Who doesn’t look forward to vacation? It’s always a much needed time to getaway, relax and rejuvenate. However, when you are bringing kids along, you may be bringing more than just additional baggage – stress, schedules and strollers may also be in tow. Family vacations equate to all the normal parenting responsibilities with only a fraction of the at-home resources. Get ready to live out your MacGyver dreams.
In all reality, most people know that travelling with children requires a bit more planning than just a spontaneous adult trip. With spring break right around the corner, how can you best prepare (mentally and physically) to make the most of your family’s vacation?
- Allocate a lot more time. Whether you are flying or driving to your destination, you will need ample time. You have more people traveling who have bigger needs despite their small size. Bathroom stops, TSA screenings, snack breaks and car seat changes are the tip of the iceberg. Rushing with children is a recipe for stress disaster.
- Manage your expectations. No matter how amazing your vacation spot, children are still children and can be difficult. If you’re looking for a 100 percent perfect vacation, your destination is a one-way ticket to disappointment. Know your family’s limits, try to create a few great memories every day and forget about a week of perfection.
- Pack extra essentials for travel challenges. Whether it’s car trouble or a flight delay, don’t be caught without snacks, diapers or a blanket necessary for nap.
- Plan ahead. Spontaneity can be exhilarating until you arrive at your destination with no lodging available or walk into a theme park and spend the first hour overwhelmed and lost. With a million online resources, spend some time researching to ensure a smooth vacation. Read reviews and search for child-friendly activities in the area.
- Involve older children in the planning. If you want to thwart your sullen teenagers’ plans to sulk, get them involved in the planning early. Find out what they would like to do, where they would like to eat or any priorities for vacation that they have.
- Take a break. Our lives have a lot of rules and pressures even when you’re a kid. From strict screen time limits to sugar restrictions, decide if there can be any temporary leniency. Remember, you’re on vacation so maybe take a break from your hard enforcer role in the areas you can tolerate. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief right along with your kids.
- Keep all medications close. Lost baggage happens, but you don’t want to lose your child’s essential medications. While you’re packing, you may want to include some over the counter first-aid items like Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment and pain reliever.
- Pack activities. Books, activity books (dot-to-dot, word searches and hidden pictures), coloring books, stickers and Magnadoodles can be lifesavers. Tablets have also changed the travel game – download favorite games, books or movies prior to departure to save space and sanity.
- Look for fun in odd places. Speaking from experience, an empty airport moving walkway or escalator can be hours of entertainment for small kiddos and provide much needed movement between long stints of sitting. Pull over for lunch at a random town and seek out the closest park. This may also fulfill your spontaneity need that we crushed earlier!
- Bring sanitizer. At 26 (pre-kids), I saw a child brush his teeth, spit into the seatback-folding tray and fold it up. Seriously… Needless to say, I don’t leave home without travel sized antiseptic wipes and hand sanitizer. When you’re in an airplane, kids touch every surface – don’t hesitate to wipe it down if you feel compelled (like me!). Nothing dampens a vacation faster than sick kids.
We all envision family vacations with laughs and fantastic memories. Whether you are hitting the slopes or soaking in the sun, a little preparation can make the most of your time away from home. Take a lot of pictures and focus on the time together. Embrace new experiences and adventures whether planned or impromptu. You may be pleasantly surprised when the smallest, unplanned moments leave the best memories.