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17 Summer Travel Hacks To Make Family Vacations Less Stressful

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Whether you're going camping in the woods, piling into the car for a cross country road trip, or just soaking up the sun at the beach, adding kids to the equation can make summer travel a little more challenging. That's why you need to arm yourself with as many summer travel hacks as possible. You know, so everyone can actually enjoy the trip and come home in one piece.

There are different techniques to managing travel, depending on the age of your kids. Heading into the woods with a toddler for three days is a lot different than taking your school-aged kids on a 12-hour road trip. Still, the end goal is to make your time on the road as easy and meltdown-free as possible, and there are plenty of tips that apply to all ages.

The main thing to remember is that kids often have short attention spans, so variety is the spice of life, when it comes to keeping them occupied. Don't just bring their favorite movie; download their top three plus several shows. Don't just pack a coloring book; pack a notepad that's blank, for other project ideas.

Trust me, if traveling with kids is new to you, it's totally doable. Here are some hacks for traveling in the summer, to make life easier.

1. Pack Kids' Outfits In Bags

Courtesy of Glynis Ratcliffe

I am a big fan of letting my children choose their own clothes to wear, most days of the year. When we travel, though? The last thing I want is to be rooting through our luggage to find a pair of leggings for my daughter. Instead, I put together full outfits, complete with socks and underwear and put each outfit in a small plastic bag (think Ziploc or produce bags), so that I can just grab a bag without thinking, when we get to our destination.

2. Give Your Kids Something New To Play With

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This doesn't need to be anything bigger than a coloring book from the dollar store, or an inexpensive toy car. The point is the novelty of it, which will generally keep your kids interested for longer than their old standbys.

3. Pack Simple Finger Foods

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Every kid I know loves a tasty yogurt drink, but have you ever tried to clean that stuff up, when it spills? Instead, aim for cucumbers, carrots, grapes, and apples (all sliced to bite-size, for safety), which won't get too juicy or messy if they get a bit squished during travel. Homemade or prepackaged granola bars also make a great choice, as the protein, fiber and touch of sweetness combine to make a filling snack.

4. Have Your Kids Choose The Toys They Want To Bring

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Giving them the choice (and perhaps padding things out with a few extra things you think they might want), gives them a bit more control, and will hopefully lead to fewer meltdowns on the road.

6. Enjoy Travel Games

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If your kids are old enough, packing games that involve spotting things as you drive can keep them entertained for hours. Think "I Spy With My Little Eye" or travel Bingo that you can download and print.

7. Bring Electronic Support

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I am all for limiting screen time and filling my kids' days with the activities that I grew up with, but if there's ever a time to load up on games, apps, and shows or movies for your kid, road trips are it.

8. Travel During Nap Time If You Can

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I'm pretty sure this doesn't need any explanation. Because silence.

9. Separate Backpacks With Activities For Each Kid

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Pack a bag full of things like a favorite stuffed animal, a book or two, coloring book, crayons, and a few other small activities, and they can have fun rummaging through the bag, as well as having one place to return everything to, when they finished with each activity.

10. Keep A Change Of Clothes For Each Kid Handy

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Spills happen. Don't leave yourself with the task of trying to unpack the trunk to root around in one of your bags for a clean shirt or pair of underwear. Keep a set of everything within arm's reach.

11. Pack Snack Items In Craft Organizers

Courtesy of Glynis Ratcliffe

Kids love variety, right? So grab an inexpensive craft organizer and fill it with snacks like raisins, cashews, sliced grapes, cheerios and crackers.

12. Bring Baby Wipes Or Wet Wipes

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Even if your kid stopped wearing diapers ages ago, always bring baby wipes. They are the Swiss Army knife of the parenting world.

13. Slide A Pull-Up On Over A Pair Of Underwear

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Clearly, you don't want to have to deal with a soaking wet car seat, should an accident happen (which, let's be honest here, is entirely possible), but you don't want to stop every 20 minutes either, or take a step backwards and have your kid back in a diaper. The solution? Put the pull-up on over their underwear, so that they can still feel if they've wet themselves, but the car seat is saved.

14. Use A Cookie Sheet For A Makeshift Desk

Courtesy of Glynis Ratcliffe

Kids get frustrated with trying to color on their laps, plus crayons and markers end up falling onto the floor. Bring along a cookie tray so that they have their own little desk to set things on. Plus, you can pack a magnetic alphabet for added fun.

15. Have A Bonus Bag On Hand With Some Extra Activities

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At some point, your kid is going to be bored with everything they brought in the car. The blog Frugal Living NW notes that you have a few bonus bags ready to surprise your kids with, and avoid another potential meltdown.

16. Download Some Kid-Friendly Audio Books

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You can find stories aimed at younger children on sites like Audible (you can even get your first month free!), and you can also look for podcasts such as Storynory and Brains On! for older kids.

17. Count Down To Arrival Time

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Cultivated Living offered a tip to count down to your arrival that I may have to use on my next trip. Not only does it entertain kids, but it keeps them from asking "are we there yet?" a million times.