SPRING BREAK. Such sweet words after a long Wisconsin winter. I have been spoiled to have the opportunity to go on many spring break trips in my lifetime. I have fond memories of the 20 hour car rides to Florida (seriously, I loved it!) Now, as a teacher, my own family will be going on many spring break trips as well. It’s a wonderful week away from the grind to see each other, explore new places, and relax.
Wait, relax? Oh, that part comes when you actually GET to your destination. When you are traveling with kids, there really is no relaxing during the travel part. Unless your kids are WAY better than mine. And mine travel pretty well! It’s funny because I remember traveling from Florida with my husband before we had kids. While waiting in the security line, which was lined with double strollers and screaming kids, I told him, “That will NEVER be us.” Well, I spoke too soon as we will soon be leaving for Florida, my 5 year old’s third time already.
And let’s be honest, there is no relaxing when you travel during SPRING BREAK. I am jealous of those of you that are able to travel in down times when the prices are cheaper and the sheer volume of people everywhere you go is just less than during any week of March. But once kids hit the older grades of school, it’s harder to pull them out, so sometimes travel during spring break is the only choice (or if you are a teacher like me).
So, here are some tips to make travel easier, ESPECIALLY during the spring break season!
New Toys or Activities
I am not suggesting that you go out and spend a fortune, but having a few new items can really help keep their interest on a long car ride or flight. I purchased some water and wipe-clean books because they can be used over and over again. Things like a new coloring book, activity books, sticker book, etc are inexpensive and can keep their attention.
This one pains me a bit, but it works. You’ll laugh, but even my parents did this in the 90’s. Only they brought along our old black and white TV and we tried to pick up TV stations via its antenna in our van as we went from state to state. And of course, we had my brother’s GameBoy and our Discman to fall back on. I am not a huge fan of plunking kids on devices, but in cases like this, it’s worth it.
Borrow or buy a DVD player for the car and save the special movie they’ve been wanting to see. Use a tablet or other device on the plane to play games (even educational) or watch a movie. If it gets you to your destination with less whining, tantrums or fighting, it’s worth the extra screen time.
Pack With Precision
You never know what you are going to get when you travel with kids. If they are old enough to carry their own bags, make sure to have the items they will want accessible. Changes of clothes, snacks, the new special toys, essentials for when you arrive at your destination all need to be in their carry-on or backpack. They can be in charge of it.
If they aren’t old enough to help, I’ve been there. We used a double stroller, but I wore my one year old daughter through the airport. It made it SO much easier because her spot in the stroller was free to hold the car seat that was going on the plane for my son. It also made going through security that much easier because my hands were free to help with that. And with the crowds of spring break, having my hands available to help was key.
And as terrifying as it was with the lost luggage stories that you hear, we chose to check as many bags as we could. We definitely looked like a three-ring circus getting from our car to the airline check-in, but after that it was much easier to be juggling less. We had enough to get us through in the few carry-ons we tried to handle.
Obviously, this is practical and important no matter where you are going or what you are doing, but travel adds a whole new element to this. I remember stopping at gas stations at 2 in the morning on our trip down to Florida and being just a tad bit nervous to get out to use the bathroom. My brother and I quickly learned to move together and not be alone.
The same is true for helping kids as they go places on vacation. Spring break is especially busy anywhere you go – theme parks, airports, beaches, zoos, so knowing where your parents are at all times is an essential skill to teach them when they are young. Things like “hands on the stroller at all times” or “you need to walk right with me even though you are a teenager” are ok.
Have Patience… and a Sense of Humor
There will be crowds. There will be waits. There will be traffic. There will be lots and lots of people. I expect that and that helps so much. So when something goes quickly during spring break I consider that a special blessing. And you never know what you are going to get. When my son was a year old, we took him to Florida for the first time. Of course I changed his diaper right before we boarded. While we were on the runway to take off, he had a blow-out. I’m talking through his clothes, through the blanket, onto me. And he’s on my lap. And we can’t go change him because it’s that time when everyone has to be sitting on the plane until you reach a certain altitude. And there are at least 12 planes ahead of us to take off because we are at one of the busiest airports in the world. Literally a half hour later, we were in the air high enough that I could get up.
What did we do? We laughed the whole time. What else could you do in that situation? Laughter can help diffuse so much travel stress especially when things happen that are out of your control.
Regardless of how much anxiety the getting to and from can cause, it really is worth every second of travel. It is so nice to enjoy a week with just your loved ones, making memories and recharging! I’d love to know any spring break travel tips you have!