From one parent to another, Assistant Editor Joanna Kresge shares her tips for surviving the summer with kids in tow.
My husband and I were concerned about our kids (then ages 8 and 6) being able to endure a lengthy road trip we were planning, so we decided to start with a few daytrips over a few weekends to get them accustomed to being on the road for hours at a time. We planned jaunts to Mount St. Helens, Ocean Shores, and Portland to start. We increased the duration of the trips incrementally up until it was time for our big trip. Not only did it get our brood conditioned for life on the road, but it also was a dry run for us. We quickly discovered that Children’s Dramamine and headphones were a must, and that (when thrown across the vehicle) applesauce pouches do not make the best car snack.
Our kids aren’t big on roller coasters or Ferris wheels, but they love a good waterpark. Our favorites include Disney World Resort’s Blizzard Beach, Great Wolf Lodge, and the many varied water attractions at Sesame Place in Pennsylvania. They don’t, however, love the swimmers ear that inevitably follows. That’s why I always pack swimmer’s ear drops. We also pack bottles of water — if the park allows outside drinks — to stave off dehydration. Pro tip for parents with little ones in diapers: Don’t pack one-time-use swim diapers, as many parks do not allow them; opt instead for reusable swim diapers.
In theory, the beach sounds magical: a grocery store mystery novel in one hand and an umbrella-adorned drink in the other as I listen to the waves crashing and my demure children playing quietly in the sand. In reality, the book is forgotten, the drink doesn’t exist, and the sound of waves is drowned out by my kids running amok. Oh, and the weather sucks. So instead of a book, I pack light layers for my whole family. I leave most of the sand toys, but I bring a bucket to collect seashells. I slather my kids with sunblock, whether it’s gray or sunny. Finally, I leave our devices locked in the glove compartment along with my expectations, so I can let my kids be kids.
If you asked my husband about the worst day of his life, he’d likely recount the day he and our two children (then ages 11 months and 3 years, respectively) flew across the country from our previous home in Louisiana to our new residence in Lake Tapps. We’ve learned a lot since then, and these days, flights are much easier. About a week before our trip, we head to the airport and practice traversing the sensory-heavy halls and navigating through the throng of travelers. Then, on our travel day, each kid gets to pack a blanket, a stuffed animal, and one other toy — nothing with tiny or multiple pieces. Meanwhile, I load up my pockets and my purse with mini bags of M&Ms and Dum-Dum Pops in case of an emergency meltdown. Then, we break our screen time limit and let the kids enjoy games or videos whenever they get the wiggles. Oh, and always bring the Dramamine. Always.
So, you’re saving up for a really grand vacation next year, or maybe you’re getting ready to make some pricey home upgrades. Whatever the reason, if you’re staying home this summer, there’s still plenty to do. Our favorite thing to do is visit nearby National Parks and participate in the Junior Ranger Program. We also adore The Idea Box Kids boxes that are filled with fun, engaging, or creative things to do with our kids. There are boxes for backyard play, science, chores, sensory, date night (with your child), life skills, and more. Our favorite is the chores box; the kids have so much fun dusting with socks on their hands or washing the inside of the window while we wash the outside. Honestly, the kids don’t much care what we’re doing, as long as we’re doing it together, and that’s fine by my husband and me.