The 4 Laws to Avoiding Family Travel Meltdowns

fighting kids

I had intended to sit down today and share how we celebrated our 100th day of travel yesterday. However, today, we had a huge family blow up and I’m not in the mood for writing about happy times. Plus, it wouldn’t really be authentic if I glossed over the bumpy moments and only spoke of the wonderful experiences that come with full time travel. 

When tears have been shed and feelings have been hurt and you live in a small space, the emotions can run really high.  There’s not a lot of room for 5 people to find space to “cool down” for a bit. We can’t hide from each other, or go days without seeing each other. Ultimately this means we can’t gloss over our challenges, we must face them, and work on them until we resolve them. Hopefully this will be one of the gifts that come from this adventure. Right now, the grinding down of the rough edges into smooth spots doesn’t feel good, but I have faith we will come out of this stronger than ever.

As I’ve been reflecting, dissecting, and analyzing how these flare ups occur in our otherwise awesome family, I’ve found some clues on how to avoid, or at least minimize these tense moments. And in an effort to spare even one other mother from going through this, I offer my insights in hopes they will help you during your family travels.

Tip #1 Don’t sacrifice sleep

It’s tempting to book our schedule full of fun activities from dawn to dusk, or stay up late watching movies as a family. Yet, every time we get less sleep than we need, we pay for it the next day with low energy and irritability. Or if we do stay up late, we make sure to allow them to sleep in a little the next day, or don’t make big plans for the morning.

Unfortunately, we had stayed up too late last night under the guise that the kids would nap in the truck the next day, but they never did. So after 9 hours of being in a car, they were like sticks of dynamite ready to explode.

Tip #2 Avoid long days of travel

When we set out on this trip we agreed not to be on the road for more than 4 hours per day. This helps Dino to not get tired while driving, and usually avoids meltdowns from the kids. We design our destination stops around this rule. However, when we’ve traveled longer than this, we usually pay the price. Today we traveled double that amount, so by the end of the night we were tired, sore, and running on fumes. It’s easy to get on each other’s nerves when we are in that position.

Tip #3 Feed the troops frequently

I’m a huge fan of eating meals on time and carrying snacks with us, whether it’s a short field trip or a long car ride. Growling stomachs and low blood sugar are killjoys to any outing. Yet even knowing this, I went against my own rules and delayed everyone from eating dinner for 90 minutes because I didn’t want to stop until we reached our final destination for the night. Hungry and tired are the perfect combination for starting a squabble. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of keeping these two needs met while traveling as a family.

Tip #4 Be aware of your family cycles.


Even when you’ve addressed all the concerns I’ve mentioned above, there are still the unpredictable factors of hormones, stress, and other personal cycles family members might be going through. Honestly, my husband and son are brave men to take this trip, aka ride the emotional roller coaster it can sometimes be, with three females in a confined space. Likewise, we’ve learned to be gentle with Dad when he’s had a tough day working or driving the RV. Being aware and sensitive to each others’ moods and cycles helps us get along better. When we don’t, we have conflicts.

On any emotionally exhausting day like today, it’d be easy to get discouraged and decide traveling with kids isn’t worth the effort. However, I can always trace back these hard times to a violation of one or more of these family principles. When we follow them, we have some amazing days as a family.

Remember these guidelines the next time you are on a family outing, as they’ll help you create a special day for your family as well.

Have any tips on how to keep the peace during your family travel? I’d love to hear about them in the comment section below!

Image via iStock

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The 4 Laws to Avoiding Family Travel Meltdowns

Shannon is a mother of 3 teens, who hit 40 and decided that instead of a "mid-life crisis", she wanted an adventure of a lifetime. She convinced her wonderfully open-minded husband to pack up their house, sell most of their possessions, and travel the USA in an RV for a year or two. Besides homeschooling her kids, running their online program, Watts in the World, Shannon loves to explore new places. Nothing is more exciting than waking up in a new city everyday, and discovering what's great abou ... More

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