Travel Tips: Avoid Meltdowns by Building in Routine and Reset Time

Traveling with little humans is amazing. Seeing the world through tiny, un-jaded eyes gives me new perspective and helps me appreciate little things I probably would have walked right by on my own.

It is also completely exhausting.

After about 3 days of skipped naps, late bedtimes, snack dinners, and good lord you need to go potty again??? – the novel part of traveling starts to wear off. Kids need routine to be happy, pleasant, functioning human beings. Parents do too.

Routine while traveling does not have to mean strict schedules, early bedtimes, or consistent naps. Kids just need touch points from their at-home routines. These elements from their normal routines help them feel grounded and in control. When kids start to feel out of control they start to spiral – they become cranky because they’re hungry, tired, worn out and they do not know how to self-regulate.

Consider your daily routine and see what you could incorporate into your travel schedule. Some ideas are. . .

  • Breakfast: Eat breakfast at your hotel before you leave for the day
  • Bathtime: Come back to your hotel in the early afternoon for bathtime and PJs before venturing out for dinner or evening sightseeing
  • Storytime: Travel with a favorite book that you read before bedtime

Kids often do not know what they need, and if they do, they may not have the vocabulary to express it. It is so important as parents to watch our kids signals and help guide them to their needs. Routines help kids recognize their needs, but who wants to nap when there are fun things to do?

Certainly not my kids!

When we are on the go, we don’t force naps. My older son has never been a good napper and has a serious case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). But, after a few days of skipped naps and bad sleep he turns into a crazy, hyper monster. How do we tame this monster? We have adopted Reset Days.

Reset Days are days where we slow the pace down and catch up. Reset days are not sit-in-the-hotel-and-do-nothing days. We just try to avoid time commitments and prioritize rest. It is so easy when traveling to try to push through and see all the things. In reality though, this makes everyone miserable and you day can quickly turn in to a nightmare afternoon.

Avoid meltdowns at all cost! Kids enjoy traveling so much more when they’re not forced through the motions.

Reset Days are not all about the kids either. It is so easy as parents to focus all our energy on our kids and shove our needs to the back. I don’t know about you, but when I am running on no sleep my patience level is severely diminished. Add in the exhaustion of traveling and I can quickly turn into a cranky monster too!

Elements of a successful Reset Day:

  • Burn energy: Find some activities you know your kids will love – maybe a park or a kids museum. Parents work hard while traveling (walking, pushing, carrying, planning, translating, etc.) Kids, who have energy to spare on a normal day, are mostly sitting while traveling. They need outlets to burn off that energy or they will never sleep.
  • Alone time: Dad takes the kids to a park for a few hours while mom explores, then Mom hangs out with the kids for nap-time while dad gets some free time.
  • Set aside time for naps: Even if they don’t actually sleep, the midday downtime will help everyone. Go back to your hotel or a quiet park, turn on a movie, hang out.
  • Let kids pick dinner: Traveling as a kid can be tough unless you have a super adventurous eater. Our kids will try just about anything, but they don’t always eat as much as they do at home. Every few days its ok to let your kids order a pizza or get something familiar like McDonalds to fill up their tanks. The key here is you don’t have to eat it!
  • Apartment stays: One thing that has been a blessing for our family is apartment stays. Hotel rooms tend to lack privacy with a family of four. Apartments often have multiple rooms, with doors, that shut. Every now and then, I just need an hour to be by myself. Or Mr. Travel and I want to stay up past 8pm and drink a bottle of wine (a little hard to do when you’re all sleeping in the same room!) Staying in a hotel- look for a lobby or business center to get some alone time.
  • Exercise: Get up early to go for a run or hit the gym. We walk a lot when we travel, but there’s something about that hit of endorphins from exercise that can turn my mood around.

How often do you need a reset day? We aim to pause every 4-5 days, but mostly it just depends on how everyone is feeling.

When traveling, avoid getting caught up in the need to push through. Is seeing that one last monument really worth a meltdown that causes everyone to swear off traveling forever? Probably not.

Some of my greatest memories from travel are playing with my kids outside of that really awesome museum we were planning on touring, stumbling upon a playground that was tucked behind a restaurant that we never would have noticed had we not stopped to take a coffee break, and visiting a church right before they closed because the kids fell asleep in the stroller.

Relax, you will get to everything. . . eventually.

Happy Travels!

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