Traveling with (four) kids!

Our family is gearing up for a much-anticipated family trip out of state. This experience has been in the works for several months now, and I’m so happy to see the date creeping closer on our calendar.

Both my husband and I have fond memories of family trips growing up and we’re doing our best to set aside the time, the money, (and the energy!) to make sharing similar experiences with our children a possibility. Our reality is that we have a limited income and we have four young children. But we’re making a strong effort to travel with our kids as much as we can while they’re all living under our roof.

Because we live in Northern Minnesota — one of Minnesota’s top destinations — we spend much of the year playing and exploring close to home. We also spend several weekends a year visiting family across Minnesota, where we make memories at holiday gatherings, family reunions and celebrations. These closer-to-home excursions are fun, but there’s an added element of excitement and adventure when we travel as a family somewhere a bit unfamiliar.

This will be our second big trip out of state with our four kids. We’ll be visiting Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. Our first big trip was a couple of years ago, when we flew to Alaska and rented a camper for a week: That was an amazing trip we’ll never forget!

How do we do it? Here are our tips:

Make a plan.

Doing anything with four kids is a considerable endeavor, and traveling to Alaska was quite a feat! Prior to our trip, we spent a lot of time researching the area where we were planning to travel, so we went into the trip with general ideas about timing for the places we wanted explore. We’re doing the same with our upcoming trip, searching the Internet and travel guides for kid-friendly attractions, activities and events.

Make a budget and try to pay ahead.

We try to plan our big trips early so we can pay much of it in advance. With our Alaska trip, we saved a significant amount of money (50 percent off the camper rental!) by paying a couple months in advance and by traveling prior to the peak summer season. For our upcoming trip we’re trying to create a general daily budget for activities, lodging and food with some flexibility built in for some spontaneity. Paying ahead seems to alleviate the stress associated with the possibility of overspending, and it’s helped me be more focused and in the moment.

Go in with realistic expectations and a positive attitude.

When we traveled to Alaska, we were prepared for the unpredictable weather and the limitations of traveling with young children. We know we have to go at the pace of our family. We still have a napper in the mix, which really cuts into that noon to 3 o’clock time frame for activity. But slowing down for a bit each day isn’t the worst thing in the world. We all need a break sometimes, even on vacation!

Cook.

Try to save some money by not eating out for every meal. In Alaska, we cooked meals in the camper, and on our upcoming trip, we’re seeking out lodging with kitchenettes and microwaves. It can even be fun to check out local grocery stores. In Alaska, when we did eat out, we made a point to eat fresh and local fare, which was amazing!

Visit more than one attraction.

During our Alaska trip, our family was able to see and experience amazing scenic views and first-hand wildlife experiences. We saw an ocean, mountains, rivers, glaciers, active volcanoes, moose, brown bears, sea otters, sea lions, many sea birds and even whales! On our upcoming trip, we’ll be able to see the Atlantic Ocean, the White and Green Mountains and share with our children the experience of crossing several new state lines.

Take a lot of pictures.

Pictures can help adults and kids remember. Our at-the-time 2-year-old in the pictures may not remember standing in front of that glacier, but we have the pictures to prove he was there! Upon our return from Alaska, I created an album of pictures. We often page through that album to trigger our fond memories of that trip.


 Megan Devine lives in Northeastern Minnesota. She blogs at kidsandeggs.com. Write her at mdevine@mnparent.com.