Whether it’s the aquarium, a local library, county fair, or a children’s museum, it’s important for kids to have a variety of experiences and even more meaningful when you go as a family. We recently took a visit to a Doc McStuffins exhibit at a nearby museum. Goose is obsessed with Doc McStuffins and all she could talk about for an entire week was how we were going to Doc’s Toy Hospital. But any family with small children knows that a simple trip can easily become a huge ordeal. Here are 7 tips for surviving family outings:
1. Try to avoid crowds.
During the Summer or holiday breaks, crowds are pretty much unavoidable. We wanted my husband to come on our Doc trip so we had to go on a Saturday. It was about as packed as you’d expect it to be. I get so much anxiety in busy places like that with kids running around everywhere touching every little thing. Goose was having the time of her life so I tried to chillax, but it would’ve been much better for me with fewer bodies.
Crowds also mean that you may not get the full experience your destination has to offer. You may have to wait to see or try things or have to skip something altogether because there are too many people there.
And bring your hand sanitizer because a lot of people means a lot of germs. Yuck. I try not to think about it.
2. Look for deals.
To stretch your dollar, try to find coupons or discounts. For the Doc exhibit, I happened to pick up a free magazine at the library with a special offer on the back. We got to pay the kid’s price for adult tickets. Score!
You can usually do a quick online search for deals if you’re planning an outing. A lot of places have considerations for certain professions, especially for military and teachers. Our local aquarium has two teacher appreciation opportunities every year so we’ll always go visit the fishies during those times and it costs practically nothing.
You can use the money you save to pay for parking, buy souvenirs, eat overpriced food, or maybe just drop it in the piggy bank.
3. Consider your kid’s nap schedule.
If there’s one thing you don’t mess with, it’s a toddler’s nap time. It is crucial for everyone’s well-being and happiness that small children do not miss their set opportunity to sleep.
Belly’s still in that phase where she can pretty much sleep in the Moby wherever we are. But Goose is another story. She still has one solid midday nap. Anytime we go anywhere, I take into account when she will be able to sleep. If our destination is far enough, that nap might be in the car. If our outing is time sensitive, I might be able to manipulate nap time and make it a little earlier or a little later.
But I will never, under any circumstances, try to omit a nap entirely. I’ve tried and I won’t do it again. Ever. It’s the worst. The. Worst. You hear that kid screaming bloody murder in the middle of the crowd? It’s my kid because she didn’t get a nap.
Babies and toddlers need their time to rest and grow and re-energize and give their parents a few moments of peace. So ask yourself what time you need to be wherever you’re going and when you can squeeze in a nap for those little tots. It will make for a much more pleasant outing!
4. Pack plenty of food.
Just as important as sleep is food! Hungry kids are cranky kids. Don’t have a cranky kid.
Belly is still exclusively breastfed so that part is easy for us. I let Goose pick out three or four snacks before we leave the house and pack them in our bag. Our go-to snacks are fruit slices, applesauce, raisins, and pretzels or crackers. We’ll just pull them out of our snack bag throughout the day when we notice she needs an energy boost.
Also, take meal times into consideration. If you’re out during lunch or dinner, what is everyone going to eat? Plan for this because the last thing you want to do is be stuck in a loooong line waiting to feed your hangry children.
And bring your own water. Don’t be forced to pay $6 for bottled water or have to use the icky water fountain someone just spit into. Germs.
A little thought about food will go a long way when you’re out trying to have fun.
5. Discuss rules before you arrive.
Have a conversation about your expectations before you go. What are you going to see? How should they behave? When will you be leaving? Don’t wait until you’re there because the kids will be too excited to listen.
Belly was strapped to me so we weren’t too worried about her. We talked to Goose about staying close to Mommy and Daddy and being sure not to run. Of course, we always talk about sharing and taking turns with toys and equipment.
6. What if you get separated?
I’m deathly afraid of losing my kids in a sea of people at a public event. Once Goose ran away from me in a bookstore and I almost had a panic attack (she only went to the next aisle, but I was so scared for those 7 seconds).
A lot of families will designate a location to meet up at if anyone gets lost. In this particular exhibit, it was easy to get turned around and I think Goose would’ve just gotten more lost trying to get to the safe place. Instead, you can teach young kids how to identify employees to help them. Are they are wearing the same green shirt? Do they have name tags and silly hats?
Goose also knows her full name as well as mine, my husband’s, and her baby sister so she could tell them who she was and who she was looking for (and pray that they can decipher what she’s saying).
There are several other ways that families label their kids, color coordinate, and prepare for getting separated. Just be sure to talk about your plan with your family so the details are fresh and customized each time you have an outing.
7. Have fun!
This is the real key to surviving family outings! Sometimes I get so caught up in planning a perfect day or get too wrapped up in my anxiety that I forget to have fun. Even though I’m responsible for planning and keeping track of schedules and making sure everyone else is happy, I try to remind myself to relax and enjoy the moment, too.
The Doc McStuffins exhibit was a hit with Goose and we all survived the day. Maybe I’ll get brave enough to tackle Disneyland one of these days. Maaaybe.
I’m tired just thinking about that.
What’s your trick for surviving family outings?
Here’s how we handle a toddler tantrum.
Read more about why we love weekends with Dad!
See what I tell people when they ask if I’m trying for a boy!