7 Things I Learned While Traveling With 4 Kids Under 9

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We have been hosting my boyfriend’s family now for three weeks. Four adults and three kids came off that plane. My nephew is almost nine, my niece is three, and their cousin is almost two. Combine that with my 9-month-old daughter and that’s a lot of food to buy, big cars to rent, car seats to find, diapers to change and activities to plan.

After having spent a week showing them our beautiful city, we decided to go 10 hours away to Percé, Québec. And boy, did we learn a lot about vacationing with kids. Here are few gems that you might want to keep in mind:

1. Don’t Plan Too Many Activities Too Early 

toddler tantrum

DON’T. Just don’t plan too many activities those first days. If you think that you can be moody when you’re trying to adjust to life in another part of the world, imagine what it’s like for your 2- and 3-year-olds. Although you might be super excited about getting out on the town and see what’s out there, take it easy.

After repeated marathon tantrums, I have understood that those first two or three days can be spent doing groceries, letting the kids play at the park, sightseeing for only a few hours, and going to bed early. Keeping as close as possible to your home routine is super important.

(photo: divaknevil)

2.  If You Haven’t Started Disciplining Your Kids Before Vacation, You’re Doomed

Let’s be honest. We all work too much. We come home and feel guilty for not spending enough time with our kids. So maybe we cut a few corners. We try to placate our kids instead of addressing their tantrums because we’re just too damn tired. We just want to enjoy our time with our toddlers, so we give in a little. Then we give in a lot.

And then we go on vacation.

If they’ve never really been disciplined before your vacation, you can bet your vacation spending money that it will be an uphill battle to get that behavior in check while your kid is cranky, overtired, completely disoriented and hungry. Unfortunately, you can’t really get around NOT disciplining your kids while on vacation because not disciplining them while on a boat or in a bus might involve them dying a painful death when they feel like sticking their entire bodies out of the vehicle.

3. Help Other Parents When It Comes To Disciplining

You’d be surprised how effective it can be to discipline another kid’s child! I know, I know, it can be awkward to think about having to be firm with someone who’s not your kid. You might want to run it by his or her mom and dad first. But when mom and dad are exhausted and frustrated that their toddler just won’t listen, it might be really awesome for them if you to step in and take a load off of their shoulders.

Of course, please stick to the form of disciplining that they themselves use. You’d be surprised at how fast a toddler will stop his or her bad behavior when someone they don’t know as well as their parents steps in. Unpredictability works wonders. And trust me, when a toddler knows that all of the adults will keep them in check, they’re less likely to act out.

4. Watch The Sugar Intake

Because you’re on vacation, it can be easy to let the kids indulge. But step away from the chocolate. Or maybe, just don’t feed it to your kids for breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner.

I was absolutely stunned at my nieces’ diet this past vacation. After Quick cereal as a starter, Nutella on a bagel as a second course, chocolate covered cookies as a main course, chocolate milk to rinse it all down, and two spoonfuls of Nutella as a dessert (and this was just at breakfast!), these awesome and adorable little girls would experience the most intense sugar crashes about three hours later. Which is NOT a good idea when you’ve decided to go on a hike on a remote island when you can’t exactly put them in their room if they’re misbehaving because they’re overtired.

And then, if they are overtired, cranky and tantrumy, don’t feed them chocolate covered cookies to fill up their bellies until the next meal, which will most likely consist of French fries, soda and chocolate ice cream.

You get the pattern. Even if they don’t usually eat as much sugar in their day-to-day lives and you feel like letting them enjoy it a bit for once, you might want to continue using moderation when it comes to the chocolate.

5. Someone Will Get Hurt


It’s one of those facts of life. When traveling in a large group, anticipate someone doing something super stupid and getting badly hurt. Bring a first aid kit. And some Tylenol. And perhaps a lot of alcohol.

This time around, I’m the idiot who decided that it would be an awesome idea to get into a bike accident because I was trying to catch the bike ferry. In the end, I didn’t need to go to the hospital, thank god! But I did crack a rib, which means that I had to take it a little bit easier for the rest of my vacation. It’s better to laugh than cry, really.

But then again, maybe it was a good thing that I got hurt while there were another five adults to help out with my baby.

(photo: Mr. Flintstone)

6. Remember To Pack Prune Juice For Baby

baby and prune juice

Baby mummums are awesome. They’ve saved my life a few times when my baby was on the edge of a huge meltdown. Pop one of those in their mouths, and you’re guaranteed another 15 minutes minimum of peace and quiet and all around happiness. But remember guys – rice leads to constipation. Constipation on a vacation sucks. As does trying to find a big enough grocery store when you’re in the middle of buttfuck nowhere seven hours into your trip. You might want to pack both the crackers and the juice just in case.

(photo: leighblackall)

7. ALWAYS Pack Earphones

You might want to pack some earphones for your other adult passengers. At the end of the day, I would prefer listening to “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” two hours nonstop than listening to my 9-month-old shriek and scream. But I understand that my brother-in-law might get sick of it after the fifth rendition and would prefer to stay on the side of the road, in said buttfuck nowhere, than continue to listen to that monstrosity of evil that is a Disney song. Since you can’t pour him a glass of beer while sitting in a motor vehicle, give him some earphones.

This is a reader submission.