Don’t forget when traveling to keep a few of the simple routines from home in tact. Read on for more about this little hack to help make travel with kids more enjoyable and relaxing.
Thanks to Mazda for setting us up with a rental car throughout our visit to Florida.
Does traveling with your little ones induce a whole lot of stress? In part due to family spread across the country and in conjunction with our interest in traveling, our boys both got passports before turning a year old and have been on more than their fair share of airplane rides.
They’ve become great little travelers, and we’ve garnered a handful of tricks to keep trips enjoyable despite being off of our routines and in different environments, many of which I’ve included in these family travel tips posts.
There are plenty of gadgets and tricks that can help ease the stress of travel, but there’s one thing that’s totally free and I think makes a big difference: know your family M.O. and make time for it. M.O., or modus operandi, is essentially “how you roll”, the typical habits and patterns under which you operate.
Planning Our Day Around Pit Stops to Play
For us, playing sports is one important aspect of our family M.O. Being active is helpful, but for our boys, playing sports is their activity of choice (far and away). We could hike mountains all day, and they would still have energy for hockey and basketball no matter what. I’m pretty sure they gauge the success of the day on the number of minutes spent playing sports with their Dad … and me, when I’m willing to suit up and join in.
When we travel, the boys behave exponentially better if we build in time to play sports. We always pack a small football or soccer ball, because those sports can be played in any open patch of grass or parking lot. I also like to scout out parks and playgrounds in the area, so we can plan parts of our days around pit stops to play. Just about every town has a searchable park and playground database on their parks and recreations website.
If you can’t find anything online, you can always ask locals too. Find another family with kids of similar age to yours and ask them to lead you to the slides and swings. We’ve definitely done this.
We don’t plan our entire trip around playgrounds and patches of grass for sports; we’re visiting to see the sites, after all. But the playgrounds are often filled with locals, so it’s a great way to get a taste of the community.
Welcome to Miami
You probably saw on Instagram that we recently visited friends in Miami. Not long after arriving, we headed to the park to blow off some steam built up from the plane ride. The Little Guys wasted no time working up a sweat against the Big Guys. After making time for our M.O., the boys played on the playground and pretended to be owners of a drive through ice cream shop (yes please and thank you).
We also spent plenty of time enjoying the things for which so many travel to Florida. We swam in the pool to take a break from our Northeast winter. We ate great Cuban food. And we (or at least I) definitely admired the palm trees. I’m sure those of you who live in tropical climates find this hilarious, but having lived in temperate to cold weather my entire life, palm trees are still very much a novelty to me. They are the ultimate sign I’m on vacation.
Driving a Mazda 6, Again
During out visit, we tooled around in a Mazda 6, a car with which I’m more than familiar. Do you remember your first car?! I leased a Mazda 6. It was the first “real thing” I had as proof, as much as possible for a 22 year old, that I was an adult.
I had a simple gray Mazda when I graduated from college, because I’ve never been brave enough to choose a non-boring car color. My vehicle track record includes gray, black, black, and black. I know… eye roll. When we leased our last car, our boys asked us if it was even possible to get a color other than black, because that’s all we’ve driven since they were born.
You can imagine their excitement when we walked up to a bright red Mazda that was all ours for the weekend. They checked out every feature and informed me that the car was “way cooler than our cars at home” … thanks guys…
Admiring Alligators Up Close and Personal
Our Mazda took us on an adventure into the Everglades to a boat ride through alligator country. I drove this excursion, which entirely freaked out M and the boys. J was so scared he fell asleep on the boat, probably in an attempt to distance himself from the memories.
I, however, relished in being just an arm’s length from alligators. I’d never seen an alligator before, and those things are mean-looking, for good reason. Thank you M for appeasing my ever-curious mind and spending an afternoon admiring alligators, even though I know how much you didn’t want to do it.
Consistency Among the Unfamiliar
Back on solid ground, though probably not as far from the alligators as M would have liked to be, the boys threw the football in the cul-de-sac and played soccer in our friends’ backyards while waiting for dinner to be ready each night.
When we travel, we don’t get too worked up about what the boys eat, provided it’s not straight sugar and junk. That never fares well for good behavior. We offer them new food, like the Cuban meal we had or the traditional Passover Seder dishes at our friends’ holiday gathering we crashed. If they don’t eat it, we don’t fight.
We also work in favored staples. We made scrambled eggs and pancakes or grabbed a bagel for breakfast, things they always eat at home, to ensure a good start to the day.
We didn’t always have a definitive time for bed as that fluctuated around the day’s plan. Each night, however, we held true to our routine of brushing teeth, reading books, and rubbing their backs just the same as we do at home. Sometimes, the boys bring their own books from home to give them one more element of consistency as they settle down to sleep.
Traveling opens up our eyes to new experiences, cultures, foods, climates, and so much more. It’s a great way for our family to step away from the daily grind and spend time together in a slightly more special and focused way than when we are home. Getting away helps to quiet the hustle and bustle of the everyday.
Especially for the boys as they are young, however, it’s easiest for us not to “get away” from everything. We bring along a few comforts, mostly in the form of routines, from home to keep them at their best.
And of course, this always, always includes sports.
Be sure to check out the highlight video of our trip as well as these other posts related to tips for traveling well with kids!
Does your family have an M.O.? If so, what is it and do you make time for it while you travel?