I am a planner, but I hate putting shit away. My husband is a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of guy, but can’t stand a mess or a disorganized room. Between the two of us, we’ve finally got our (short) trip routine down to a science. Or at least, as much of a science as it can be with toddlers in tow. I usually take care of the up front planning and packing, and my husband takes care of the back end, that is, unpacking after the trip while I collapse into bed or head into the kitchen to start making the next meal.
Here’s what we do to set ourselves up for success with the rugrats (and ourselves):
Keep a set packing list.
Evernote is my best friend. Always faithful, and never lets me down. I keep a quick list of basics (for two nights) in Evernote, and SURPRSISE! It’s also the list we use for our carryons when flying. It’s not as minimalist as I’d like, but that’s OK. With the kids, I’d rather have half a dozen extra diapers than a blow out on the way home and no way to deal with it. The night before I need to pack (so two nights before traveling), I copy the list into a new note, then make any quick changes (add swimsuits, delete raincoats, etc.). Packing’s a lot easier when I don’t have to think about how many extra pants to pack for Jasmine.
Clean for 10 minutes before walking out the door.
Yes, this means getting up 10 minutes earlier. But it also means not coming home to a house torn about by the packing frenzy. I never did this before I met my husband, but dammit, he’s right. I hate it when that happens, but it really is magical to walk into a clean house after travel.
Stop when the toddler needs to stop.
If that means eating inside a McD’s twice during a three hour trip, so be it. Better to let her out to stretch her legs and relieve the boredom than listen to her scream out her frustrations for thirty minutes.
Maintain the routine, but don’t sweat deviations.
We do our best to get both kids down for naps at lunch time. Sometimes we’re successful, sometimes we aren’t. But we always do our best to make it happen. Same for bedtimes. Same for mornings. Same for snack times. Sure, it means that we’ve become those parents that we’ve always made fun of for being crazy pants about their kids’ routines during travel, but when we get back to the hotel at the end of the day and there aren’t any temper tantrums because the kids aren’t hungry and exhausted to the point of no return? LOOK WHO’S LAUGHING NOW.
(But seriously, I am envious of those parents whose kids don’t need ruthless adherence to a routine).
Keep kids (and grown-ups) fed.
Yeah, I carry bags of Cheerios and bananas and pouches of apple sauce in my
mom bag purse. It’s occasionally embarrassing when I forget to take everything out before returning to work, but it’s well worth not having to manage hungry kids.
Unpack as soon as you get home.
We get home, feed the kids, then begin a whirlwind of emptying the car and suitcases (actually, usually I feed the kids and Bertrand starts unpacking). Everything goes back where it belongs, and Bertrand immediately starts a load of laundry for the kids. No ifs, ands, or buts. If it’s two in the morning, we might might wait until the next day, but … probably not. Waking up the day after a road trip and having your house look like you never left is AMAZING.