Local Travel with Children

“This bag goes here. That bag will fit there.”

“Are you sure it will go there?”

“Of course, it will! Trust me!”

“Are you sure we need this?”

“Do we have room in the van?! Then yes!”

Packing your car for a road trip is like a real-life Tetris game. I always look at packing my car for a road trip as a challenge to be mastered! I have improved my game over the years. I remember that trip I put a bag on the bottom I really needed in the middle of the trip. We had to completely unpack the car in order to get to it. Rookie mistake.

I did not want to discuss my car packing skills today, however. Let’s take a look at the difference between local and international travel. This post is focused on local travel. I am defining “local travel” as traveling somewhere close enough to drive and containing a culture close enough to yours that you do not face culture shock.

My husband and I love traveling internationally, but we also love to travel locally. We have noticed that people are so focused on getting away from where they are that they do not see the beauty around them. Your challenge from this post is to find somewhere local to visit that will let you enjoy where you live. Take your children and let them marvel at things within the familiar.

Now, traveling locally can still be daunting! Young children in the car for hours can seem impossible!

Well, let me tell you that it can be done, and with all the entertainment options at our fingertips these days, there is really no reason to fear.

5 ways to ease local travel with children

  1. Set clear expectations.

When traveling locally, we do need to remember to set expectations of how the travel and trip will go, and by that I mean real expectations. I know so many parents who absolutely dread riding in their car with children on extended trips (as in more than a couple of hours). We have been taking our children on 2+ hour car trips since they were born. What frustrated us early on was not planning enough travel time for stops. Once we started planning ahead for nursing breaks, potty breaks, and leg stretches, our travel went much better. We changed our expectations for our children, and it eased our attitudes when traveling. (Check out my post on Road Trip Tips coming soon)

  • You set your travel.

We have done it all! Left early in the morning to travel all day, left late at night to travel through the night, left midday so they could run the first half of the day and ride mostly during naptime. After trying different timings, we found what worked best for our family. What worked best for us may be different for you! I know some who travel much better on short flights than driving in the car. With local traveling, you have a better idea of what your travel options are and what will work for where you are going. We actually had a trip once that was the same price to drive in our car as fly on a plane. We had the choice to sight see while driving or get to our destination quicker and spend more time at the destination. It was nice having that freedom.

  • Pack what you want to!

This point is actually one of my favorite things about traveling locally! When you have your car, you can pack it full. You can rent a big van and load it up! Generally, I am very minimal in our packing, and I like it that way. However, we homeschool, and there has definitely been times where we needed to continue schooling during our travels. When we travel locally, I can bring all of the homeschool things! I have actually brought as much homeschool stuff as everything else we packed! (I know, a little silly…. BUT we used it all!) You can pack extra things to do in the car. We love playing board games as a family. Sometimes the games can be a bit bulky, but in the car, we can make them fit! I would not overpack, but if you know you will use it, bring it!

  • Luxury is more accessible.

Because local travel is usually cheaper, you can splurge more on easier travel or a better place to stay. (Check out my tips for deciding where to stay when traveling here.) I have also noticed that we have more freedom with picking a route to travel when we are traveling locally. That means we can travel roads with more and better stops. Growing up there were certain road trips I looked forward to because we stopped at the same places every time we went that way.

  • Familiar is exciting, too.

So many times I think we can forget this! My children love recognizing where they are going, even as much as they like a new adventure. Take advantage of the familiar when you can. It helps when they know what to look forward to. Making each stop along the way something to look forward to also helps with expectations for both you and your children.

In general, local travel has its perks. You can go on an adventure at your nearest national park, instead of feeling you need to go halfway around the world. The adventure will look different, but no less family time together. Every country has its major sites to see and things to do. Just because they seem so familiar to you does not mean they cannot also be appreciated. I encourage you to look at local sites with fresh eyes and see if you can come to appreciate local travel more.

When comparing local travel to international travel there are many pros and cons to both sides. However, a big overlapping theme will be expectations. Giving yourself realistic expectations and your children realistic expectations will help on all fronts.

Finally, as the parent, you set the tone for travel. If you complain about everything or think it will go badly from the beginning, your children will notice. Even the worst of things can be worked through. My favorite story of this was when I was in college. My cousins and I had planned a local trip to the beach. We had three cars going, and two broke down on the way. We got into a minor car accident while we were there. As soon as we got there, a random storm and cold front came in. We only got to spend one day on the actual beach. Bad trip, right?! No. We had an absolute blast because we were determined to have a good time. Every bad thing that came up was simply something for us to work through.

Embrace the good and the bad. Enjoy the local and international. Nurture that inner explorer in you.