How do you travel with kids? Especially with a two and four year old? What about if one is potty training? It's paradoxically easy and not so easy; it's a lot like things when everyone is simply at home, but different.
We've found that the easiest way is to take it easy. Yes, try to keep your basic routine, like meals and bedtime, but sometimes you're just going to have to roll with it. But I don't want to get your hopes up too high, I'd like to tell you what works for us in the hope that it also works for you. At the end of the day try everything.
Family dynamics are critical to understand. You must understand each members' function. For instance, my husband; I know he likes driving not just our truck, but the direction of our family. I try to totally support him (although, sometimes he's resistant to input) because I trust he will steer us on the right path. If he makes a mistake, we take a pause to figure it out and try again.
Our older daughter, we noticed, wants to mother the little one and likes to help-out. So we ask for her help with simple tasks. Sure, sometimes it gets busy when you're on a vacation but hey, you really have more time than you think; be patient and delegate a little bit. The end result will be you feeling a little more calm and, more importantly, your little helper is happy and fulfilled.
Now, lets get to the littlest one. Maybe she doesn't listen. Sometimes I wonder if she would hear me better if I tied her hair in a ponytail. But we discovered that she listens to her older sister! Now we use that little "lifehack" and ask the older one to get beckon the younger. And we do it for everything: bring her to the table, ask her to brush her teeth, etc. It's win win, right? The older sister wants to mother, little sister listens, and the adult voices aren't raspy from a day of yelling.
Now, my husband is my best teammate, but sometimes he may lose his cool after being cut-off by another driver, but who doesn't get a little upset at that? I try to keep his world calm by sitting beside him in the passenger seat and pass him snacks or drinks, reading to him, feed the kids, and read to the kids on repeat while we are on the road. Basically we have our assumed task and we just do it. My husband repairs the water heater of the trailer, I'll get the kids and pizza. He fills up our water tank and I would take the girls for a short bike ride around the area. We let the girls work out all their energy to get them tired and eventually ready for bed.
Chris drives the travel trailer, I back him up. At a certain point, I simply used hand signals to help him back our 26-foot behemoth. He trusted me to know what to look out for, and I trusted him not to crush me. I was surprised how we eventually didn't need to talk to get things done. There is asymmetry in the things he and I know about. I grew up as a cosmetologist, and he grew up doing traditionally manly things, but he won't get my cooperation by yelling.
Finally, sometimes the day winds up being longer than expected. By the time you roll up to your campsite it's midnight. And another camper has blocked the turnaround loop. And your campsite is precariously steep. And one of the stabilizers won't reach the ground so he looks for a suitable rock to at least get us through the night. Everyone really just wants to lay on the bed but there are still things to accomplish before turning in. Without good teamwork, the night only gets longer.
Nutrition and Proper Diet
Maintaining a healthy diet is tough when you're on the road. My stomach turns inside -out just thinking of eating fast food more than once, especially with the kids. Pancakes, french fries, chicken tenders, etc. It's like every restaurant has the same kid's menu, I swear. They even all taste the same! Aside from our Costco bulks of strawberries, blueberries and oatmeal, I do try to plan meals for the next three to four days. I'm glad there are grocery stores every 50 miles, because stocking up for two-weeks worth of meals was not possible in our travel trailer with its limited refrigerator, and even smaller, freezer space. As long as I have my rice cooker and slow cooker, we are set to have a hearty meal. Everything from pesto pasta, to brussels sprouts and seafood or meat.
Here's one we did: in the slow-cooker, toss in a whole chicken, vegetable soup, whole potatoes and few cloves of garlic. Everyone was well-fed, and there was a little something everyone could enjoy in the meal. Sometimes we'll be driving forever in what seems like the middle of nowhere (like Idaho!). The drive to Yellowstone National Park is taking forever and it's lunchtime, so we'll find a safe place to pull-over and make some sandwiches.
A First Aid Kit is a must. In the best case scenario, you'll never have to use it. Usually, the worst thing you'll encounter are insect bites, a scratch from one of the kids tripping, or an encounter with a wild cactus.
While planning your trip, try to envision all the activities you'll encounter. Be sure to include the weather, so you can pack proper clothes and protection. During our summer trailer trip, we stopped in Wyoming. The literal moment we opened our truck door, we were bombarded by huge mosquitos. We immediately hopped back inside the car, grabbed our DEET-free bug repellant and sprayed our hair, hands and feet. Good luck to bugs getting in our clothing. Like magic, the flying attack mosquitoes kept their distance.
Lastly, having a good set of tools is so important. If you don't know where to start, even a simple tool kit will bail you out of a great deal of situations. You'll never know what your kids would ask you to build, or what you'll need to repair, while you're away.