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We’ll be adding to this list, but here are some super quick thoughts I had from this trip. Some items are more specific to a trip to the city like Washington, D.C. and less specific to…say our time in the Australian rainforest.
HAVE A PLAN
But be flexible. When traveling, we are out of our normal schedule, but if there is a rhythm to the day, things will go much more smoother. We tend to have an unofficial top 10 list of things to do/places to eat, and then we go with the flow of plugging in the items where there are set dates/times because of reservations and the rest of it is either planned out by area/location and fairly flexible. This depends on where you are going, but for something like D.C. I highly recommend visiting the websites of the places you are visiting, especially if you need to reserve tours months in advance. If you’re not limited in time or money, a more relaxed schedule might be okay, but unless we’re visiting some kind of island resort-type place, having a flexible plan is our recommendation.
BE PREPARED FOR MOTION SICKNESS
If there is a slight chance anyone on the trip has motion sickness, get *Dramamine. There is other stuff out there like bands, patches, oils, ginger things, and more, I’m sure. But we never had any issues until we traveled to Australia (that boat ride to the Great Barrier Reef is no joke!) and tablets were what we found. I’m not taking any chance trying the other stuff because no one wants to deal with puke…EVER, but especially on a trip, especially in an enclosed space where you can’t take off your seat belt. Sidenote: Carry extra plastic bags and tissue. These may come in handy for other times too if you have littles.
CHECK THE WEATHER FORECAST
The forecast isn’t always correct, but you can get a general idea by looking at forecast (plus looking what the historical trend if you are extra nerdy like us). Another tip would be to find out from locals who have actually experienced the typical weather patterns for the season the last few years. This can be tricky for places like DC and SF where it can be extremely cold and foggy in the morning, sunny another minute, pouring rain the next.
LOCATE THE CONVENIENCE STORE
Before going, find the nearest pharmacy or convenience store. Always check with your hotel first for items, but if you need forgotten items and/or snacks, the stores will usually be a better choice than where tourists are directed to in guidebooks. I think they will have lower prices…i.e. bottled water at the convenience store vs. bottled water from a food/souvenir truck next to the sidewalk at the National Mall.
SPLIT THE DAY UP
This really depends on your kiddos and where sites are located, but to ensure the happiness of travelers, it is a good idea to have downtime in the middle of the day. Even if kiddos do not need naps, they are probably walking more than usual or it is hotter/colder than usual, etc. Trek back to the hotel if possible, but if not, maybe split the group up.
SPLIT THE FAMILY/GROUP UP
Melody hadn’t been feeling well and I knew she wouldn’t want to take the metro, so we walked to some places we missed at the National Mall while Norm and Emily took the metro in search of all the locations to get pressed pennies. By evening, we were all done, but we certainly wanted some night memories of the monuments, so Norm went back on his own. He didn’t have to carry a bunch of stuff or wait for little feet to catch up. (Sidenote: And if you have a feeling your two teenagers and wife do not care for the Library of Congress and will sit down on the floor at every stop on the tour for the whole tour, it may be a good idea to have separate plans sometimes. End rant.)
HAVE MEALS AT NON-PEAK HOURS
If you can plan it, do not eat your meals at normal meal times. We generally do this in our normal schedule at home because places are just less crowded. Visit places during mealtimes when everyone else is hungry and eating. Eat your meals during off-mealtimes when everyone is at the museum. (Note: This may not be very true to D.C. museums during spring break season.) Depending on how long you are staying in a different timezone, your stomach may not want to adjust and you can eat breakfast at 10am or dinner at 8pm.
FIGURE OUT TRANSPORTATION
Learn how local transportation works before you get there. If you are very detailed and on a budget, you could probably even figure out the exact amount needed to the metro or ferry. The D.C. Metro is similar to our transit system here in the Bay, so we didn’t have problems with it, but if you don’t take public transportation on a regular basis, it would be good to even just take a look at the different train lines you need to go on to get to your station so you don’t have to transfer.
WEAR COMFY SHOES
Enough said. If you’re vacationing in Hawaii and at the beach most of the day, flip flops and sandals will work, but if you are in D.C. like we were, or if you are coming here to S.F., you will need comfy shoes!! (Sidenote: Why does my 10-year-old have the same size feet as me? This was on the way to the Supreme Court.) Maps can also sometimes be deceiving because a 1-mile walk around a crowded trail where you stop at different memorials on a super hot day is NOT the same as a 1-mile walk on a breezy evening around your neighborhood.
OPTIMIZE PHOTO OPS
If you see a family or a couple trying to get a photo, offer to take a picture for them. It might be the only group photo they get for their whole trip if they are wary to ask strangers. They will most likely reciprocate and offer to take one for you. We got some selfies, but it’s not the same. And those selfie sticks are not allowed in some places, and really, they are just a hazard. (Example from the White House below: 1) pic I (Joyce) took of Norm and the girls, 2) “selfie,” 3) pic taken by someone else. (Sidenote: They blocked off the closer streets with secret service right when we were getting there.)
Be aware of those around you. I had this thought when we were in the National Archives building after we went to see the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and Bill of Rights. There was a long line to see the documents after you went through the long line to get into the building. We’ll share more in the daily recaps, but let’s just say the security guys had to keep repeating, “This is a VIEWING.” It’s hard to remember sometimes, but if you’re at a show, at least check if the people behind can see and in crowded places, keep your kiddos close…and/or don’t run into other people’s kiddos.
We can’t say we were all agreeable the entire trip, but we made some great memories! Don’t forget to have fun! (Sidenote: In all honesty, some photos we share will have a few forced smiles because the aforementioned motion sickness or too much sun takes you to places too close to heat exhaustion or major migraines (they suck!) or just plain tiredness.)
Some DC-specific tips and notes:
– SECURITY – You have to go through airport-type security checks for most of the buildings. This may or may not include the no-water and no-food rule. Some people were mad about this at the Capitol because they had all their snacks and newly purchased bottles of water with them. You can fill up once you get in, but it’s an extra thing to do…
– RESERVATIONS – This goes with the “plan” tip. Make reservations when they are available! Some lines are longer than others to get a same-day ticket, or you have to line up early in the morning to get tickets. If you have a set schedule, I would suggest making restaurant reservations as well. We passed up a long line of people to eat a popular restaurant because we had reservations and ate brunch instead of the more popular times.
– TAKE A BREAK – Besides the actual monument/memorial buildings, there is very little shade at the National Mall. There are trees, but the paths are so full of people, it is not always easy to stop in one place for long. On the day we went, it was mid- to high 80s. Unless you went with a bus tour group, it is quite a walk back to the hotels and metro. More on this in the daily recaps.
TIPS FOR TRAVELING WITH KIDS SUMMARY
- Have a flexible plan.
- Be prepared for motion sickness.
- Check the weather forecast.
- Locate the convenience store.
- Split the day up.
- Split the family/group up.
- Have meal at non-peak hours.
- Figure out transportation.
- Wear comfy shoes.
- Optimize photo ops.
- Be aware.
- Note security checks.
- Make reservations.
- Take a break.
- Have fun!
Well, that’s it for now! Again, we’ll probably expand on some of these things during the daily recaps, but there you go! It’s possible to travel with kiddos, but it does take some planning (and saving $$$). I’m sure we would be able to do lots more without the kiddos, but we have found the trips to be great times of learning about people and places, as well as learning about each other.
Here are some tips from our last trip from our friends –> joyceandnorm.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/traveling-with-kids
What are your tips for traveling (with kids)?
*Note: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a tiny percentage if you make a purchase through my link at no extra cost to you. Read my disclosure policy here.