Five tips for traveling with kids

We are on a quest to get the kids to all 50 states. We started 4 years ago and have 37 down.  Some of them are a stretch like the 15 miles of Iowa but in my mind, it counts.  Other times we hit an area and explored, made notes on things we’d like to come back to once the kids are older.   Here are a few tips on traveling with the kids…

1.  Get each of the kids their own national park passport book.  There are two versions, one is a “kids version” that is silly stuff, another is an adult version.   At each of the national park sites – monuments, historical sites, etc. there are multiple stamps you can cancel your book just like a passport.  I let the kids play with their book and then I stamped the adult version for posterity.  Maybe when they are older they will appreciate it.   The kids’ version has a spot for rangers to autograph the book which is fun.  The only ranger to be a goober about it was at the Grand Canyon.  All of the others love to do it and the kids think it is fun.

2.  You’ll be surprised at how resilient the kids are in the car.  Just wear them out.  There is no need to fear the big trips.  We typically drive hard straight through – the kids sleep overnight.  Then we run them someplace fun.  Then get back in the car and they nap.  It is actually getting harder now that Abby is getting older. She will occasionally do the “I’m bored” routine.  Sara packs crafts and such for them to play with as we travel.   We have never let them have their iPads on vacation and do not do the DVD player in the car thing.  We always pack them just Incase but it is incredible how they abandon them when we do our trips.  It is like the 1980s again for them.   I do have a funny video of Eli melting down 10 minutes after we got home from California demanding his iPad – the first time in 10 days.

3.  The baby boomers are flooding the parks.  Thus, you and I have to plan ahead….way ahead.  Make your reservations 6 months out or as soon as the park will let you.  Also, do not fear the federal recreation sites as alternatives to the official national parks.  They are much like a local state park, tucked in the woods with all the amenities.  Most of them are in the national forest.  We found some in Georgia we really like.  We used one in California when we couldn’t get into the national parks. Use recreation.gov to find all the public lands in one spot.

4. I like to get off the routine tourist route.   Hit the funny, obscure, and ridiculous spots in the country.  Like the house the looks like a dresser in Hickory NC.  Pink Sands State Park in Utah, or hopefully we make it to Carhedge in Nebraska this spring.

5.  Let the kids name your camper.  It sounds silly but it is fun.  Abby and Eli named the van “Captain” so now we go for “Captain Rides”.

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