Last week we went to Florida with my parents and my brother's family. Between my brother's family and ours we have 5 kids in the toddler and preschool range: 18 months, almost 2, 2.5, 3.5, and 4.5. I've been to Florida for a week with a kid in tow every winter for the last 5 years, and I'm just now getting the logistics figured out. I thought I would compile a couple helpful hints for you that I haven't read on other blogs.
- Don't bring baby supplies with you. Order them on Amazon! Did you know that you can have packages delivered to your hotel and they will hold on to them for you? I've sent diapers, wipes, baby food, and even toddler food packets this way. This works best if you have Amazon Prime because you know exactly what day the items will arrive, but it can be useful with the regular free shipping as well. Want to kick it up a notch? Try this money-saving trick: Don't pay $50 in baggage fees to bring your pack-n-play as a carry on, and don't pay the hotel $15/night to rent a pack-n-play when you can buy one on Amazon for $40 and have it shipped directly to the hotel you are staying at! Just drop it at the nearest Goodwill on your drive to the airport or leave it in the hotel when you are done! Highchairs are another great option to have shipped directly to your hotel to avoid the exorbitant fees the hotel will charge you per day.
- Bring toys that do double-duty: You can imagine my surprise this year when the toys I brought for the pool and the sand became their favorite in-room toys. I could have just brought a bag of sand toys and they would have been perfectly content!
- Bring throw-away toys: Don't bring the best. Bring the neglected fast-food toys or the half-broken-on-their-last-leg toys. When there isn't any other toys as options, the kids will be delighted. And if you lose one, no big deal. Also, if you're like me and like to shop on vacation, toss out the old toys when you leave and use the extra space in your bag for that new pair of shoes you couldn't pass up. I also love to collect Chik-Fil-A or dollar spot books for a couple months before a trip. They are super light and offer a new reading experience that can be tossed before traveling home. What could be more perfect?
- Use the hotel toys: Did you know that many pool areas keep pool and sand toys donated by previous visitors? Call ahead to see if your hotel or resort has any toys on hand before bringing loads of floaties for the pool or buckets and shovels for the beach.
- Pack Less Stuff: The more stuff you put in your hotel room, the harder it is to keep it picked up. If you're traveling with kids, you're probably going somewhere that has a target, walmart, grocery store, or pharmacy nearby. You don't have to bring every item you might possibly need. If you do that, you probably won't be able to find it in the mountain of your dirty clothes when the moment of crisis hits. Stick with the basics. I always wish I had packed a little less.
- Leave your perfect vacation expectations at home: My brother's friend once told him: "Before you have kids, you go on vacation. After you have kids, you go on a TRIP." My friends, that saying could not be more true. Our winter trips are no longer about the old R&R. My husband and I wasted years of vacations striving to find pockets in our trip where we could take a nap, read a book, or simply sit alone in the quiet. The pursuit of our own rest was fruitless, and left us disappointed and angry. This year we adjusted our expectations. We through rest and relaxation out the window. This year our goal was relationships! Despite both of us going down for about 24 hours with the flu, we had a joyful and fun week together as a family. It's amazing how simply adjusting an expectation led to contentment with what we received. It was an imperfect week, but it was so, so good.
Got any other great tips to add? Share them in the comments! I love hearing what works well for other moms. Anyone else have plans to TRAVEL (not vacation this winter?). My husband and I are escaping on a cruise without the kids in a month and I'm looking forward to actually getting to rest on that trip!