10 Tips for Traveling With Kids (Without Pulling Out Your Hair)
Take plenty of breaks. “Are we there yet?” is bound to be ringing in your ears when you’re traveling to Pigeon Forge for this year’s family vacation. So instead of driving straight through to the mountains, take some breaks to peak your kids’ interest by stopping at nearby attractions like the Bush’s Visitor Center in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee. Be sure to research restaurants and rest stops that are along your route to the cabin as well. You’ll all enjoy the chance to stretch your legs every once in a while!
Bring games for the car and the cabin. If you don’t have time to stop while you’re traveling to the cabin, think about games for the car instead. Devices like iPads and iPhones make it easy to keep your kids entertained, but that’s not your only option. An ole-fashioned game of “I Spy” can be fun in the car, or you can purchase a CD with kids’ songs before you leave. And when you get to the cabin, unpack your family’s favorite board games and a deck of cards for fun family game nights while you’re away.
Pack plenty of snacks. No matter their age, children tend to be much better travelers—on the plane or in the car—if they have plenty of snacks. So stock up on non-perishable items like crackers, chips, nuts, and dried fruit (gum and mints make great car treats, too!) as well as bottled drinks (choose bottle over cans to prevent spillage). And when you get to your Pigeon Forge cabin, be sure to fill up the fridge and pantry with satisfying grab-and-go snacks for your kids to enjoy throughout your stay.
Let them help you with the planning. When your kids get a little older, they’ll enjoy your family vacation even more when they feel like they’ve had a chance to help plan it. Give them a few options for a family outing (check prices, times, etc. ahead of time), and then let them choose what they would like to do. Or let them choose the restaurant for a night out in Pigeon Forge during your trip. If you keep them involved in the planning process, they’ll know you value their opinion, and the whole family will have more fun in the process!
Let (older kids) do their own thing. For older kids and teenagers that you trust, drop them off at the Outlet Mall for the afternoon or sign them up for an adventure they can try on their own (check age restrictions beforehand). They’ll appreciate the chance to be independent, and you’ll appreciate the chance for a romantic date or (let’s be real) an afternoon nap while the kids are away!
Maintain a routine (for little ones). Young kids, especially infants and toddlers, don’t always adjust well to being away from the home for the first time. If this is a concern for you, bring along blankies, books, and bath toys your kids are familiar with. Make your cabin their home away from home by sticking to the bedtime routines and eating patterns as much as you can.
Plan for kid-friendly attractions. This probably goes without saying, but if you’re traveling with kids to Pigeon Forge, be sure to plan for adventures geared toward their ages and interests. A trip to WonderWorks is a great for young kids to preteens. You might also plan for a family outing to a comedy or magic show. And teens will love the big roller coasters and rides at Dollywood or Dollywood’s Splash Country!
Plan for device-free days. It’s good for your kids to have some time away from their devices every once in a while, so while you’re away, plan for outdoor time as a family. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a perfect place to enjoy family picnics, explore historic sites, and hike to waterfalls. Help your kids discover life “behind the screens” in the Smokies!
Be prepared. Especially for those traveling with infants and toddlers, be sure to pack all the gear you’ll need for your family vacation, including diapers, wipes, sippy cups, extra changes of clothes, a stroller, and a first-aid kit. I know from experience that bringing some children’s Advil or Tylenol is a great idea, too!
Stay flexible. If you plan on a sunrise hike (which, by the way, tip #11: don’t plan on a sunrise hike!) but the kids oversleep or if you plan on an afternoon of canoeing down the river but there’s a summer shower, try to stay flexible. Remember that the whole point of a family vacation is to be with your family. So no matter what you do (or don’t do), you can still enjoy your time in Pigeon Forge simply by being together!