Peak vacation season is here. Are you setting off on a family trip? Traveling with kids can be stressful and exhausting. To find out how to make it a little bit easier, and a lot more mindful, we spoke to our very own Spoon Captain, and mama to two boys, Nicole Centeno.
Splendid Spoon: What are your top tips to make traveling with kids as straightforward as possible?
Nicole: The most important thing I do is ground my expectations. If possible, I dedicate a whole afternoon or day to just traveling. I don’t attempt to answer emails, calls, or texts on a travel day: it has to be really urgent for me to try to multitask.
In the same vein, if there’s a moment of respite, like when the kids are asleep, I sink into that moment. I read or do something a bit mindless, like catch up on social media. I receive that peace with open arms!
I try to travel at naptime or bedtime, and I make an effort to do something physical right before we leave. Even just really engaging them with packing can be helpful to burn off that excitable pre-travel energy. I also always pack some fruit — someone’s always looking for a snack!
Splendid Spoon: What will you absolutely not leave the house without?
Nicole: I always have a change of clothes for each dude, some wipes, water bottles for all, fruit for each of us, phone, wallet, and keys.
Splendid Spoon: Any tips for helping kids deal with jet lag?
Nicole: I try to employ the same rules with my kids as I do with myself. Travel during sleep hours, be okay with getting up a little early or a little late, eat on schedule with the new time zone, and get outside a lot. The circadian rhythm is so strongly influenced by sunlight. Being outside during daylight hours has a powerful effect on your ability to adapt to a different time zone, even it feels a little off!
Splendid Spoon: What are your favorite ways to keep the kids entertained on long journeys?
Nicole: In the car we have lots of conversations about the things we see. My kids are obsessed with cars, trucks, and cranes, so there’s always something to look for! I Spy is a favorite!
My kids are pretty content listening to music, eating some snacks, and sleeping for most of the journey. What a miracle(!): my older son spent his first 18 months screaming during every car ride.
On the plane we definitely use the iPad. Sticker pads, their favorite books, or their loveys are usually effective for an hour or so, but they’re pretty conditioned to want to zone out in front of the screen on the plane. I’m fine with that. I travel with them on my own so there are situations where the two boys are on the other side of the aisle from me. My first priority is that they feel comfortable so that we aren’t battling (and bothering everyone else!) throughout the trip.
Splendid Spoon: Do you pack snacks and meals for the trip?
Nicole: I always pack fruit (usually whole apples), nuts, and popcorn. For longer car rides, I’ll make them wraps or sandwiches. Picking breakfast at the airport is something they enjoy so I use that to motivate them to keep getting ready (getting dressed, using the bathroom, ha…all the basics!) until we get there.
If I’m going away for an extended period of time, I change my Splendid Spoon delivery to the house or hotel I’m staying in. I don’t feel myself when I eat out frequently. Having a Splendid Spoon breakfast or lunch grounds me.
Splendid Spoon: How do you make time for yourself when on vacation with the kids?
Nicole: I find it incredibly challenging to find time for myself because when I’m around, the boys only want to spend time with me. Someone is always on my lap or asking me to wrestle with them!
I meditate during their naps and catch up on reading or emails in the evening after they’ve gone to bed. I also just seize the moment. If I have a minute to myself, I immediately sink into gratitude for that time. I don’t rush to do anything except be quiet with myself. I have also found it very therapeutic to watercolor with my kids: it’s time for me and time with them.
The hardest thing for me on a recent week-long vacation was not exercising. The best decision I made was renting a bike with a Burley kid carrier on the back. Some of my favorite memories were pedaling around in the sun, talking to the boys, and feeling my muscles moving.
Splendid Spoon: What’s your top vacation packing hack?
Nicole: Pack in monochrome! Packing with one central color (and everything else grey, white or black) means everything can be easily mixed and matched, and you don’t have to think much while picking clothes. I’ll pack several options for bottoms and tops, just one or two outer layers, and it always works out. Dusty blue is my go-to :).