.

My son and I were even able to leave my husband and my younger daughter at home to visit a friend’s lake house in Washington for a few days.

Oh, and there was a trip to Disneyland in there too for my 40th birthday, with a camping trip thrown in here and there.

We are far from world-traveling bloggers with cute, filtered Instagram posts. We are not the ones to rough it on rustic hiking trips. We are a regular family who likes to hit the road and the skies from time to time and in doing so, I’ve picked up a few keeping-it-real travel tips along the way…Like very real.

Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned. Wrong answers only, of course.

  1. Now this one doesn’t even involve the kids. But as parents, we are most likely the ones paying for the trip, and we deserve some adult fun. Now, we can’t be sneaking out to night spots, because hello. Kids. But what’s to stop us from shoving some soda, juice cans, paper cups, and a container of tropical vodka in a beach bag and mixing ourselves up a little something down by the seashore? Ah, that’s the spot. Almost like the Dollar Spot to be more precise at a store with a certain red swirly logo, because what a deal! I might have hidden myself inside my baby nephew’s little beach tent to make said drinks because I’m THAT mom, but not like THAT, THAT mom, you feel me?
  2. The kids need to eat too. But we all know they aren’t going to appreciate delightful restaurant fare, even from the kids’ menu. They are 100 percent going to sniff their macaroni and cheese, spill their milk all over the table, and fight with their siblings over who gets to watch YouTube on your cell phone. So, stock your little hotel fridge with yogurts, peanut butter, and jelly fixings, and then breakfast and lunch are DONE my friends. I might have set a world record during our Hawaii vacation for the number of PB&J sandwiches made in a hotel room when I slapped together sandwiches for my husband, kids, and my sister’s entire family. Probably not at all a world record. But still. Sandwiches were made. Money was saved. And BTW, you can totes make instant oatmeal in a hotel Keurig. You’re welcome.
  3. There’s really no escaping laundry as parents, even on vacation. If we somehow miraculously manage to pack enough clothes for everyone in the group so that we don’t have to do any laundry, we’re still going to be slammed with the heaping laundry piles upon our return home. Maybe, you’ll be like me and need to wash all the cloth masks as I did during a road trip at the height of the pandemic. Or, maybe you’ll run out of underwear for your kids when you didn’t realize your kids were throwing their chonies in the dirty clothes pile every time they changed into their swimsuits. Oh, if you need to wash masks, underwear, or anything else on the go, the task can be accomplished with a little shampoo and a sink filled with water. A deck or other outdoor area works great to hang those clothes out like little parenting pride flags. Don’t have an outdoor area? Grab a blow dryer and get to blowing. Who knows? You might even drown out the sound of those kids scream-fighting yet again.
  4. Put down your phone, and hand it to your kid. That’s right. We know there’s only one way to enjoy a relaxing meal in peace as a parent: letting your kids watch YouTube. Sick of your kids; squabbling in the back seat of the Uber? Hand them your phone. Have a work phone and a personal phone? Even better. One for each kid. I warned you this list was not P.C. Screens are a dirty little secret in parenthood that really work. Most of us are guilty of it. But maybe we should be guilty of this bad habit a little more often while traveling. Let’s look out at the world more. And down at our kids less, because they’re occupied with our phones and not causing a scene.
  5. Do less. We’re always trying to do more, more, more, amirite? School activities, dance class, sports, and play dates and on vacation, our instinct can be to pack in all the things. Museums. Tours. The popular road stops. Amusement parks. But do you know what some of our family’s best moments on trips have been this past year? When we slowed down and did less. One day at a children’s museum in Las Vegas, my kids spent a good hour just running around with other kids in costumes on a play pirate ship. My daughter made friends while we waited in a lobby at Disneyland. And the pools. Always the pools. When camping, is there anything better for kids than rocks, sticks, bugs, and straight-up dirt? Less really can be more while traveling with kids. Sometimes the packing-in activities is much more for us and our Instagram stories TBH than for our kids.

Happy (unfiltered, true life with kids) travels!