Travel Tips – Part 1

By: Stephanie Reynolds

“Can’t you just come now, and your wife can follow when she has the baby?”

“You’re not married, are you?”

“No, sir.”

“No, I can’t. We’ll be there in July”

And so it went. A couple of months later, Ashton, me, our 3-year-old daughter, our 6-week-old son, a dog, and two cats made the long drive from Florida, up the ALCAN, to North Pole, Alaska, to begin our new adventure.

Traveling with a 3-year-old and a newborn was actually incredibly easy. It was also easy when we traveled when they were school age and teens. It’s all about planning and a few tricks. With spring break coming up, I thought I would share some:

1. Plan your trip – Young kids and older people might not be able to handle the cold, heat, or weather of your destination as easily. An Orlando trip in July might sound like fun, but if you are from a drier, cooler climate, Florida in July can be a real comfort and health challenge. It can actually be dangerous. And nothing prepares you for the massive quantities of water (and oxygen!) one needs when you go from humid lowlands to the Rockies.

2. Manage expectations – Ask each member of the group what the one thing is they really want to do — what is the ONE THING that person really wants. Then see if it is possible. If not, ask them for their next best thing. This prevents disappointment if someone (perhaps a young girl who had never been to the beach before and was very excited) didn’t realize that “going to the beach” in the winter in the Pacific Northwest is very, very, VERY different than any “going to the beach” commercials she saw on TV.

Let everyone have at least one “favorite” event, food, activity. Celebrate every “one thing” to make the trip extra memorable.

3. Make an itinerary – Now, I am an explorer. I’m the one who wants to see where the road, the path, the creek leads. However, it really is best to save that adventure for when you aren’t traveling with young kids or people who are stressed by changes in plan. There will be enough “new” to satisfy the explorer, and a schedule will give a sense of security which allows the cautious to enjoy themselves.

4. Make driving days short – The reason the long drive up the ALCAN (Alaska-Canadian Highway) was so easy was that we never drove longer than 6 hours. Yes, we were eager to get to where we were going, but Ashton was smart enough to recognize the limitations of a 3-year-old and a newborn. Short drives with lots of breaks makes for a pleasant, if longer, trip.

5. Have wrapped AM and PM gifts – This is something my mom always did for us. She would get little presents labeled “AM” (open in the morning) and “PM” (open literally 1 second after the clock struck noon). This was especially helpful on multi-day car trips through Texas. Very inexpensive for her and made us so happy! Unwrapping presents on the way to adventure is so much fun!

6. Drive early, stop early – If you need to drive for a long day, consider starting it early in the morning, even before sunrise. Make a nest of blankets and pillows in the back for the kids, get some coffee for the adults, and let the kids finish their sleep in the car. That makes for a peaceful, quiet morning. As a kid, I loved waking up in the car to realize that we already had 3 hours under our belt!

7. Probably my favorite “Long road trip with lots of stuff” tip – Pack by day, not by person. For multi-day trips, pack ONE full set of clothing and pajamas for each person all in the same bag—small duffels are great for this. Put a big piece of tape on the duffel that says what day it’s for (Monday, Tuesday, etc.).

Then pack a separate, actual suitcase for items you need every day (makeup, toiletries, diapers, slippers, charging cables, etc.). That way when you get to the hotel, you are only taking 2 bags in: the daily duffle and the suitcase.

Why take a duffle AND a suitcase? It makes it easy to tell at a glance which bags to take in that night at the hotel and what to put back in the “daily items” bag when you are packing in the morning.

What is YOUR favorite tip for traveling either with or without children? Feel free to call or email me, and I’ll try to include them in a future article!

By: Stephanie Reynolds, Athens-Limestone Tourism Association