Lessons Learned from Spontaneous Travel

Last weekend we randomly went on a family trip to St. Louis.  We never do stuff like that.  Not because we don’t want to travel, but because finances have never allowed.  I can’t tell you how good it felt to just go off for a weekend and do fun stuff as a family.

However, since we had zero experience making a short non-family-visit trip with kids, we overlooked a few things.  In case you’re ever in this boat too, I thought I’d mention them.

1. Pack lunches.

I packed some packets of raisins and almonds that came in very handy, but I didn’t think of packing lunches.  That is, I didn’t think of it until we found ourselves at the bottom of the St. Louis Arch, having waited in line nearly an hour to get in there and having two hours to wait until our tram ride.  And it was nearly 1:00 and everyone was famished.  Oops.  We wound up buying insanely overpriced cheese in the little gift shop down there to tide us over.  Lesson learned.  Pack lunch.

2. Bring cash.

Neither of us thought to go to the ATM before we left.  But everywhere takes plastic nowadays right?  No.  The parking lot at Grant’s Farm does not take credit.  Fortunately the lady who worked there was very nice and she let us in because we look like honest people, and we were able to hit an ATM before we got back to our car later that morning.  Except we had to pay a hefty surcharge for the privilege.  Good thing we look like nice people or we wouldn’t have had that option.  Lesson learned.  Bring cash.

3.Bring batteries or power source for your camera.

Just as the kids were dressing up as cowboys and throwing lassos around cutely, the batteries on my external flash died.  And we were at the bottom of the arch where it is very dim and had no batteries.  I couldn’t get very good pictures without it, but that’s where the iPhones came in!  Josh even got a video of Hannah.  But I still wish I had thought to bring batteries with me.  Lesson learned.  Bring power sources.

What lessons have you learned from traveling with small kids?

2 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from Spontaneous Travel

  1. We’ve done a lot of weekend trips since having kids. Most of them took place outside the U.S., which brings its own challenges, but here are a couple of the things we’ve learned that I think are fairly universal to travelling with small children (ours are currently 1 and 3):

    – Pack more clothes for your kids than you think you’ll need, because it sucks to have to wash clothes in a hotel sink or buy more because a diaper leaked or someone spilled something on themselves.

    – If your kids are under the age of about 2, pack bibs. I never remember to pack them, which may be why I always end up needing extra outfits. 😉

    – If your kids use a lovey, pack a back-up. Because if they’re going to drop their blankie in the toilet, it’s going to happen right before bedtime.

    – Pack snacks. It’s expensive to buy them on the go, and you can’t guarantee you’ll find a good snack option. It’s especially good to pack a few small baggies of special snacks that they don’t normally get to eat for use as bribes. If your kids are early risers like mine, make sure to pack some snacks that can serve as a first breakfast.

    – Bring a few (small) new toys and/or books, and keep them in reserve but on your person. This trick saved my sanity when we got stuck at a border crossing for 3 hours and I only had access to my diaper bag, but it’s also useful for eating in restaurants and waiting in lines.

    – Bring a stroller, even if you’re not sure you’ll need it.

  2. Besides always packing food and water, pack extra diapers and wipes. Maybe not in the diaper bag, but in the truck at least where we can go back and get them if needed. And yes, pack extra outfits for the kids. Kids clothes are generally small and won’t take up much room, but an extra one may be very welcome.

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