Let's go on vacation!
A few weeks back I was invited to represent Babble at a “Family Travel Tips” event on the Upper East Side.
Going to these kinds of events has been really fun for me. I am hardly the type of polished blogger that I usually encounter at these things, and I feel like an outsider learning a whole new language. For instance, when Marcia Cross tells you she thinks your baby is beautiful and then mimes taking a bite of his thighs, it’s important to remember 1. why on earth you’re there to begin with, 2. to please not attack the celebrities, and 3. to try to physically restrain yourself from performing a spontaneous audition for a part on Desperate Housewives. That kind of thing. In this way, blogging/PR events are way fun, but also very stressful.
(I’d make a really great “somewhat short neighbor who harbors a deep secret and hits on everyone’s husbands,” don’t you think? I’m sure Marcia agreed.)
But back to this travel event: This travel event was AWESOME. No desperate housewives, but crazy amounts of great tips. I found myself getting terribly excited, even though I won absolutely nothing in any of the drawings (rude).
After the jump, some really rad tips for supremely organized summer traveling with a passel of kids from Alison Lowenstein, author of City Weekends, and the smart ladies behind Genius Organizing.
Have a travel box packed with the essentials you need when leaving the house, and keep it by your door. Stash whatever you routinely need for outings in there--sunscreen, towels, back up batteries for your gadgets, hats and sunglasses, you name it. When you get home, deposit it back in the box! (Is it just me or is this an excellent solution to the "come home from school and dump everything on the floor" routine that I remember so very well from my school days?)
The Container Store sells this handy little list (as do other retailers I'm sure) that the Genius ladies swear by to get your head in the packing game before a vacation.
HEADS SHOULDERS KNEES AND TOES
Use the Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes method of packing. Start at the top: Travel shampoo? Hat? And work your way down to shoes and socks. If this trick helps me remember to pack sleepwear it will be golden. I ALWAYS forget to pack something to sleep in.
PERMANENT TOILETRY BAG
Keep a dedicated bag of toiletries, fully stocked and ready to go, in your luggage at all times. This cuts down drastically on last-minute drugstore runs and the horror that is realizing you've forgotten mascara. Bonus! If you run out of something surprisingly at home and are in a pinch, you know it's there!
ALWAYS PACK A FIRST AID KIT
At least some bandaids and something to sanitize! Bandaids bandaids bandaids. Especially if you're going somewhere involving walking.
DOUBLE DUTY LAUNDRY BAG
Bring a lightweight, collapsible laundry bag for 1. storing dirty laundry (duh), and 2. Emergency Overweight Luggage Syndrome. Did you know some airlines will charge you up to $100 for an extra pound or two? Yikes. (This is good for excessive souvenir shoppers, think about it.)
BUFFETS AS BARGAINING CHIPS
Alison Lowenstein says she uses buffets as bargaining chips with her kids on vacations, but I think the idea works for various treats: behave and you can have whatever you want at the buffet. Your kids aren't food motivated? Try the hotel pool! Or souvenirs! (Have I mentioned how I am an excessive souvenir shopper??)
GIVE YOUR KIDS A CAMERA
Not a nice one, for heavens sake, but a digital hand-me-down that is ALL THIERS. This will keep them entertained even when it's the fifth museum we've been too, moo-oooom!
NAP TIME IS GOOD TIME
Sometimes you can get into SWAT TEAM mode with your vacations and just go! go! go! but Alison Lowenstein recommends really embracing the afternoon nap, heading back to the hotel, and taking a breather, even with bigger kids, to avoid massive melt downs and the dreaded Vacation Burn Out.
FLIGHTS ARE SPECIAL TIMES
If you're terrified of how your children will (or won't) behave, pack them each their own backpack full of special treats, games, and snacks. Go even one step further (as my friend does) and individually wrap each stick of gum and coloring book, so it takes longer to get through and feels more exciting.
This is something I'd never thought of: buy a membership to whatever local museum or theme park is available. When traveling, you're more likely to run into an affiliate or satellite of some kind than not, and with your membership you can get in at a discount (or even free!).
Now you tell me: what are your best travel tips?