Dozens of friends and family.
Over eight hundred miles.
That is the numerical summary of our recent trip through South Carolina and Georgia. My children and I went south while my husband traveled north to Pennsylvania to attend a conference and catch some fish.
It may seem crazy to take three small children on a week long trip staying in three different homes. It may in fact be crazy. There were more than a few moments in which I just wanted to give up and go home. Even so, we had a great time, survived the rather grueling journey home, and are now all back together recovering travel fatigue with extra rest, lots of water, and leafy greens.
I had plenty of time to reflect on our trip during the week. These are the things that helped our trip to be more enjoyable, (and in the difficult times more bearable). More than any one tip, though, I’m thankful that the struggle presses us to pray and that God faithfully gives wisdom and strength when we need it.
Tips for Traveling Alone with Littles
1. Snacks help the time go by in the car for both big people and little people. A well-timed and balanced snack can double as an on the road meal. However, if you choose to eat a bunch of junk food all day while making the long journey home, it very well may make you sick for days to come. Bleh. Not.Worth.It.
2. When visiting people you only get to see once or twice a year, it’s okay to stretch your kids’ routines, reward their patience with lollipops, and generally be more flexible. Relationships are important, memories will be made, and sleep can be caught up on.
3. At the same time, there is a limit and it’s not fair to push kids too far. Know when to say enough when the kids are too tired/hyper/hungry/bored/etc.
4. Don’t forget to stretch before traveling for multiple hours in the car. If you do forget, you may not be able to turn your neck at all the next day. This will make it very difficult to keep track of all three children’s whereabouts and will leave you looking like a robot.
6. If you find yourself getting desperate for a shower but do not have anyone to help with the kids in a home that is full of cats and is not child-friendly, sit them on the bathroom sink with a snack during the shower, (thus keeping them happy and contained). Then let them play in the bath while drying your hair, (two birds with one stone–they’re clean and you look less like you haven’t seen your own bathroom in days).
7. Pick your battles. For everyone’s sanity and the enjoyment of your trip, it’s probably best to just let some things go. Our younger son, Jedidiah, is on the verge of potty training and he really wants to wear underwear but isn’t so interested in using the potty. The rule at home is that he cannot wear underwear if he is not willing to sit on the potty. On the road, traveling by myself, it wasn’t something I was worried about enforcing. Jedidiah wore superhero underwear all week and we had one less thing to argue about.
8. Despite initial excitement, some two-year olds may freak out and attempt to jump off a moving merry-go-round. If you are holding a baby while your thirty-something pound child tries to abandon ship, call for the ride to stop and make your apologies. Life goes on.
9. Accept help. This one should be a no-brainer but I often find myself just trying to do everything myself. Pride? Stubbornness? Certainly those both can be things I struggle with. Graciously accept offers for help and then genuinely show gratitude. There is a great blessing in accepting help for both the giver and the recipient. It is also a good model to our children.
10. Look for the positive. Undoubtedly there will be some unexpected problem or expense when you travel. For me, it was on Thursday morning when I discovered that the van had a flat tire. The kids were already buckled up in their seats and we were supposed to be off to do some fun errands together. I was initially irritated at the inconvenience and disappointed that our plans were ruined. However, the Lord gave me a lot of grace and helped me to have some perspective. I was actually really encouraged by His kind providence once I started thinking about the situation: My husband overslept and thus was not fishing at the river where he wouldn’t have cell reception. I discovered the flat tire early and so I didn’t have to work on it in the heat of the day. The timing meant that my baby napped during the whole process of figuring out what to do and changing the tire. My neck had stopped hurting. The tire store was only two blocks from where I wanted to run errands so we visited those stores while the van was being worked on. And I learned a new skill.
These are the things that I found to be important as we traveled this past week. Being the sole parent for the week with three kids meant that I just had to let some things go. Next week when we are staying at the beach all together, grandparents included, the list will probably vary a little. I’m sure things like “no sand dunes in the house”, “don’t drink the sea water”, and “please don’t bury your sister in the sand” will be important additions.