Well we’ve been out of our farmhouse since January 2022 and it’s now almost two months later. We have learned a lot of lessons in our travels so far. We’ve been to the Chesapeake Bay, the North Carolina mountains, Savannah, Georgia, Orlando/ Stuart/ Ft. Lauderdale/ Boca Raton, Florida, an unexpected (but ended up being lovely) layover in Atlanta, Georgia, and a few days ago we arrived in Surrey, England! To say we’re all tired would be an understatement. 🙂 However, we are having way more fun than I anticipated.
5 Lessons We’ve Learned Along the Way
- We are learning the value of an intentionally slow-paced life. I wish I had started living this way sooner, but I’m glad we’re doing it now. We don’t really rush anywhere (unless it’s through the Atlanta airport, which we’ve sprinted through a few times now! Ha!). We wake up whenever we want in the morning, have a slow leisurely breakfast, slowly homeschool the big kids while wearing pajamas, and sometimes stay in our pajamas until after lunch! Our kids have gotten used to a lot of screen time on the road, but 0 screen time once we’ve arrived at a destination. I love the time we’ve been able to make for examining the world around us when we don’t have screens to distract us. Half of the time we have a destination (or two) for the day– a fun place to go to and explore. The other half– we just relax. We let our surroundings sink in. In Stuart, Florida, the kids spent over an hour just watching a turtle they found in the driveway. I love that we have the opportunity to go slowly.
- We don’t have to have a lot of stuff. This is the biggest takeaway. Each kid only got to bring a few toys with them, and I packed a bunch of toys for our 1 year old twins. Turns out we way overpacked toys! I’ve been rotating which toys I unpack wherever we go. The simplicity of only having a few toys accessible has been life changing. There’s far less mess/ clutter to clean up, which helps my mental health. The best part is the kids play harder and longer (and more imaginatively) when they only have a few things to use. The twins are content playing with nothing but building blocks for a week at a time. On a similar note, we barely have any clothes with us– just a (albeit stuffed to the brim extra-large) suitcase. I do laundry every night and don’t even fold it. I ask the kids to separate it by who it belongs to and then we roll it up and stick it all in that one person’s drawer. It feels so freeing. I haven’t made a single Amazon purchase since we left our house. We’ve definitely made a few frantic trips to Wal-Mart or Target, but overall, we’re just learning to make do without a quick purchase on my phone for something to arrive at our doorstep. (This is also saving a lot of money.)
- David and I really enjoy not having an old house that needs constant maintenance and animals that need constant care. We are both loving the break. I love our pets and miss our farmhouse, but holy cow it feels nice not having those responsibilities right now.
- Libraries have become the kids’ and my happy place. We have had such a great time exploring the childrens’ sections of the libraries wherever we go. Some are more catered toward kids than others, which is fine. It has become a fun (and FREE!) place to spend the afternoon no matter where we are or what the weather is. I love how much unstructured time it gives our older kids especially to explore books they’re interested in.
- It’s okay to spend money on making mealtime easier during this season of life. Our mindset has been so focused on safety and efficiency (basically just living in survival mode) ever since I became pregnant with the twins and the pandemic started that we kind of forgot that meals can be a fun thing. We’ve been purchasing a lot of biodegradable cutlery and plates and eating off of those so that there are no dishes at the end of the night. We’ve been getting a lot of takeout and eating at local restaurants. It’s costing more money, yes, and it’s been such a stress relief too. (I don’t feel badly about spending more money because as I pointed out in #3 above, we’re not spending the same amount of money on stuff we don’t need.)
My Top 10 Tips for Traveling with 4 Kids, Ages 7 & Under
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If I could tell myself 10 things when preparing for this multiple-month trip that I’ve learned now, here’s what I would say:
- Pack less stuff than you think you’ll need. You won’t wear that many clothes or shoes. And your kids don’t need that many toys. Use plastic bags that squeeze all the air out to pack for each family member.
- Do pack all the immune system support products you think you could need. Preventative immune system support is worth the peace of mind (for me, anyway) to have all my favorite stuff. I have a multitude of vitamins, supplements, sinus or cough syrups, essential oils, arnica, and so on with me. Yes, it takes up valuable space in the luggage. We have ended up using a lot of our supply over the past few weeks though, and thankfully no one has gotten sick (other than David and me getting a 24 hour bug one time).
- Buy a blackout tent for the toddler (or toddlers in our case!) to sleep in so that every place feels the same at nap and bedtime.
- Have about a million more snacks and baby wipes on hand than you think they could possibly eat or go through.
- Dedicate a few minutes every night to checking out the details for places you want to go the next day. Screenshot what you end up deciding so it’s quick when you’re ready to go.
- Bring your own laundry detergent with you.
- Try to take a few photos of the kids every day, even if you don’t leave your house/ hotel. This whole trip is flying by so quickly and sometimes I don’t know what we’ve done all day even we make a point to be intentional about everything we do. Photos help me remember.
- Take photos on your phone of all the important details. It’s been helpful having photos of hotel information, travel information, parking garage information, and so on. (I wish we had taken photos of our luggage tags when we flew to England a few days ago, ugh.) When you’re going to so many new places week after week after week, your phone can help keep everything straight!
- Make the itinerary enjoyable for not just the kids, but for me too. When we first started this adventure I only planned experiences I knew the kids would like. I got pretty annoyed with life after a week or two. I’ve since started bringing the kids along on more “adult” excursions too, such as an art museum I’ll enjoy. The key is to remember their little legs need rest, so budget extra time for breaks. Everything takes longer with kids.
- Stay relaxed, no matter what gets thrown your way. We’ve had a few curveballs with our trip and wow, what a difference for the whole family when the adults stay calm. Sometimes we’ve gotten upset (such as when we sprinted through the airport only to miss a connection by four minutes) and the kids feel that and react. As their parents, I wish I had realized earlier how important our energy level is for them.
I’m off to bed now but I’ve got a few BRITISH farmhouses I’m planning on visiting while we’re here! (Side note: if you know of any amazing farmhouses I should feature in the UK, please reach out!) I can’t wait to share them with you soon.